Now Playing

Into the Deep

A local art professor takes recycling to a new level. 

Artist Pam Longobardi works with sea treasures in her studio.

To see Atlanta artist Pam Longobardi work is like watching a forensic scientist on the scene of a crime. In her Westside studio, she’s meticulously combing through massive green fishing nets, pulling out various sea-strewn treasures. She holds up a tiny shoe, a comb, bottle caps, a syringe. She’s been plucking nets with items like these from the ocean for the last six years and turning them into thought-provoking art installations in projects titled Drifters I and Drifters II (driftersproject.net).

It all started when she came across her first “net ball” (a whale-sized mass of nets, plastic and debris) while wandering along the Big Island of Hawaii’s South Point. “It was such a shock to see the amount and scale of it,” recalls the Georgia State University professor of art and co-founder of the Surfrider Foundation-Atlanta Chapter. “In a way, I was already attracted to it artistically. First, there was this fascination with the color and the enormity of it, which quickly turned to this dull thud of horror.”

After that first encounter in Hawaii, she’s excavated sites like it in Italy, Greece, Costa Rica, China and Alaska, and shown her installations all over the world, including at the newly minted Nouveau Musée National de Monaco. This summer, Longobardi will be back at it again, cleaning up “drifters” from an island chain off the coast of Alaska. Accompanying her will be a team of artists and scientists—part of her vision for the collaborative collective, The Conscious Ocean (consciousocean.org), a project she started this year. “It’s interesting that art is is now being invited to the table with different scientific things. Because so much of science is steeped in data, art offers a different mode for getting a message across.” She continues, “There’s something happening right now, ocean-wise. And, it’s not just me. Whereas everything was about green before, now it’s starting to be about blue. I think it’s an important mind-shift. Hopefully, we’re not too late.”