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Why I Sweep: An act of reclamation


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This is one in a series of guest blogs about Riverkeeper Sweep, our annual day of service for the Hudson River, involving more than 100 shoreline cleanups and planting projects in a single day. Be part of the next Sweep, October 17, 2020.

A painter and sculptor describes how volunteering for Riverkeeper Sweep influenced him and became part of his artistic practice. Watch the video and find out about his upcoming installation at Wave Hill.

Part of my art practice is to walk along the shoreline and clean up all of the trash that I can find, as an act of reclamation, and sort of a cleansing gesture, and a way to reflect on our consumption and the way that we treat the landscape.

There was a moment when I started working with the shoreline of the Hudson River. Several years ago I volunteered for Riverkeeper’s annual river Sweep. I remember the experience of walking along the shoreline with my plastic bag, grabbing trash out of the soil, and giving it a good tug, and behind it, all of this impacted trash tumbled out. You quickly come to realize that we’re standing on top of layers of waste. That really impacted me.

The shoreline – especially now, this year – it needs a lot of love. It’s become a part of my artistic practice. Once a week, I try to go out and clean up along the shoreline. I bring bags with me, and gloves to protect me from the germs, and I collect everything that’s not biodegradable. Some of that goes back into the recycling system after I clean it up, some of it goes back into the trash system, and some of it ends up in my sculptures.

The Hudson River is really important to me. This practice is something that you could do too. I found that it’s a really good social distancing activity. You get to be alone, enjoy the landscape and do something good, by gathering trash and disposing of it properly.

Learn more about Riverkeeper Sweep and find out how to join a shoreline cleanup in your area on Saturday, October 17, 2020:

You can submit a volunteer interest form here.

Learn more about Visual Arts at Wave Hill.

Wave Hill 2020 Sunroom Project Space artist Zac Skinner’s installation of paintings and sculptures will open this fall. He explores ecological history, the Anthropocene and a dystopic future—all consequences of land and water pollution, industry and other threats that have caused the displacement of vulnerable individuals and entire ecosystems. Skinner has been collecting trash along the Hudson River, some of which will be used in his installation.

This video was produced for Branching Out, Wave Hill’s virtual programs initiative.

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