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04/02/2013

'What Goes Around, Comes Around'

Artist Bonnie Holden Monteleone ’99 collects digital images of plastic artifacts retrieved from some of the most remote aquatic regions on the planet.

When these visions of flotsam and jetsam are combined with her own open ocean photography and other artists’ familiar seascapes, Monteleone’s electronic illustrations portray the idea of the ocean’s enduring beauty — even as it is threatened by the human world of disposable products.

Her recent work, titled “What Goes Around, Comes Around,” is on exhibition from Wednesday, April 10, to Friday, May 3, in Beard Building Gallery at Main Street SUNY Cortland, located at 9 Main St.

The exhibition title reflects that plastics get lost at sea but then return to us either in food on our dinner plates or as trash on our beaches.

“What Goes Around, Comes Around” also refers to Monteleone, who is a former co-owner of Monteleone’s Pizzeria, which is now the Cortland Downtown Partnership office where the art will be displayed.

Monteleone truly will come full circle when she gives a presentation about her Plastic Ocean Project at an artist’s reception from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, April 19. The event and exhibition are free and open to the public.

The gallery space, which is a collaboration of the Cortland Downtown Partnership, Cultural Council of Cortland County and SUNY Cortland, is open weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Monteleone, by commandeering the well-recognized “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” a painting created by Katsushika Hokusai circa 1829-1832, illustrates a very different ocean from what the Japanese artist saw less than 200 years ago. In the electronic interpretation, the environmental menace of plastics invades the iconic landscape’s stylized waves.

Bonnie Monteleone
Artist Bonnie Holden Monteleone ’99, right, discusses a piece in her socially conscious artistic project, “What Goes Around, Comes Around,” with an audience recently. 

The exhibition indirectly resulted from Monteleone’s research while she was pursuing her master’s degree in liberal studies from University of North Carolina at Wilmington. 

“The real draw for me getting this degree is that I could choose anything I cared to learn about for my thesis,” she said. “I chose plastic in the marine environment and it led to sampling for plastics in four oceans traveling almost 10,000 nautical miles.

“After I defended my thesis I thought, ‘What am I going to do with all of the plastics I collected?’” Monteleone said. “And realized it could be a great outreach tool through art.”

The exhibition — comprised of digital pictures from ocean voyages along with detailed explanations of each image and the display of actual items found in each work — strives to be both beautiful and informative. 

Each of the five 4- by 5-foot panels — depicting the North Atlantic heaving plastics onto Bermuda’s beaches  — undergoes metamorphosis away from the original until in the last image the subject is unrecognizable.

“The oceans are downhill from everywhere and the take-away message is we all contribute to this global problem no matter where we live,” Monteleone said.

Fashioned after the touring display of Cleve Jones’ “AIDS Memorial Quilt,” the exhibition with a message is intended to tour across the United States.

“What Goes Around, Comes Around” is supported by the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement and Auxiliary Services Corporation (ASC).

For more information, contact Kathryn Kramer in the Art and Art History Department at 607-423-4475.