It all started with Henry the fish.
“When I first started it was just me for the first six months,” Oregon-based artist Angela Haseltine Pozzi said. “I had a lot of long nights with Henry.”
Henry is a 12-foot-long, 8-foot- tall colorful fish made from hundreds of pounds of marine debris.
Haseltine Pozzi, 54, is the director and lead artist for the exhibit, “Washed Ashore: Plastics, Sea Life & Art,” which will showcase 17 larger than life artworks at the Chula Vista Nature Center April 28.
When Haseltine Pozzi began walking the beach in Oregon after her husband passed away, the ocean revealed itself to her and she began to see the large amount of marine debris that washes ashore.
“I was horrified,” she said. “The ocean has always been my solace. There’s just a huge amount of plastic that’s ending up in the ocean. It’s harming life. Raising awareness is the first step and that’s really the basis for this project.”
Haseltine Pozzi, who has also been an art teacher for 30 years, said she had to do something to educate people about marine debris.
“I knew that if I wanted to get people to talk about things I’d have to use objects that were really big,” she said.
Haseltine Pozzi is finishing the last of 17 pieces, art that she said has a profound impact on what people think they know and believe about the ocean.
Eleven pieces are currently at the nature center, ready for visitors to see and touch.
Chula Vista Nature Center Executive Director Dr. Brian Joseph first came across Haseltine Pozzi’s art when it was exhibited in Sausalito.
Joseph said the nature center is focusing on coastal conservation and the exhibit is kicking it off.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to spread the message about marine debris,” he said. “The exhibit and what it teaches will live on long after it is gone.”
Although other pieces will leave the center and go onto another location, Leonard the leopard shark will stay at the center.
Joseph said the exhibit is important for the center because it offers an attraction to guests, sends a very strong message about marine debris and has artwork that is larger than life.
The nature center is organizing its day camps and curriculum around the exhibit in English and Spanish.
Haseltine Pozzi began holding community workshops to spread the word and show people how to put exhibits together.
“We’re doing the same thing in Homer, Alaska,” Haseltine Pozzi said. “It’s a lot of work but it is fulfilling of all my hopes and dreams.”
The “Washed Ashore” exhibit is open through Sept. 3, with a grand opening April 30.