Flotsam and jetsam inspire art

Artist: Tim Carrier, 'Angler fish'

The oceans, art and community all come together in Western Australia to showcase creativity and care for the local environment

By Ilaria Catizone

Combining her passion for the remote Abrolhos Islands, 40 nautical miles off the Western Australian coast, with a love for art, Pia Boschetti has created the annual Flotsam and Jetsam exhibition in Geraldton, WA, where rubbish collected on beaches is recycled into art.

Top: Artist: Lance Dennis Title: Therapy for a Loser
Bottom: Artist: Michelle Symonds Title: Melancholy Mermaid

Pia Boschetti grew up in a rock lobster-fishing family and spent much of her childhood on the Abrolhos Islands. She loved walking on the beach to see what had washed up from the sea. The thrill of the discovery was her favourite part and thinking of how she could turn those items into something beautiful made it even more interesting.

Today Pia Boschetti runs a successful pearling business on the islands, with galleries in WA and Queensland. “I wanted to give something back to the Islands,” she says. “So I decided to take part in the Clean Up Australia Day initiative.”

In the first clean up in 2011, Pia Boschetti and a team of volunteers filled a 16-metre boat with rubbish. Some of it was domestic rubbish and some was from overseas, everything from squash balls to rock lobster floats and balloon ribbons.

Local artists then worked to convert the items collected into works of art displayed every year in the Flotsam and Jetsam exhibition, held at Pia Boschetti’s Latitude Gallery in Geraldton.

In maritime law, flotsam is a wreckage, debris or refuse from a ship, found floating in the water, whereas jetsam is cargo or equipment that either sinks or is washed ashore after being thrown overboard to lighten the load of a ship in distress. But thanks to Pia’s initiative, those items are now being turned into art that can hang proudly on a wall.

The response to the collection was so positive that Pia Boschetti has made this an annual event. Interest in the initiative has been growing each year, although thankfully the rubbish collected has also been decreasing.

Photo of art peice of Southern Comfort Artist: Manny Mcaullay Title: Southern Comfort

In an ABC interview for Open Mid West WA, 2015 participant Jayne Rolinson said it was a great community concept for people to be involved in. “It is something that we all love,” she said. “Pia is an amazing role model for our society for doing this and getting behind it with such energy and passion.”

Every year the collection brings in different and new materials that make the exhibition an ever-changing experience. Pia Boschetti says they always find many rock lobster floats among the rubbish and usually the artists do not use those, but this year participants found new ways to recycle the floats.

Tim Carrier carved one into fish bones –  an elegant piece that earned him first prize at the exhibition, a $1000 gift voucher from Latitude Gallery.

All the artwork produced goes on display in the exhibition, from the work of the accomplished artists to the efforts of children, who can enter in the under-16 category. Many of the artists are also fishers, with strong emotional ties to the Abrolhos Islands. Among them are Lance Dennis, Manny Mcaullay and the winner Tim Carrier; all are involved in the local Rock Lobster Fishery.

Every piece is professionally photographed by exhibition judge and sponsor Karl Monaghan and the images are published in a coffee table book that provides a lasting memory of the event.

“When I look around I think some of the pieces could certainly be sold, but it is not about the money, it is about the journey each person took in creating their artwork,” Pia Boschetti says. “It makes me happy to know they had a good time. And it is a great way of educating the younger generation about the effects of throwing rubbish out, by showing them what it does to the environment and how it can be recycled,” she says. 

More information

Latitude Gallery, 08 9964 6601,
http://www.latitudegallery.com.au