Hull Painter Jackie Ranney’s New Collection Turns Beach Litter Into Fine Art
Ranney has fought for ocean conservation causes wherever she lived, protesting the installation of an oil rig off Dublin and volunteering for the sea turtle rescue in South Carolina. This collection, she said, combines the creativity of her career as a painter with her activist verve for marine preservation.
“I wanted to bring these issues to light and help people see fine art and find ways to get involved in ocean conservation,” said Ranney, who studied fine art at Walnut Hill High School. School for the Arts by Natick. “If we are to enjoy the oceans, we have to be able to give back, because they need our help. “
Ranney also includes remnants of paint and building materials, such as plaster, dating from the construction of her house in Hull. She builds the frames herself from OSB, which is generally considered a type of durable wood.
She admits the concept was difficult to execute at first – “my first painting emerged and it was so ugly,” she laughed – but soon she created profiles, landscapes and abstract pieces. from everything from combs to shotguns. seashells, all merging into a sort of mixed pointillism.
“I knew it was something I had to kind of push and keep working – I just felt it in my bones,” she said. “I kept doing this and doing it until something emerged that looked less like my son’s messy craft project.”
The 4-by-6-foot “mi playa su playa,” which uses a leftover foam insulation board as a canvas, represents what looks like a bird’s eye view of a beach scene. But on closer inspection, the water is made from plastic bags. Umbrella-shaped figurines are bottle caps. The sand is helium balloons.
“Everyone knows the expression ‘mi casa, su casa’,” said Ranney. “I like the idea of thinking of the ocean as a place we love to protect and care for.”
This piece, like the rest of the collection, is layered. “There are actually probably five layers underneath, and I decided as I went along if each layer was going to be the top layer,” Ranney said. “The more coats I have, the more I use in each paint, and the less I end up in the trash.”
This prioritization technique also creates what Ranney describes as an “underlayment,” where some materials pass through the layers that cover them and others are completely buried.
“Different textures can appear in different ways,” she said. “Layering, for me, really adds depth and volume to something that’s mostly two-dimensional.”
Not all of the pieces in “TArt” are so abstract. The geometric “Blue Dock” shows a grid of 143 pieces of teal blue dock foam screwed into the canvas, with a red heart forged from a child’s thong at the bottom right. “The Look” depicts a “scolded mummy,” as Ranney put it, with the bridge of her nose made from an army figurine and a pair of swimming goggles strapped to her chin.
To adhere the litter to the canvases, Ranney uses plaster and flooring glue from past construction projects, as well as glue. “It’s like making a mosaic in some ways,” she said.
Included somewhere in most paintings, which take about two weeks to make, are lists of all salvaged materials. In “Flow”, an abstract tropical scene, the long catalog is scrawled under the leaves of a tree made of thick plastic strips. In “mi playa su playa”, the list is painted in light blue in the crest of the wave.
“Kids and adults have kind of gotten into the habit of using it as a scavenger hunt, like Where’s Charlie,” Ranney said. “It’s kind of a cool interactive thing, and it gets people talking. “
And getting people to talk is at the forefront of “TArt”. Ranney understands that many people are unaware of the extent of the environmental problems plaguing our oceans, and others feel the problems are too important to be solved. She pointed to the clean-up of Boston Harbor in the 1980s as proof of the power of environmental advocacy.
“If more people call their elected officials and participate and are just aware of what’s going on,” she said, “then that can really change the policies which have a really huge effect.”
The collection, which now contains over 20 paintings, is ongoing and Ranney is keen to experiment with more sculptural work as it develops. She is currently seeking gallery representation, but is selling the paintings privately. Eventually, she plans to donate a portion of each sale to an ocean conservation organization, such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth.
“It’s always great to have exposure as an artist, but it’s really so important to me with what I do that it creates a conversation about what people can do,” Ranney said. “Starting a conversation is the first step in creating movement. “
Dana Gerber can be reached at [email protected]