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Supersized art project with bigger message in Middletown

The "Ingested and Entangled Project" aims to educate about plastic pollution

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — Kat Owens, A professor of politics, economics, and international studies at the University of Hartford has been wrapped up in her work of late.

Largely because Owens, who is also an artist, is working on a project that is 60 feet long and 20 feet wide – a portrait of a Sperm Whale made entirely of discarded plastic bags and shipping mailers.

When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, Owens, who has traveled around the World as part of her academic research, had to work close to home. That’s when the “Ingested and Entangled Project” started.

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“Ingested and Entangled is about the animals that are affected by marine debris,” Owens said.

What was an old Woolworths storefront on Main Street in Middletown now serves as Owens’ studio, where plastic-sewn portraits of sharks, sea turtles, and seals are already hung on the walls. Owens sews the plastic bags together to create her works -- think plastic bags instead of paint -- and currently, the 60-foot whale portrait is taking shape.

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“I’m doing this because I want people to understand that it’s not easy to recycle these plastics and they’re everywhere and they affect these animals,” Owen said.

Owens added she hopes to create 46 portraits of different animals -- all made by plastic trash, to represent the 46 species most at-risk from the toll of the debris.

“For me, this was a way to keep thinking about the problem of plastic pollution,” she added.

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Professor Owens often invites school classes and community members to help with the art projects. Her hope is that a gallery or public space will want to showcase her works and help to promote her environmental message.

“The message is that plastic surrounds us and that things need to change or it's going to cause huge problems for the environment,” Owens said.

To learn more about the Ingested and Entangled Project, click here. 

Jimmy Altman is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at jaltman@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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