San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Chunches de Mar: One man's trash is another one's art

MONTEZUMA, Costa Rica – Eve Ingalls has spent the past few days making a hammock. But it doesn´t looks very comfortable. She didn´t intend it to be.

Using articles of trash gathered from the beaches of Montezuma and Playa Grande, Ingalls has lined the hammock with rows of forgotten sandals, discarded water bottles and worn plastic oil quarts that have come to rest on the rocky beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula, which juts out into the Pacific Ocean from Costa Rica´s northwestern corner. Ingalls, as well as 18 other artists from around the world, is participating in the 10th annual “Chunches de Mar” festival in Montezuma, which means “things of the sea.”

For the better part of January, the artists have set up a campsite in a forest north of Montezuma. There, they sleep in tents, shower outside in a stall built from driftwood and eat candlelight dinners. They spend most of their days collecting waste that has washed ashore and transforming the waste into works of art.

“What´s really interesting to see is that every artist here has taken things from the same beach and created something completely different with it,” said Joanna Platt, a contributing artist in the festival.

Platt is creating piece that symbolizes a sense of disappointment with the mounds of waste that pollutes the local beaches, a common motif in the festival. Using chards of black plastic and rubber collected on the beach, Platt spends her days whittling the waste to create a black branch and leaves that she intends to attach to one of the many almond trees in the forest.

“The black sort of represents the death of nature that is created by all the waste,” Platt said.

Platt and the other artists will present their finished pieces at the Chunches de Mar finale scheduled for Jan. 30 in Montezuma.

The Chunches festival also incorporates the community of Montezuma, as each weekend groups of 20-25 children create their own projects from trash. On Saturday, 21 students spent the morning collecting plastic water bottles from the beach. They then used the bottles, an empty toilet paper roll and two small pieces of mirrors to create kaleidoscopes out of the collected waste.

“We had lots of fun making the kaleidoscopes,” said Aarón Henkel, a boisterous 10-year-old who took part in the Chunches weekend program. “It´s fun to pick up the trash and make something with it…. Of everybody´s projects, I think mine was the best one.”

On Feb. 8, the work created by artists during Chunches de Mar will be on display at the National Gallery in the Children´s Museum in San José. The pieces will remain on exhibit until Feb. 28.

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