San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Chunches de Mar: Trash for Some, Art for Others

Eve Ingalls has spent days making a hammock. But it’s not one that looks very comfortable. She didn’t intend it to be.

Using articles of trash gathered from the beaches of Montezuma and Playa Grande, Ingalls lined the hammock with rows of forgotten sandals, discarded water bottles and worn plastic oil quarts that came to rest on these rocky expanses on the southern tip of the NicoyaPeninsula, on the country’s Pacific coast. She and 18 other artists from around the world are participating in the 10th annual Chunches de Mar (“stuff from the sea”) festival.

“The festival has continued to get bigger and generate more interest every year,” said Chunches de Mar organizer Nefertiti Ingalls, a photographer and the owner of Montezuma’s Hotel Luz de Mono. “We’ve had so much interest that we’ve had to put a limit on the artists hoping to participate. … We have always had a very high level of international artists who come here, and they create some truly amazing pieces of art.”

For the better part of January, distinguished members from art communities in Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States, Argentina and Europe have set up a campsite at Playa Grande, in the Romelia Wildlife Refuge north of Montezuma. They sleep in tents, shower outside in a stall built from driftwood, and eat candlelight dinners at the site. They spend most of their days collecting waste that has washed ashore and transforming it 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 has chosen to create works that symbolize a sense of disappointment with the mounds of waste polluting the area’s beaches – a common theme among the participating artists’ works. Using pieces of black plastic and rubber collected on the beach, she spends her days whittling and shaping the waste to create a black branch and leaves, which she intends to attach to one of the many almond trees in the surrounding forest.

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

Eve Ingalls’ project, though dramatically different in design, carries a similar sense of shame for the lack of environmental concern evident in the excessive plastic chunches washed up by the sea. The several rows of trash she has strewn along her hammock are made up of green plastic items at the top that give way to blue as they descend the length of the hammock. At the end of each row is an empty quart of oil.

“One of the other artists here reminded me of the saying, ‘All things with oil on their tail burn,’” she said.

Ingalls plans to carry the hammock on her shoulders during the final presentation of the festival, which will be held all day tomorrow, Jan. 30, at the artists’ camp in Playa Grande. As she carries the hammock, she hopes the quarts of oil will drag behind her as she walks.

“We hope the pieces will give people an idea of just how much plastic collects on these beaches,” Ingalls said. “Maybe it will inspire someone to think about where their plastic bottles end up when they throw them out.”

The festival also incorporates the Montezuma community, in weekend workshops where groups of 20 to 25 children create their own projects from beach trash. Last Saturday, 21 students spent the morning collecting plastic water bottles from the beach, and then used the bottles, an empty toilet paper roll and two small pieces of mirror 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 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,” he added.

City dwellers will be able to enjoy works created during the festival next month in a exhibit at the National Gallery in San José’s Children’s Museum, where the chunches-based pieces will be on display Feb. 8 to 28.

For more on Chunches de Mar, visit

Comments are closed.