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Longboat artist reveals turtle-made-of-trash sculpture

Longboat Key Turtle Watch volunteers gathered the raw materials for the work over the course of their season of beach patrols.

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  • | 9:44 a.m. November 18, 2019
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When last we saw Wendell Graham, the artist was already hip deep in thought – and a lot of beach trash – trying to figure the best way to fashion a loggerhead turtle sculpture from a mountain of discarded children’s toys, hats, fishing gear and other shoreline castoffs.

That was September, and the life-sized piece was beginning to take shape.

On Sunday, huddled in the corner of Windward Bay’s clubhouse, under a blue tarp until the end of the Longboat Key Turtle Watch’s fall meeting, Trash took a bow.

Read: Turtle season one for the books

Made entirely of sanitized stuff found on the beach by Turtle Watch volunteers, the sculpture was revealed. Plastic bottles, a no trespassing sign, a broom, dozens of beach shovels, a Wiffle ball immediately stood out. Deeper examination revealed pretty much everything you could imagine attached to the chicken wire framework.

Artist Wendell Graham explains some of the pieces that went into the creation of Trash.
Artist Wendell Graham explains some of the pieces that went into the creation of Trash.

“You name it, it’s on this turtle,’’ Graham said. “Does anyone recognize any specific piece of trash they might have brought in? I can show you where it is.’’

Graham said she hopes to take Trash on a tour of schools or other organizations to point out just how much trash gets left behind on the beach and the danger it poses for real turtles that nest there.

She said children’s toys were the most prevalent piece.

 “The kids are going to say, ‘OK, my little brother and sister played with this, or Oh, Doritos.’ And hopefully they’ll say to their mom and dad, ‘let’s not leave this on the beach any more. ‘ ’’

Graham said that she started on the project twice and ultimately kept messing with its final look until about 30 minutes before the reveal. She said Trash is probably made up of about 1,000 individual pieces or more.

The Turtle Watch, in return for the sculpture, awarded Graham and her husband a certificate of appreciation and membership in the group for 2020.


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