LAKE TAHOE, CA. Sept. 28 2023 – Lake Tahoe, known for its pristine waters and breathtaking landscapes, has become the canvas for a unique and inspiring art project. A group of talented artists has transformed trash and discarded materials into stunning sculptures, turning environmental degradation into a powerful statement. In a world grappling with excessive waste, these artists have taken on the challenge of creating beauty from discarded items. By repurposing trash found around Lake Tahoe’s shores, they seek to raise awareness about environmental issues and the importance of conservation.
A Symbolic Message
Through their sculptures, these artists shed light on the consequences of excessive consumerism and wasteful habits. Each piece serves as a powerful reminder of the impact our actions have on the environment, encouraging viewers to reflect on their own role in preserving natural resources.
Artists have redefined the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” with the unveiling of their latest art installation called “Surfaced.” This unique piece of art was created using over 450 pounds of items that were recovered from a scuba cleanup of Lake Tahoe, which covered a distance of 72 miles. The project was commissioned by the Tahoe Fund, with support from Tahoe Blue Vodka, and aims to educate visitors about the hidden treasures lying beneath the beautiful blue waters of Lake Tahoe, as well as promote environmental stewardship. This captivating sculpture was officially revealed today at its permanent location, the new Tahoe Blue Event Center in Stateline, Nevada, situated on the south shore of Lake Tahoe.
Amy Berry, CEO of the Tahoe Fund, expressed her appreciation for the remarkable effort put forth by Clean Up the Lake, an organization responsible for removing an impressive 25,000 pounds of litter from Lake Tahoe. She emphasized the significance of “Surfaced” being displayed at the Tahoe Blue Events Center, as it serves as a compelling and meaningful reminder that each of us has a responsibility to care for Lake Tahoe.
Internationally renowned artists, Joel Dean Stockdill and Yustina Salnikova of Building 180, known for their innovative artwork made from recycled and reclaimed materials, were selected to create the sculpture. The design of the sculpture was determined through a public vote and features a bald eagle, a Lahontan cutthroat trout, and a Ponderosa pine tree. The artists meticulously sifted through the litter collected by Clean Up The Lake divers, which included various objects like fishing lures, sunglasses, paddles, traffic cones, chains, anchors, and rubber edging often found on docks and buoys. Their aim was to select items that closely resemble the distinct characteristics of the animals they were representing, capturing their essence as accurately as possible.
Matt Levitt, the Founder of Tahoe Blue Vodka, shared his personal connection to Lake Tahoe and his commitment to conservation. He expressed immense pride in the achievements of the 72-mile scuba cleanup effort and how the artwork created from the litter found in the lake serves as a powerful reminder of what can be accomplished by a dedicated group of individuals. Levitt believes that this art installation brings the mission of preservation full circle.
With their devotion to their craft and passion for sustainability, Stockdill and Salnikova spent the past year working diligently on the design of “Surfaced.” They meticulously sorted through the stored litter provided by Clean Up The Lake, which had been gathered and stored in a 20-foot container. Their ultimate goal was to find materials that would accurately reflect the unique characteristics of the animals and objects depicted in the sculpture, aiming for a lifelike appearance as much as possible.
“The most significant obstacle we faced was determining which items could withstand the elements and endure over time, all while accurately representing the colors and textures of the species we were trying to depict,” explained the artists of Building 180, Stockdill and Salnikova. “Typically, our sculptures have only featured a single animal, but this project was unique as it required us to think creatively about how to utilize the provided litter to create three distinct and intricate sculptures, and then merge them into one cohesive piece.”
The design process began with the artists deciding on the size of the sculpture, followed by assessing whether they had sufficient quantities of each type of litter to construct the various components. Despite being limited to materials extracted from the scuba clean-up of Lake Tahoe, they were able to find the exact items needed to bring their design to life. Stockdill and Salnikova managed to collect precisely enough white paddles to form the tail feathers of the eagle. Utilizing a mosaic technique, they transformed brightly colored fragments of plastic from sunglasses, lures, and bobbers into thousands of intricately detailed, life-size scales for the trout. As for the fins, they crafted them using a traffic cone, and the bark of the Ponderosa pine tree stump was created using hundreds of feet of chain.
The three-foot-tall stump, with a diameter of three feet, constituted a significant portion of the sculpture’s weight, which totaled almost 700 pounds. “We feel privileged and enthusiastic to witness this litter-art sculpture becoming a part of our community here in South Lake Tahoe. It serves as a symbol to the public, reminding them to be responsible stewards of our lands and lake, and to never cease their efforts to make a positive impact,” expressed Clean Up The Lake founder and CEO, Colin West. “Throughout this year, our dive team will be active beneath the surface of Lake Tahoe, working diligently to thoroughly clean litter hotspots, conducting in-depth exploratory surveys, and monitoring the presence of any invasive species in the lake.”
“Surfaced” can be found at the new Tahoe Blue Event Center, an arena with a seating capacity of 5,000 and an additional 10,000 square feet of meeting space. Located in Stateline, Nevada, on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Blue Event Center will host over 125 events annually, including concerts, sports events, family shows, conferences, banquets, meetings, trade shows, consumer shows, and more.