Toxic Landscape: Ciel Bergman and Chris Jordan / by Tasha Ostrander & Ben Lincoln

 Plastic in Ocean #3, oil on gessoed Fabriano Italian Rag Watercolor Paper , 2002

Plastic in Ocean #3, oil on gessoed Fabriano Italian Rag Watercolor Paper , 2002


"Hey dear Chris...on the menu bar of my website you'll find paintings called Plastics in Ocean.  They remind me of the nasty jumble of color in your brilliant photos of albatross dead chick nests...[I'd love to] juxtapose..your images among [my] paintings.." Ciel Bergman to Chris Jordan in a June 6, 2016 email exchange.

"Your plastic ocean images are gorgeous", answers Jordan. "I love the colors, wish I could own one.   Any chance you could send me about a half gallon of colored plastic chards (Plasphalt)?  Maybe I can build something crazy for my running the numbers series".

So began the communication between Bergman and Jordan.

Chris Jordan, "...explores the collective shadow of contemporary mass culture from a variety of photographic and conceptual perspectives".

Ciel Bergman invented 'Plasphalt', later patented by Gary Fishback, Dennis Egan and Hal Stelmar in 2002 -waste plastic is granulated, run through a plasma laser process which makes it stick to asphalt like electronic velcro.

Ciel Bergman and Chris Jordan have been working with similar concerns over the years. Our environment is saturated with PLASTICS that is becoming a part of our food chain. These artists both work with a profound connection to the soul of our environment and choose to go into painful poetics on the condition of the environment, devoted to awaken those asleep to the savage damages to our beloved wildlife and ecosystem.

With this cooperation between Ciel Bergman and Chris Jordan we see artistic statements that refuse to look away, but rather, ask us to absorb connection through our hearts. 

Says Bergman, "Albatross birds descend from the sky onto the water to sleep, to feed then briefly to earth to lay and care for chicks. Then back into the sky!  This is their cycle.

'On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean. For me, kneeling over their carcasses is like looking into a macabre mirror.'  CHRISJORDAN.COM, 2009

I have been haunted since the mid 1983-4’s when jogging the beaches of Santa Barbara, I witnessed first hand the destruction of thousands of sickened large marine mammels garrotted and dying from plastic ingestion. When I saw Chris’ photographs of terrible beauty some years later, I was moved to a very profound, immutable grief. My God! It’s out there too! The Pacific Gyre was discoverd by Captain Charles Moore in 1996. THIS is Homo Sapiens! ……………plastic is omnipresent!  Working its way up the food chain, it is found in our own body fat today. Each one of us!

These paintings are without space or time:  “as above so below”,  no distinguishing horizon for orientation, no perspective for scale.  No boundaries between nations. NO edges where sky meets sea or earth or meets Life, the ‘full-on-stew’ in which we are all drifting. Waste plastic is submerged, under the surface: not easily visible and lethal to thousands upon thousands of OCEAN going creatures".