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Artist turns sea trash into whimsical pieces

Sharon Rothschild is a local artist and 31-year Kaua‘i resident whose work will be displayed in the upcoming exhibit sponsored by the Kaua‘i Society of Artists beginning June 5.

The title of the exhibit is “All Washed Up,” featuring local artists whose works incorporate items that have drifted onto Kaua‘i shores.

Rothschild colorfully transforms plastic Japanese fishing floats into “Love Floats.” These whimsical collages feature maritime characters with big personalities, including fish with overbites, sharks that are menacing-but-kind, and ecstatic octopi.

But before she transforms them, she must first find these maritime relics.

“Obviously, I can’t simply buy these floats online,” she said. Rothschild must find people who have collected them and are willing to part with them. “Once people know what my intentions are they are often happy to part with their treasures. I think they appreciate the idea of giving new purpose to discarded objects.”

“I was first introduced to the idea of transforming these floats by Abigail Burroughs, the curator of ‘All Washed Up.’ She was creating ‘marbleized’ planters with them as part of a recycled-art movement here on Kaua‘i.

“And not too long after that, my attention was drawn to one laying on the side of the road. It was all beaten up.” But with the encouragement of her friend and fellow artist Nazira De Marchi, she decided to clean it up and paint on it. The genie was out of the bottle. That was over a year ago.

She admits she would not have been receptive to the idea had it not been for a serendipitous combination of life events: the COVID-19 shutdown, cancellation of a trip to Argentina, loss of her part-time job, and some creative moves that allowed her to retire.

“Suddenly I felt like I was in this big open field and there was nothing but open sky as far as I could see. I was living in the question: OK, what do I do with all of this space and time?”

The answer came to her in dreams, on her morning walks, or through inspiration from other artists. She passionately chose to find ways to express herself using this unique and creative medium. This flood of inspiration has continued to flow, expanding her vision.

“The common thread of my work combines joy, happiness, fun, excitement and comedy. I am inspired by any empty canvas. Therein lies total freedom and unlimited opportunities to pursue any theme,” she said.

”I am always surprised when I’m sketching a creature’s outline and they suddenly come alive, revealing themselves, their personality and their spirit. But sometimes it seems they don’t know what to do with themselves, so I have the pleasure of animating them.”

The crowning touch of each piece is the discovery of its name.

“It is such a fun process to name my pieces. A group of us will study each ‘ball’ and let it speak to us. Inevitably, it is a funny or silly name, and we all have a good laugh. Somehow, the name magically captures the essence of the collage.”

Names such as Hoke Poke, So Sofishticated and Dressed to Krill reveal the whimsical and joyful quality of her work.

When asked what was next for her artistically, she shared: “I am entering a tribal/earth tone phase, utilizing browns and rusts.” But she candidly admits that she doesn’t want to get too attached to any one motif. “There is only one thing that is certain in this life, and that is change. My goal: keep changing, with grace.”


Morgan Liddell is a certified public accountant and resident of Kapa‘a.
Source: The Garden Island

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