Annual ‘Washed Up’ exhibition sees Kaua‘i artists turn marine debris into masterpieces

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A massive reef fish and rooster were among artwork featured at past Washed Up exhibitions. Photos Courtesy: Barbara Wiedner

It’s that time of year: The Kaua‘i Society of Artists and the Surfrider Foundation are “Washed Up” again.

The organizations’ sixth annual marine debris art show debuts today, with dozens of pieces created from waste found on beaches across the Garden Isle. Keiki activities and an artists’ reception will be held on World Oceans Day this Saturday.

Admission to the 2024 Washed Up exhibition – held at the KSA gallery at the Kukui Grove Center shopping mall in Līhu‘e – is free throughout its three-week run, which concludes June 28.

“We’re educating people that might not come to the beach cleanups, or might not really know about the problem of plastic pollution or marine debris here on Kaua‘i,” said Barbara Wiedner, a Kaua‘i chapter member of the Surfrider Foundation, a nationwide ocean conservation nonprofit. “We’re hoping to educate them through these really mindful pieces that are created by our community members.”

Twenty-two artists submitted 60 works to the 2024 Washed Up exhibition, according to Wiedner, whose Surfrider chapter removes about 85,500 pounds of marine debris from Kaua‘i beaches per year – more than all other Surfrider chapters combined. It’s a fraction of the approximately 14 million tons of plastic that end up in the ocean every year, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.


Washed Up artist, Surfrider member and Hawaiian monk seal volunteer Amanda JS Kaufmann will host keiki activities from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday. Kaufmann will deliver a brief lesson about marine debris before leading keiki participants, aged 7 through 17, in making a water-filled pendant using plastic and glass.

Artist and conservationist Amanda JS Kaufmann is among the Kaua‘i artists featured at this year’s Washed Up exhibition. Photo Courtesy: Amanda JS Kaufmann

The plastic will rise to the top of each pendant, while the glass will sink.

“It’s to demonstrate [why] all this plastic debris that’s in the ocean is such a problem, because it’s right in the zones where all the animals are, and they eat it or get caught up in it,” Kaufmann explained. “As opposed to something like glass, which is made of sand and ends up sinking to the bottom.”

Kaufmann is a digital photographer interested in vibrant colors; she creates images that have a painting-like quality. Her work on display in this year’s Washed Up exhibition is based on marine wildlife entanglements, in which animals – like whales, sea turtles and more – become trapped in derelict fishing gear and other debris.

Entanglement can result in immediate drowning, while larger animals may experience infection and exhaustion as a result of their burden, according to NOAA Fisheries, which lists entanglement as the primary cause of human-caused mortality in many whale species.


“I wanted to shine a light on entanglement and the dark side of it because that’s what art is for,” Kaufmann said. “It’s for you to address these issues in a way that’s approachable for people.”

Ceramic sculpture artist Licia McDonald is a former KSA president and board member. She recently began creating exclusively with marine debris and other reclaimed materials, after two decades spent working with porcelain.

“I’m having a great time, but you know, I’m on a learning curve,” McDonald said. “I’m inspired by all of the other artists that participate [in Washed Up] and with what they come up with.”

‘Sushi to Die For’ – a piece by artist Kelly Morgan, featured at a past Washed Up exhibition. Photo Courtesy: Barbara Wiedner

For this year’s Washed Up exhibition, McDonald used “a giant pile” of coaxial cable removed from Kaʻakaʻaniu Beach (also known as Larsen’s Beach) as weaving material. With it, she created a six-foot-wide, peanut-shaped form inspired by microscopic cell structures.

McDonald was inspired by microplastics: Small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long found in environments throughout the globe – and within the bodies of human beings and marine life. Through her artwork, she imagines new species born from the material’s prevalence.


“My sculptures are shaped sort of cellular – one of them is called ‘Mitochondria’ – with the idea that it’s an expanded version, visually, of what’s going on inside us, inside mammals, inside birds and fish,” McDonald said.

To join Kaufmann’s keiki activities on Saturday, register by sending an email to Participation will be limited to 12 individuals, according to Surfrider advertising. Other World Oceans Day activities are scheduled at NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Kaua‘i Ocean Discovery educational center, also located at Kukui Grove Center.

Saturday’s artists’ reception will begin at 5 p.m. Eight awards totaling nearly $2,000 will be distributed during the event.

The Washed Up exhibition is open every day from noon to 6 p.m. and on Fridays from noon to 7 p.m.

For more information, visit and

The 2024 Washed Up marine debris art show opens June 7, with a reception June 8. Photo Courtesy: KSA/Surfrider

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."
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