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Insights of an Eco Artist

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Green + Just- i3C Group

i3C Group- Rebecca McGee Tuck

In this episode, we are delighted to introduce a talented artist, Rebecca McGee Tuck, a renowned sculptor and fiber artist known for her innovative use of found objects and assemblage techniques. During this episode, we will delve into her creative process, inspirations, and the profound impact her art has on both the art community and society as a whole.

Through her work, Rebecca McGee Tuck challenges conventional boundaries and offers new insights into the power of art as a means of self-expression and societal reflection. She will share her experiences and the transformative potential of art in addressing contemporary issues

Joana Alarcão: So I just want to start by approaching your practice in specific. So how does your practice connect with environmental and social justice? 

Rebecca McGee Tuck: Well, I think the materials that I use built my practice because I've always been an artist, but recently I've been taking walks on the beach as I always do and collecting trash and collecting everything that people leave behind.

And, the nature of the work that I make is it's found object art, and so I started deciding to use the stuff that I was picking up on the beach as my materials for art. 

Joana: So how do you connect your practice with environmental protection? 

Rebecca: Oh, yeah. So, well, the amount of stuff that I've been picking up, to be honest, is like, it's really pretty awful what I'm finding. Because people go to the beach and they enjoy it and it's a great time, but they don't walk every single day as I do and they don't see what's there. And so collecting five to fifth pounds of trash is what I pick up every day. So it made it impossible for me to not become more concerned about the ocean and move into activism for the ocean. 

As I was collecting things I was trying to figure out, like, "What can I do more than just using the art of the materials in my art?" I wanted to connect people, to see what I was finding in the amount of trash. And then from there, I guess I was trying to make my experience greater impactfully. So I started joining ocean activist groups, organizations that would do things that I would do. There are a few of them that I enjoyed joining, now they organize beach cleanups with bigger groups that are able to pick up instead of 5 to 50 pounds, like thousands of pounds of trash lops because I don't know if you have this on the beaches where you're from, but there's a lot of fishing gear, like lobster traps and ropes and things like that are here and they tangle up with everything and they just get bigger and bigger. And it really does a lot of damage to the coastline and to all the sea creatures that are affected by it.

Joana: So you started walking the rock line as a kid with your father. Can you tell us a bit about that experience? 

Rebecca: Yeah, well, I grew up in the seventies and eighties and my parents were very kind of hippie and our experience was going camping and going to the beach and we would leave no trace.

And so some of the things that, my father was a welder and my mother was a gardener, and everything that we would use would be reused from something else. We didn't buy many new things. So in my life, there was like a, just a lot of reuse. So when we would go to the beach, we would find things on the beach and we'd pick up driftwood and that would become, like a fence for the garden, for example, and just as we were walking along the beach, my father would find things that would just be so random and then somehow he would use them in another way. And, that just resonated with me. And like I would pick up toys and play with them, but he would pick up things and make use of them. Some way that it was kind of magical. I thought. 

Joana: How do you go about transforming marine debris into works of art and what message do you hope to convey with these fiber sculptures?

Rebecca: The fiber sculptures. Well, the trash that I pick up is, like I said, a lot of it is rope and fishing line. So it just sort of works well with the way that I've been making artwork, which is weaving and not weaving on a loom, but more like free weaving or sculptural weaving. And so, I've been trying to find different ways to connect the materials to sculpture I guess.

Okay, so let me tell you about the project that I'm doing this month because this will be clearer. This month I've decided to take a walk on the beach every day and with what I collect from this particular day, I've been making sculptures with 1 day's worth of trash.

I'm kind of testing myself to make a daily sculpture. I've been calling them daily catch sculptures and when I have a month's worth of them, I believe that these sculptures are going to tell a very good story to people when I'm showing them, about the types of things that are found on the beach and the types of debris that they are in control of not using or using properly or getting rid of.

I mean, I find a lot of balloons on the beach. And so I've been trying to find ways to use balloons in artwork to show people don't let their balloons free. So connecting the materials is really my way of getting the message out that these materials are harmful. 

Joana: Yeah, and I can see how having a sculpture done every day, shows really the amount of trash that you find every day. It has a very big impact because, with a big sculpture, people might think, "Oh, maybe she spent a year collecting all this trash." No, this sculpture is one day's worth of things I found on the beach. 

Rebecca: Yeah, that's the goal because a lot, I mean, I enjoy the sculptors that I have collected from groups to get masses of things.

I'm a maximalist at heart, that's why I like to use a lot of materials and that's one way of showing the mass amount. But in this way just, as you said, it's trying to show you that that 1 day, 1 day's worth of stuff it's more than people even think about. 

Joana: So can you tell us a bit about your experience with the i3C collective?

Rebecca: Yeah, so Adriana reached out to me maybe about a year and a half ago, I've been with them since right after their first show, but when she talked to me about the group, I was so excited because the way I've been working was, as I said, I'm trying to give my message through my artwork and within i3C, there's so many different types of artists that are working in different ways and have different methods of telling their feelings about the climate and the climate crisis.

We have people who are more active with bills, like the governmental aspect of environmentalism, which I've been getting into more and more because of that. And some people who work with materials like I do, to show and some people who paint scenes that are of important issues that we have to address.

So I guess it's wonderful to be with this group of artists because we're a collective of minds that's for the greater good, I guess. So we all learn from each other and we all are able to as one group show. We're more meaningful together, I believe. 

Joana: Yeah, I do see that. So how do you feel that your work and the work of the collective impact or collaborate into this big movement of environmental protection?


rebecca: How do I feel about that? Well, I mean, I feel that's the least I could do. It's the least I could do because without this group and without what we're doing the feelings of despair can really get to you because there's so much. There's so much out there that we know is bad for, it's almost like you can't do anything without hurting the environment.

So, by having this group, we are learning ways to change, we're learning how to teach other people to change and we're learning how to kind of make change palatable for some people because some people don't even want to hear about it at all. And they'll just block their ears and some people just continue to not believe it's happening. So I guess what we're doing, I believe that art is a great way to serve up this information in a way that a lot of different types of people can understand. The problems and the solutions, because we were trying to be positive and make positive connections so that it's not overwhelming.

Joana: Yeah, I see that. It's always very important to give the positive aspect and to think about solutions, not only hammer the issue that this is happening, something to change and rather saying, "no, this is a way to change, a way to approach this and to change the narrative."


Rebecca: Yeah, it's for sure.

Before I was with I3C I felt like I was my own island, I guess, because I was very interested in finding out all these issues and what was going on. But if you're just learning and learning, it becomes, you're like, "what can I do by myself?" But when you're gathered up with other people it feels like you can, the possibilities are greater, so if I feel that way, then people seeing our artwork and our group work together, we're hoping that that's the way other people feel too. 

Joana: Yeah. So my last question is do you feel that artists should search for a collective and try to join a collective? 

Rebecca: Oh, yes, 100%. In fact, besides i3C, I'm in another collective of this type of artist from a different area.

And I would join as many as I could because there are just so many different minds. It's a hive mind. Everybody has so many different ideas and I would suggest that every artist that's thinking in this way, and even if you're not, even if you want to have one piece of art that moves towards sending an environmental message or a message of hope like that I believe that every artist should try that opportunity to join a collective like this. 

Joana: Yeah.Thank you, Rebecca, for taking the time to speak with me. It was an absolute pleasure to get your insights into your work and your insights into the collective. 

Rebecca: Thank you so much.

Know more about the artist here.

Know more about the collective here.

All images courtesy of Rebecca McGee Tuck

Rebecca McGee Tuck is a found object fiber sculptor and an ocean activist based outside of Boston, MA. Rebecca received her BFA from MassArt in 2019. Her work is a visual narrative of what she accumulates from a throwaway society, and as a result, she gives new life to what others discard. Tuck has shown her work in multiple juried shows throughout the Northeast, including the Danforth and Fitchburg Art Museums, Viridian Arts Gallery in New York City, the PEG Center for Art and Activism, and the George Marshall Store Gallery in York, Maine. She has been invited to become a 2023-2004 Associate Member of the Boston Sculptors Gallery in Boston. Her series of work called "Along the Wrack Line" deals with the overwhelming amount of debris and plastic trash that contaminates our local New England beaches. Tuck works among her menagerie of debris from her studio at the Mill Contemporary Art Studios in Framingham, MA.

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