— by Ann Sirianni

Antoinette Liguori Sirianni is a second-year MFA student in the Socially Engaged Studio Art program.  She is an environmentally-minded artist who is particularly interested in reusing and repurposing non-recyclable, single-use plastics into pieces of art that highlight the consequences of these materials on our planet and their use in our society.

Prior to studying at Moore, Sirianni was a painter as well as a graphic designer and art director in New York City and Philadelphia. Recently, her practice has mainly focused on sculpture and experimentation of post-consumer plastic. “Over the summer I began investigating how using these materials in my work can provoke greater social awareness, as well researching how other artists have used these materials as a solution, to help my audience understand our responsibility to refuse and reuse these plastics and  keep them out of the waste stream,” she said.

Sirianni's MFA in Progress exhibition is on view November 7 - 14 in The Galleries at Moore.

Share your qualifying review question and plans you have for your final year at Moore in thesis writing and thesis exhibition/project.

My qualifying review statement is: “I intend to reuse post-consumer, single-use plastics in my art to investigate how using these materials can provoke change and a greater social awareness, as well researching how other artists have used these materials as a solution, to help my audience understand our responsibility to refuse and reuse these plastics to keep them out of the waste stream.”

Lately, I’ve been particularly interested in how the current COVID-19 pandemic has been an opportunity for the large plastics companies to dupe the public into believing the only way to be safe is to use single-use items, then toss them in the trash, ignoring the consequences. The increased use of these items and subsequent disposal will have a huge impact on the world. It is especially harmful to minority and marginalized populations, who are already more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of work-related implications for lower-income workers who perform “essential” tasks, and their proximity of living in areas nearer to landfills and incineration. In truth, simply washing with soap and water is all that is necessary. Plastics are not more hygienic or safer to public health, especially over the long term.

I’d like to use my thesis and exhibition work to talk about the uncomfortable truth about what constitutes plastic pollution, how we all contribute to it, and the part corporate America plays in it, putting profits above all else. We need to think about everything that gets thrown away, not just plastic bottles and straws. Using these single-use plastic items in my art is an important part of my practice. It helps me spread the word about things that may not have been thought about in that way before, like the little plastic stickers on fruit that are thrown away by the millions every day. Using these items in unique ways hopefully helps my audience do the same.

How do you plan to use your MFA in Progress exhibition as an opportunity to work toward those goals of the final work, or to explore other concerns?

Working with these plastics helps me think about the problem in a physical way. Experimenting with, mixing, melting and creating new things while exploring each item’s physicality opens the door to finding solutions to the small problem of what to do with what’s in front of me. That gets me thinking of how I can effect change in a larger context.

I'd like to work on legislation and regulations concerning production, use and disposal of single-use plastics.  Legislation that puts some of the cost back on the people who benefit from it is long overdue. Specifically, the large plastic manufacturers and companies who use these products as a cheaper alternative to make bigger profits should share in the cost of their disposal and solution to the environmental crisis that they’ve helped create.

The ban on plastic bags is a start, but so much more needs to be done. We need new types of solutions and education. The exhibition is a great opportunity to look at this problem and have the conversation and come up with ideas.

What are some of the ethical considerations, audience engagements or social impact goals that your work has or will be confronting?

Let's talk about how people can make an impact by raising awareness of the issues and understanding our responsibility to refuse and reuse these plastics to keep them from polluting the air, our food and water supply, and killing wildlife. Let’s make the companies who create and benefit from these items pay their fair share and fund research to come up with safer alternatives.

The plastic companies spend billions of dollars every year to keep us using their products and show us how we can’t live without them, when that is simply not the truth. The hazardous results of plastics in the environment are potential causes of hormonal changes in persons of all ages and especially in infants and children. And It's not just the products themselves, but materials used to package almost everything sold in stores, online and shipped to consumers (i.e. Amazon and its excessive packaging).

The effects and changes in wildlife are just as devastating. The global environment is changing at a rapid rate, like never before seen in history. It is estimated by 2050 there will be more plastic mass in the ocean than fish. With such major issues to solve, maybe through education, revisioning of existing laws and creating new ones, we will help us and our children live in a safer world. I can be a small part of the solution.

For more information please read about plastic pollution here and here, and read more about recycling law here.