TODAY   |  May 16, 2012

Creating art out of washed-up beach trash

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang are harvesting the plastic refuse littered on California’s Kehoe Beach and turning it into beautiful, unique works of art. NBC’s Mike Leonard reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> some people say that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder . and as nbc's mike leonard explains, one california couple is finding inspiration for their work in some rather unexpected items.

>> reporter: as collaborative creators, richard lang and his wife judith are always on the lookout for new inspiration, new materials. this is where they always discover it. but not the way you might expect. bits and pieces of plastic.

>> it's everywhere.

>> reporter: bags. ropes. pellets. you name it. keogh beach, which the lang's visit frequently, is a short distance from their home north of san francisco . the plastic, which washes ashore with tidal consistency, is from farther away . much farther away .

>> we find things from all over the pacific rim . korea, china, indiana, taiwan.

>> reporter: and an untold number other places, where discarded plastic on sidewalks and streets gets flushed by rain water into gutters and gullies. and then into the ocean. their beach harvest, plastic footwear. hat advisers, flamingo heads, monopoly houses, et cetera , et cetera , sorted by shape and color and stored for later use as -- remember i described richard and judith as creators much prized art? well this is their prized art. pieces of fishing nets arranged in a jackson pollock -like manner. a wreath of child's barrettes. a circle of toy soldiers . random pieces artfully configured in thematic patterns triggering thoughts about the impact of all that plastic pouring into the ocean.

>> that's really implicit in the whole thing. but it's not the expletive message. the expletive message is wow, that's really nice to look at. the implicit message is, oh, oh, i'm not going to take that plastic bag this time.

>> reporter: richard and judith have multifaceted artistic resumes. richard , known for his water colors , writing and poetry, judith for her portrait projects dealing with social, political and environmental issues. they're also the proprietors of san francisco 's electric works, a successful print studio, gallery and store. but, it is this medium, this collaborative body of work, that has given them their greatest notoriety, as well as a dual nickname, plastic people . a moniker they embrace with humor and wear with style. a bracelet made from milk carton pull tabs . a shawl knit together from shopping bags . and that necklace?

>> this necklace is all super balls. call from kehoe beach.

>> reporter: and isn't her plastic wedding dress a sight to behold? a playful sight to be sure.

>> we describe what we do with great exuberance. as you can see we have a lot of fun at the beach. but we are really heartbroken that we find ourselves in this predicament of going and picking up, picking up, bending over , picking up.

>> reporter: small, throwaway items, all still carrying a price tag of sorts, as well as a contradictory back story of pinocch pinocchio-like proportion.

>> of course, he is the symbol for the lie, and the lie that we carry is that plastic is cheap. plastic is not cheap. plastic is costing us a lot. and we don't even account for the expense. pinocchio is our ringmaster to remind us always let your conscience be your guide.

>> reporter: for "today," mike leonard , nbc news, point reyes national seashore in northern california .

>> pretty cool.

>> yeah.