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Using Beauty As a Weapon: Atlanta Artist Wins $50,000 Hudgens Prize

Credit Whitby Bierworlf

Have you ever noticed a plastic bottle tucked in the sand on the beach? Or perhaps plastic soda rings entangled in seaweed?

Those exact objects are a part Pam Longobardi’s environmental exhibits.

The Atlanta artist and activist recently received one of the nation’s largest individual art awards.Listen to the audio version of this story.

­­­­­­­­­­Seven years ago, Atlanta artist Pam Longobardi visited the south point of Hawaii and was changed forever.

“What I saw just really shook me to my core, there were just piles and piles and piles of colored plastic materials, but it attracted me. The colors were incredible…this was all garbage plastic that was being vomited out of the ocean.”

Since then, the artist has created sculptures and installations formed from objects and debris cast out from oceans. Her assemblages use bits and pieces of everyday life like toothbrushes and combs that have been mutated by the sea.

Longobardi uses beauty and organization to attract her audience but still spark curiosity.

“I really use beauty as a kind of weapon because what I’m really talking about is incredibly horrifying and ugly, but I have to get people to stop for a moment long enough to begin that conversation.”

This weekend Longobardi won the Hudgens Prize for her Drifters Project Works. The prestigious award, only given to Georgians, includes $50,000 and a solo exhibition at the Hudgens Center for the Arts in Duluth. Longobardi hopes to continue her artistic career focusing on the ‘plastic age’.