Chambersburg, Pa. — Artist and educator Alejandro Durán brings his stunning photography and installation project – Washed Up: Transforming a Trashed Landscape – to the John Stewart Memorial Library’s new Sue Davison Cooley Art Gallery at Wilson College in March. The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, will open with a reception and artist’s talk on the first floor of Lenfest Learning Commons at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 22.

Washed Up eloquently depicts the worldwide impact of plastic pollution through Durán’s photographs of Sian Ka’an, a tropical nature reserve in Mexico, where the natural world intersects with trash carried there from around the globe by ocean currents.

Durán, who lives and works in Brooklyn, was born in Mexico and has been returning there for most of his life. In 2010 while visiting Sian Ka’an – a UNESCO World Heritage site with more than 20 pre-Columbian archaeological sites, a vast array of flora and fauna and the world’s second-largest coastal barrier reef – Durán noticed the plastic waste that was washing up on the beach. “It was shocking,” said Durán.

He has identified refuse from 50 nations on six continents that has washed ashore at Sian Ka’an.To raise awareness of the issue, Durán began artfully arranging the debris into the natural landscape, creating color-based, site-specific sculptures, which he then photographs.

“Conflating the hand of man and nature, at times I distribute the objects the way the waves would; at other times, the plastic takes on the shape of algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment,” Durán says on his website,

His photo series “depicts a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far-reaching impact of our disposable culture,” says Durán. “Although inspired by the works of Andy Goldsworthy and Robert Smithson, Washed Up speaks to the environmental concerns of our time and its vast quantity of discarded materials. The alchemy of Washed Up lies not only in converting a trashed landscape, but in the project’s potential to raise awareness and change our relationship to consumption and waste.”

At Wilson, Durán plans to display two large-scale photographs and show a short documentary film. “The last element is a small installation using actual garbage that had washed up in Mexico that I brought back to the United States,” Durán said recently. “I’m going to most likely create something specifically for the space.”

Washed Up has been exhibited at the Galería Octavio Paz at the Mexican consulate in New York, Hunter’s East Harlem Art Gallery and Montréal’s Art Public.  Ville de MontréalthetheeThe series was also chosen to exhibit for The Fence 2015, an annual, summer-long photographic exhibition on display in Brooklyn, Boston, Atlanta and Houston.

The exhibit at Wilson will run through May 27. The Cooley Gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays.

Durán is a multimedia artist working in photography, installation, and video. His work examines the fraught intersections of man and nature, particularly the tension between the natural world and an increasingly overdeveloped one. He has received numerous awards, including: En Foco’s New Works and Center’s Project Launch Juror’s Prize. He was Hunter College’s Artist-in-Residence for 2014-15. Durán’s work has been featured in Land Art, Art & Ecology Now and Unexpected Art. Articles about him have been featured in Wired, Huffington Post and ABC News, among others. 

As an educator, Durán has taught youth and adult classes in photography and video since 2002 and has worked as a museum educator at the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography. He is a founding board member for the New York City Charter School of the Arts and is a video producer whose clients include MoMA, the Museum of Arts & Design and Columbia University.

Durán’s appearance at Wilson College originated with Associate Professor of Spanish Wendell Smith, who had learned about the Washed Up project from a textbook he uses in his Spanish classes. Smith, who was part of a planning committee for a lecture series this year on climate change, contacted the artist about bringing his work to Wilson. “Because I’m a member of the global studies department, I thought we needed somebody with a perspective that this is a global problem that will require global solutions,” Smith said.

A second art exhibit is also opening at Wilson on March 22. The Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition will open with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Bogigian Gallery in Lortz Hall.

MEDIA CONTACT:           
Wendell Smith, Associate Professor of Spanish
Phone: 717 254-0599




Founded in 1869, Wilson College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college offering bachelor’s degrees in 31 majors and seven master’s degrees. Wilson is committed to providing an affordable education that offers value to its students beyond graduation.

Located in Chambersburg, Pa., the college had a fall 2015 enrollment of 923, which includes students from 22 states and 16 countries. Visit for more information.

Published: March 31, 2016