EAF15 Artist Profile: Davey Hawkins
As an active surfer, Davey Hawkins is intimately aware of the fluctuating state of marine environments. For his EAF15 project, Inclusions, Hawkins focused on marine Styrofoam—a synthetic, non-degradable blue foam that seeps into waterways and washes onto shorelines. “I find chunks of it all the time when I go surfing,” Hawkins says of the material.
Over the past year, Hawkins has collected chunks of this foam, which are now housed at Socrates Sculpture Park in a set of blocks of concrete. “I started noticing the foam everywhere I went – for runs along the Hudson or East river, and out surfing at Rockaway Beach,” Hawkins says. “I started grabbing a piece every time I’d go for a run or a surf. I liked the idea of sourcing my art materials from my recreational encounters with New York waterways.” These low-lying blocks, which undulate to follow the typography of the park, suggest that environmental marks left by humans are irreversibly permanent.
Hawkins confronts the physical evidence of human intervention in the natural world, and transforms the materials into a graceful yet ominous sculpture. “I wanted to do something that interacts with the park’s formations,” Hawkins shares. His piece resurfaces the site’s history as an illegal dumpsite and landfill, exploring the relationship between humans and the lands that they occupy. Even at Socrates, Hawkins has discovered blocks of foam drifting by the park’s shoreline.
Inclusions draws attention to the daily activities that are performed absentmindedly, but contribute to the overall overcrowding of landfills and pollution of the earth. “It makes me think about my own material relationship with the planet I live on,” Hawkins shares. “For every chunk of foam I’ve pulled out of a river or the sea, I’ve probably consumed 10 times the amount of plastic or foam. I don’t deliberately toss it all in the ocean, but somehow it gets in there anyway. I see the sculpture as a record or chronicle of disaster.”
The artist has used blue Styrofoam in past projects that also looked at the material’s indissoluble nature. In It Doesn’t Reproduce But it Lasts Forever (2014), Hawkins sanded blue Styrofoam into a fine powder, and meticulously set it upon the floor in the shape of a 26-foot by 12-foot rectangle, broken up by small cracks drawn through the powdery surface.
Even though in his 2014 installation the Styrofoam appears to be harmless in its diminutive state, Hawkins reminds viewers that the particles will last forever. Even if they are blown away, they will continue to exist elsewhere in the environment. This notion is echoed in Hawkins’s Inclusions, which stores the foam as though it were recording the consumption and production of synthetic material.