Plover, Process, and Play
I selected the Piping Plover as an endangered animal to explore, specifically, their fragile status on Long Island beaches.
Born and raised on Long Island, I was a frequent beach-goer, spending most of my summer days skim-boarding and playing frisbee at Jones Beach, Robert Moses, and- most nostalgically- during our annual week long family trip to Montauk/Amagansett. A staple on the beaches were the symbolic fencing, stringed-off quadrants, and orange-flagged areas for solely Plovers to nest and eat. I always remember seeing images of them on signage, but it was very rare I would actually see one. A lot of people did not really even know what they were, just that they were endangered.
“Piping Plovers are small shorebirds approximately seven inches long with sand-colored plumage on their backs and crown and white underparts…” “[They] nest in areas with rocks to help hide their eggs.eggs on the sand” (dec.nyc.gov, nps.gov ). At their size, they are very unassuming and easily missed, but if you get the chance to have a closer look, they are quite adorable; I imagine that was a big reason why it was chosen as the focus of Disney Pixar’s animated short, Piper.
The Piping Plover status on Long Island beaches has been fragile for a long time, with a positive uptrend in recent years; however, the risk factors to their stability are not going anywhere, or even worsening. An increase in storms has been eroding the beaches and decreasing areas for nesting. Recreation, specifically dog walking, collecting rocks and contents from the sand, and kite flying are highlighted specifically as risk factors on Long Island.
My process was very spontaneous; I normally sketch and plan out my projects more intentionally, but I took a different approach this time. I used my memories to guide me to materials, colors, items, and backdrops to use for the project.
I created my Plover from found materials that are a part of these risk factors, but also waste that beach-goers frequently create: tin foil, bags that held chips, snacks, dog waste. These items are vividly locked in my memories of childhood beach days: my mom keeping a Ziploc of Twizzlers in her beach bag, setting up our spot on the sand and circling up with our tin foil wrapped sandwiches, watermelon sitting in the middle of our circle in he cooler, long walks on the shore picking up random items.
The look and color of translucent plastic and tin foil are particular sensory memories from my beach hopping, so I layered my materials to achieve that look of a messy beach bag, but also tried to maintain an almost fluffy appearance to mimic the actual texture of the plover.
I staged my Plover against an ocean themed background that is stereotypically seen in most Long Island homes; every home has at least one beach themed bathroom! This staging also references how beachgoers destroy the Plovers’ environment not just by creating waste, but by taking the shells, sand, rocks and driftwood to create a flourish above a toilet.
The process of creating this allowed me to reflect on my footprint on my local beaches, and also learn a bit more about an animal I honestly am a bit embarrassed to be so ignorant about. It also became a fun story time for my partner to learn a little more about me.