Mexico’s Ugly Ocean Trash, Transformed Into Treasure

Jugo de Manglar 001

THE BEACHES OF Cancun are pristine, but it doesn’t happen naturally. Resort workers frequently comb the shore for trash to maintain the illusion of perfection, but wander beyond the gleaming hotels and you’ll find a coastline littered with debris.

Alejandro Durán collects some of that stray garbage to create color-coordinated sculptures for his series Washed Up. The shampoo bottles, light bulbs, and even refrigerator and boat parts are so ugly when scattered on the sand yet weirdly beautiful when grouped together.

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The artist works on the beaches of Sian Ka’an, a biosphere reserve a few hours south of Cancun. Over the past five years, Durán estimates he’s gathered thousands of discarded bits and bobs that is polluting the reserve. “The idea came from visiting Sian Ka’an and seeing the situation first hand,” he says. “After my initial disgust, I sought out the colors and a way to make something with this mess of materials.”