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Periodically, we review newly created artist profiles in the BRIC Contemporary Artist Registry and select one of exceptional merit to feature.

Alejandro Durán is a photographer, filmmaker, poet and educator with roots planted in New York and Mexico. His photographic work spans fine art, fashion, and nature. His latest project, "Washed Up" is an environmental photography project in Mexico that uses garbage washed up on shore from all over the world in site-specific sculptures. Disturbed by the amount of trash he saw washing up on the beaches in Mexico, Duran worked in response to the landscape, within a highly defined color palette, turning this trash into an artistic treasure. We recently spoke with Duran about the project and his artistic practice in general.  
 
I noticed that you pick a specific color palette for each photograph. Is there a certain thought process to how you choose each palette?
The plastic that we consume and that has washed up on shore on the Caribbean coast of Mexico provides the color palette that I use. Among the tons of garbage I find washed up on shore I tend to look for plastic whose colors are more saturated. For whatever reason, blue plastic predominates and purple is hard to come by.
 
 
The amount of trash that flows into the Yucatan peninsula must be immense. How do you keep track and catalog the objects you find? Ex. By shape, color, or use?
For the most part, I organize the larger quantities of material by color but sometimes, as in the case of Riachuelo, I am also organizing by shape. In that instance, I used over 200 blue flip-flops. For Cocos, I separated out the toy balls, mostly of one particular brand, all made in Guatemala. I still can't believe that I could find so many of the same exact item in a variety of colors.
 
 
Can you please shed light to our readers on how you choose your location and install your site-specific sculptures?
Every installation in the series is created along the coast of Sian Ka'an, which is a biosphere reserve south of Tulum on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. A large part of the work is hunting for locations as well as materials. At times, the location inspires the form and at other times the form is clear in my head and I search for its home. Each piece has had its own particular process, but at times I have arranged objects by tossing them in place, like splashing paint on a canvas. Then I meticulously finesse the piece until it feels as if natural forces have sculpted the form over time. I have reconstituted several pieces after feeling that my initial attempt felt forced or unnatural.
 
 
In your artistic process you create a site-specific sculpture as well as capture the sculpture by photograph. Who do you believe is your main audience? The viewers on site or the gallery viewers?
The photographs capture the installation as well as the light and sometimes the color of the sky or shape of the clouds and water of a particular moment in time. Far fewer people have seen the actual installations than have seen the photographs, especially because the work has been installed in isolated areas. But there is a power in seeing the installations first hand as well as the garbage-strewn coast, so I value both ways of experiencing the project equally. Ideally, viewers would be able to experience both the photographs as well as the installed work. I am in the process of trying to organize a jungle gallery event where I would reinstall a portion of the series so that viewers could experience the work first hand. I would like to accompany this with community beach cleaning as well as education programming.
 
 
You have roots both in Brooklyn and in Mexico. How long have you been a resident of Brooklyn and do you see any similarities in the discarded materials and pollution of Brooklyn and Mexico?
I have lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn since 1999. The garbage that I've found along the coast in Mexico is universal: toothbrushes, beverage containers, cleaning products, toys, flip-flops. I would say that the main difference between the garbage in Brooklyn and what I've found in Sian Ka'an is that Brooklyn garbage is consumed and discarded by local residents while Sian Ka'an is unfortunately burdened with waste that is produced and discarded in other regions of the world. Thus far I've documented products that were produced in over 50 different countries on 6 continents.
 
 
Learn more about Durán's work on his BRIC Artist Registry profile, and on the artist's own website.
 

Interview compiled by Ariela Alberts and Sarah A. Lukacher