The photographs in ‘Chris Jordan: Message from the Gyre’ depict albatrosses who have died from consuming floating plastic trash.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —The exhibit “Chris Jordan: Message from the Gyre” opens at the Cohen Gallery in the University’s Granoff Center for the Creative Arts on Saturday, Feb. 25. The exhibit centers on beautifully composed images of a chilling subject —  the decomposing bodies of thousands of albatrosses who have died from consuming floating plastic trash. Taken on the Midway Atoll, a small ring of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean 2000 miles from the nearest landmass, the photographs illustrate how plastic refuse impacts habitat and wildlife far removed from the point of consumption.

The exhibit will be on view through Friday, March 24. An opening reception will be held on Friday, March 3, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

“For more than a decade, Chris Jordan has focused our attention on the consequences of mass consumerism — photographing mountains of discarded electronics in landfills and, more recently, the decomposing carcasses of Laysan albatross that have died from ingesting plastic,” said Bell Gallery Director Jo-Ann Conklin.

Jordan will speak about his work at a panel on March 4; a shoreline cleanup at Blackstone Park in Providence is scheduled for March 18.

Because albatross skim the ocean’s surface for food, they pick up plastic refuse and feed it to their young chicks, Conklin said. Over time, the chicks’ bodies become clogged with plastic and they die — of starvation, suffocation or injuries to their internal organs. Jordan’s images show the plastic detritus that persists even as the bodies of the birds it has killed decompose around it.

While shocking, Conklin said, the images are important to view, as Jordan translates statistics — like 299 million tons of plastics produced a year, 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean and a million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals killed annually from plastic in our oceans — into intimate images of life and death.

“Jordan confronts us with the consequences of our lifestyle and calls on us to take action toward change,” Conklin said.

The exhibit is presented by the David Winton Bell Gallery and the Brown Arts Initiative. The Cohen Gallery is located on the first floor of the Granoff Center at 154 Angell St. in Providence. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to 6 p.m.

Related events

On Saturday, March 4, from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m. in the Granoff Center, Jordan will participate in a panel discussion titled, “re|NEW: The Plastic Ocean,” as part of the Brown Arts Initiative’s inaugural public symposium.

A companion event to the exhibition and panel is a Blackstone Park shoreline cleanup on March 18 from 12 noon to 2 p.m. at the Narragansett Boat Club at 2 River Rd. in Providence. Members of the public are invited to help clean up shoreline litter and may register to participate at The cleanup is sponsored by Save the Bay and Friends of Blackstone Park with support from the David Winton Bell Gallery, the Brown Arts Initiative and the Narragansett Boat Club.