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Earth Poetica

Artist Beverly Barkat creates globe from miles of plastic waste

Artist’s four-meter-high globe is housed at Jerusalem aquarium before moving to permanent home in New York City’s World Trade Center complex

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

  • The interior of artist Beverly Barkat's latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' installed at the Jerusalem aquarium on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Michael Amar)
    The interior of artist Beverly Barkat's latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' installed at the Jerusalem aquarium on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Michael Amar)
  • Artist Beverly Barkat and her latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' installed at the Jerusalem aquarium on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Michael Amar)
    Artist Beverly Barkat and her latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' installed at the Jerusalem aquarium on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Michael Amar)
  • The interior of artist Beverly Barkat's latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' at the Jerusalem aquarium starting on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Michael Amar)
    The interior of artist Beverly Barkat's latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' at the Jerusalem aquarium starting on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Michael Amar)
  • The interior of artist Beverly Barkat's latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' at the Jerusalem aquarium starting on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Michael Amar)
    The interior of artist Beverly Barkat's latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' at the Jerusalem aquarium starting on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Michael Amar)
  • Artist Beverly Barkat's studio where she worked on her latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' at the Jerusalem aquarium starting on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Oren Ben Hakoon)
    Artist Beverly Barkat's studio where she worked on her latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' at the Jerusalem aquarium starting on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Oren Ben Hakoon)
  • Artist Beverly Barkat working on her latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' at the Jerusalem aquarium starting on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Leopold Chen)
    Artist Beverly Barkat working on her latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' at the Jerusalem aquarium starting on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Leopold Chen)
  • Artist Beverly Barkat working on her latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' at the Jerusalem aquarium starting on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Oren Ben Hakoon)
    Artist Beverly Barkat working on her latest work, 'Earth Poetica,' at the Jerusalem aquarium starting on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Oren Ben Hakoon)
  • Jerusalem artist Beverly Barkat. (Courtesy: Oren Ben Hakoon)
    Jerusalem artist Beverly Barkat. (Courtesy: Oren Ben Hakoon)

Jerusalem artist Beverly Barkat’s “Earth Poetica,” a four-meter-high (13-foot) globe made from plastic waste, rises majestically at the Gottesman Family Israel Aquarium, a shimmering, jeweled sphere of food wrappers, bags and bottles cast in resin, a potent reminder of just how much garbage carpets the planet.

“I wanted a beautiful jewel from the outside,” said Barkat, standing in front of her artwork Sunday morning. “It’s beautiful, but it’s about garbage.”

Looking up, the towering globe offers an appearance of stained glass, the colorful plastic waste encased in a clear resin, framed by metal panels and an inner bamboo structure.

Several windows placed along the globe’s perimeter offer viewers a helpful glimpse of the interior, with the clusters of plastic packaging, fishing nets and bottles offering a potent reminder of what creates the vivid beauty on the exterior.

Barkat’s work was commissioned for the lobby of a building in the new World Trade Center complex overlooking Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, with this first six-month stay at the Jerusalem aquarium prior to being moved to New York.

“Showing it here is important because I’m an Israeli, I live here and I love Israel,” said the South African-born Barkat who moved to Israel as a child and is married to Nir Barkat, the former Jerusalem mayor who is considered a frontrunner to succeed former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the leader of the Likud party.

The Jerusalem aquarium is developing school programs to accompany Earth Poetica along with its accompanying panels and video that explain Barkat’s work process.

Barkat began working on Earth Poetica several years ago, collecting her own waste from near and far, and then, with the onset of the pandemic, was sent packages and boxes of waste by friends and family living in farther-flung locations.

The plastics became Barkat’s palette, she said, helping her create the story she wanted to tell.

Panels displaying examples of the plastics divided by color and type — from frozen food bags and soda bottles to candy wrappers and potato chip bags — are hung on the front lobby walls of the aquarium.

Artist Beverly Barkat working on her latest work, ‘Earth Poetica,’ installed at the Jerusalem aquarium on February 6, 2022. (Courtesy: Leopold Chen)

As Barkat began formulating her plan for her plastic Planet Earth, she sought different shades and colors to represent the globe’s oceans and seas, mountains and land mass, such as a particular shade of dark green from Australian soda water bottles that she used to represent Egypt’s Nile River.

“It’s a lot of meticulous craft that creates a sphere,” she said.

As Barkat cast her Earth Poetica, she also spent a lot of time spinning global maps and scanning Google Earth to learn the geographical aspects of the universe.

“I also had to base it on what I know,” she said. “Each continent has that very personal feeling I have for it.”

On a more technical level, Barkat worked with an engineer and metalsmith Yuval Telem to create the globe’s metal sphere of 18 frames and another 10 interior frames, for a total of 180 frames that were moved around her two-story Jerusalem studio as she painted and cured her plastics.

The addition of the internal bamboo frame runs from one metal structure to another, mimicking nature, she said.

“This is earth telling the story that if we don’t change the way we behave, we are covering ourselves in plastic,” said Barkat. “We need to invest energy and different leadership to change things.”

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