18.04.24 - 12.05.24

Ingrid Hess

The Naughton Gallery presents Full of Wonder or Full of Plastic? You Decide., a solo exhibition by Ingrid Hess. The exhibition forms part of the programme of REACH ‘24, the inaugural Queen’s University Belfast Arts and Sustainability Festival, and explores the current perils of plastic waste in our oceans.

Legendary oceanographer, deep sea explorer, and field researcher Dr. Sylvia Earle stated, “No water, no life. No blue, no green.” Our oceans are the original source of all life on Earth. Their depths contain fascinating creatures, produce half the world’s oxygen, and provide life-giving water. In the past century, however, humans have greatly damaged these critical bodies of water and life.

One of the largest problems our oceans face is plastic. The statistics are sobering:

  • Only one of every six plastic water bottles gets recycled.
  • 50% of plastic is only used once and then thrown away.
  • More than one million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • Plastic kills approximately 100,000 marine mammals each year.
  • Approximately 12.8% or what we throw away is plastic.
  • Plastic kills approximately one million sea birds each year.

Of the more than 200 billion pounds of plastic the world produces each year, about 10% ends up in the ocean. Some plastic breaks up into tiny pieces and is ingested by fish. Other plastic makes up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a 1.6 million square kilometre area where plastic gathers. Finally, some plastic sinks and damages the ocean floor.

For our oceans and life to survive, we must change our destructive ways. Now is the time for us all to work both together and as individuals to keep our oceans blue and green.



Ingrid Hess is an associate professor of Graphic Design in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (USA). She is also a cut-paper artist and a children’s book author/illustrator. She received her undergraduate degree at Goshen College and her MFA in Graphic Design from Indiana University, Bloomington.

Much of Hess’s work focuses on using art and design to empower children to be good stewards of the environment. The simplicity in Hess’s work is heavily influenced by her Amish/Mennonite heritage, and the bright colours and patterns are inspired by art from Costa Rica (her childhood home for four years). Her dual passions of design and illustration complement each other, helping Hess to tell stories through pictures. 

Hess’s work on sustainability includes her current residency at Queen’s University Belfast, previous residences in Costa Rica and Australia, and a Fulbright Scholarship to work with University College Cork, Ireland, to create a sustainability game for elementary school children.           

Hess is an accomplished children’s book writer and illustrator. Her titles Sleep in Peace, Doodling Dragons, Knitting Knits, Whistling Whales, Mister Magnificent’s Magical Merrimack Adventure, and How Your Brain Learns To Read! have all won national awards. Throughout her practice, Hess has addressed themes including peace, economic justice, diversity, environmental issues, literacy, and education. Her work empowers children to understand that they can make a difference in the world. Hess also works with museums and national parks in the United States and internationally to create educational exhibitions for children.

Related Events

THU 18 APR 2024, 5:30PM - 8PM

Join us for the opening reception of FULL OF WONDER OR FULL OF PLASTIC? YOU DECIDE. Free admission. Refreshments provided. All welcome.

SAT 20 APR 2024, 10AM - 11AM

For the next in our series of morning talks we're joined by artist, Ingrid Hess, in conversation with the Naughton Gallery team. Admission is free and refreshments are provided. Please email art@qub.ac.uk to confirm your attendance. All are welcome!


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