Polar bears, polar bears. Those ubiquitous symbols of climate change. Cute and cuddly, ethereal and majestic, they’re popping up everywhere – including atop subway grates on the streets of New York City. Artist Joshua Allen Harris has created quite an online buzz with his puppy-like inflatable plastic bag polar bear: it inflates and deflates with the passing of subterranean subway trains, springing to life and then fading away in a vital commentary on global warming. We’ve covered inspired plastic bag art in the past, but never with such an animated aesthetic.
What starts as a lump of plastic slowly inflates into a giddy, shivering, gleeful mini polar bear – which then deflates back into a lump when the air runs out. Several different sites have commented upon how sad it is to watch it die over and over again. The parallels to the issues of climate change are as striking as a sledgehammer as one watches the figure of a polar bear melting out of its element.
This was Harris’ first inflatable subway sculpture. He’s since become well-known for creating a variety of subway characters, including mythical and mysterious creatures that are several grates long. Below is a piece on the artist by New York Magazine. Harris has also created a Loch-Ness monster, a centaurian figure and a crowd of giggly shapes, each exhibiting a rapid transformation of a discarded lump into an entrancing figure.