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CAS geologist helps cartoonist with "oil" paintings

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Steven Breen is accustomed to reducing big issues into startling, thought-provoking images. But his newest endeavor literally turned the damaging effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill into the commentary itself.

With the help of University of South Florida coastal geologist Ping Wang and graduate student Rip Kirby, Breen recently set out to the beaches near Pensacola to gather oil washed up on the beach to see if he could use the material as part of artwork. Breen turned tar balls into oils used in a series of five editorial cartoons that have run in the San Diego Union-Tribune and newspapers nationwide.

“I guess I’ll be able someday to tell my grandkids I witnessed one of the greatest environmental disasters in U.S. history up close,” Breen wrote in Sunday’s Union-Tribune. “I hope by then we will have learned to be more responsible.”

For Wang and Kirby, who have toiled along the northern Gulf beaches since May doing research on the distribution of oil washing onto beaches, the cartoons added a new dimension to work that has already garnered international attention. Wang said he had no idea he was working with one of the luminaries in American journalism.

“The guy is brilliant,” Wang said after seeing the cartoons.

Wang has since returned to the Florida beaches initially hit by the oil spill and said Tuesday that he continues to find areas of buried oil and tiny tar balls left on beaches that until the April 20 well blowout had been pristine.

“Our beaches are not the same,” Wang said.

Filed under:Arts and Sciences School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Geology Research  
Author: Vickie Chachere