KEY WEST (CBSMiami/Florida Keys News Bureau) — A team of divers Saturday put the finishing touches on an underwater art exhibition on the wreck of the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, an artificial reef off the coast of Key West.

The project, titled ‘Plastic Ocean Project,’, created by Austrian artist Andreas Franke, highlights the impact of plastics on the world’s oceans.

“The inspiration for this whole project is that we have such a wonderful ocean and we have to take care,” said Franke. “We really have to take care of what is inside, and what we do, and we have to keep it perfect for our next generation.”

Franke said that ‘Plastic Ocean’ images represent the beauty of this world and its future generations. Juxtaposed with some of the images are factoids intended to create awareness of the need to curb the reliance on plastics, the extent of plastic garbage inhabiting the oceans worldwide and its harmful impact on the living beings in the ocean.

The debut coincides with the 10th anniversary of the sinking of the 523-foot Vandenberg artificial reef.

The 24-piece series features models, children and babies in water surrounded by plastic garbage collected along the coast of Italy in a single day. The exhibit also includes individual plastic items placed over statements relating to ocean pollution.

Each artwork is individually encased in Plexiglas, mounted in stainless steel frames and sealed with silicone before being attached to the Vandenberg’s hull. Exposure to salt water, algae and microorganisms will gradually transform the appearance of the pieces.

‘Plastic Ocean’ will remain on the Vandenberg through August 25, accessible only to those willing to take the plunge. Once the images are removed from the ocean and dried, they will be exhibited at a land-based gallery.

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