Thursday, July 3, 2014

Art Recap

I wrote this about a week ago, but didn't get a chance to post it until now....

Things are winding down here, we're still transiting back, and the outreach team gave a presentation today to show the science party and crew what we’ve done. I gave a short slide talk at the presentation, but this is my written version of what I’ve done and the current state of the artwork.

I came into this trip with some basic ideas about plankton, the Arctic food chain, and the kind of work I wanted to do, but I also wanted to allow myself the flexibility to be inspired by the experience and let the work evolve based on what I learned. There is a long tradition of artists accompanying expeditions to document new discoveries and I wanted to stay open to whatever happened. 

At first I was so distracted by the ice and the wildlife that I couldn’t focus on the science at all. I did several drawings of the ice from bridge where I toned the whole paper gray and then erased out the ice floes as they went past through the window. I also did a few walrus drawings and a series of small drawings of the snow buntings that landed on the ship for a while.

After a couple of weeks I finally got over my amazement at the Arctic enough to start focusing on the science. I spent a lot of time talking to scientists and asking questions and started drawing plankton. Everyone was incredibly patient and generous with their time, answering question after question, letting me look through microscopes, trusting me enough to let me help with field work, and giving technical feedback on my drawings. I also learned a lot about ice and ocean currents, and I enjoyed that too, but it has always been the living world that has captivated me the most so that’s the direction I took. So far I have done about fifteen plankton drawings of different species. These drawings aren’t my final pieces from the cruise though; I am using them as a way to build up an image bank of plankton to use in more elaborate future projects.

One of my ideas is to create an installation of a plankton bloom on a wall using small fiber studies framed in round wooden hoops. I’m using the plankton drawings as a way to study the different types of plankton and figure out compelling ways to make their invisible world visible. My plan is to fill a wall with individual plankton studies starting with sparsely spaced ice algae species at one end and building up to a solid bloom of as many of the different species we saw on the cruise as possible at the other end.

The other idea I’m working on is using the plankton forms to design patterns that I will use as layers in large woodblock prints. I want to make prints with silhouettes of the larger arctic wildlife combined with patterns made of tiny plankton to show that even the top predators such as polar bears and orcas are built of tiny phytoplankton, but I’m still working out the patterns themselves right now.

Basically I’d like to spend the next few months building off of these drawings and this experience and making a body of work of prints and fiber pieces that can be shown together to embody some of what I’ve learned on the cruise about plankton and the Arctic. In a way I’m disappointed that I didn’t get more finished work done during the cruise, but I don’t think it was really possible. I learned and took in so much that I never could have otherwise and now I have this huge stockpile of notes, drawings, ideas, and resources to work from and a clear direction to go in, so I am content with that.



Coscinodiscus

Chaetoceros

Asterionellopsis

Melosira

Nitzscia

Fragilariopsis

Copepods

Pteropods

Barnacle nauplii larvae

Copepod patterns

Barnacle nauplii and Polychaete patterns

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