Whales in the Currents
The first time I ever became aware of Environmental issues, I was in the 7th grade. During a special presentation in science class, I was immediately taken in and volunteered to go on a field trip to study pollution in our nearby ponds and lakes. Since then, I have found myself revisiting this topic in my art over and over through out the years. So when I was invited to join my friends and colleagues at the Dalvero academy in creating a show based on issues involving the oceans and ocean wild life conservation, once again, I jumped at the chance to be a part of something that could possibly make a difference. At the very least, maybe I could inspire someone to take action through my art.
About 15 years go, I created an interactive book titled Talk of the Earth, that encourages kids to learn about the issues facing our planet. Some examples of the art from this project can be viewed here
For this project, I started by attempting to find a thread connecting Mystic Seaport, whales and ocean conservation. I remember I kept reaching a point where I’d just get mad at the state of our oceans and when I wanted to find someplace to put the blame, I’d always find money and greed were the culprits. So I decided to base my project on the idea that if it weren’t for greed, our oceans may be in better shape today. My piece is now called Currents and Currencies, and you can read about it here.
Below is a drawing I made when I made up my mind that King Midas was to be the villain in my story. He turned his daughter to gold during a fit of uncontrollable greed. He represents the insatiable greed that can and will destroy our planet as we know it, if we don’t change our ways. We spill oil, allow fracking, overfish, pollute, neglect. And because stopping this behavior would mean major profit loss, nothing is done about it. No good.
A few months prior, I organized a beach clean up day in New Jersey. The amount of garbage we collected in 2 hours was astounding. It broke my heart. Below are pictures of just a few items I knew I wanted to use in my project.
Before I knew I would be making a sculpture of King Midas, I selected an old rusted can for my stockpile. I liked the texture. Here’s a picture of when I was flattening out and that’s when I saw the shape of his head.
And here I am flattening out a thick piece of aluminum that eventually became his crown.
I decided I would have Midas sunk at the bottom of the ocean’s currents, so next I needed the ocean.
Getting to work on the ocean currents was a whole other process. I dyed old shower curtains and liners and started drawing the frequency-wavelength-like patterns of ocean currents.
I knew I wanted old Midas to get caught in a golden net of his own making, so I went to work making a net out of gold wire using a method that my fisherman grandfather probably used many decades ago in Greece. Gotta love the internet.
I also used a thinner gold and silver thread to embroider a path of gold from the whale at the top of the ocean to the sunken Midas at the bottom of the ocean. So I figuratively and literally made the connection between the victim and the villain, using the gold- the currency that is mined in the currents… hence the title of the piece.
Here’s a glimpse of Midas in the ocean:
These next images are of more patterns of currents that I painted onto large sheets of plastic.
Here’s Midas almost ready to take his place at the bottom of the ocean
And here’s a picture of his insides, like when the beached whales are discovered to have a belly full of plastic.
Finally, here’s a picture of the piece that was taken during the installation process. You can see more on my next post about the show’s opening night.