Northwest Watershed Institute asked me and artist friend Glo to provide an art experience for their group of young stewards during their weeklong intensive camp stay at Fort Flagler, near PT. The kids were earnest and deeply interested in the environment, so it was easy to connect and engage them in the world of plankton and issues of ocean awareness. We looked at freshwater plankton collected from my own frog pond under the scope and found enough fascinating specimens to keep their focus during a plankton viewing and drawing session. They had spent the day on the nearby beach digging clams and learning about the biology of bivalves, so they were exhausted and happy to settle into quiet observation and sketching.
As Artist-At-Sea with a dozen marine scientists, I happily settled into my stateroom onboard the icebreaker RV Sikuliaq on February 14th. We headed out to collect zooplankton and seawater from Newport, Oregon to Trinidad in Northern California. The ship was our base for the next several days – a wildly mobile home, as it turned out, with typical winter winds and mountainous waves.
The survey area began close to the Newport shore, then headed 60 miles out to sea, south to California and back. The large ship ( 280') was very comfortable and outfitted with all the equipment to investigate how seasonal variations in the zooplankton affect the overall marine food web. Speaking of food, the chefs onboard the ship prepared beautiful meals, despite the frequent wild rolling of the seas and flying pots and pans. This is the first trip of a 2 -year study funded by the National Science Foundation. OSU lead scientist, Bob Cowen, and his students will conduct 4 research cruises. Each trip will also include an Artist. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join this wonderful group of young scientists to observe and record their work deploying plankton collection nets, seawater sampling equipment as well as viewing images from the marvelous underwater camera developed by Bob Cowen. The images from the microscope and ISIIS camera, rich conversations with the scientists and ship’s crewmembers gave me loads of material to work with back in the studio. I did some drawings of the organisms I examined under the microscopes, was able to help sort different species for preserving for future study, and spent time with the excellent plankton books the professors brought onboard.
I'll be joining another cruise with the Schmidt Ocean Institute in July to map methane seeps on the seafloor. https://schmidtocean.org
Last summer I moved out of Portland and far from city life to reconnect with the ocean environment and my plankton brethren. I landed on a semi rural lot in Port Townsend, Washington, where I built a small workshop home for myself alongside a slightly larger rental house. It's a short walk from the beach and Fort Worden. Within 640 square feet, my bandsaw, drill press and workbenches keep company with the kitchen, while the bedroom is at the other end of the 40' building. Wood chips lay thick in the kitchen, but scatter lightly by the time I get to the bed. After completing the building project, I can finally get back to work.
Here in Port Townsend, I found a shop to help me prototype the Crab zoea using 3D printing. Turn Point Design's Brandon Davis used PLA (corn based) plastic filaments to print a larger version of the original alder model. I sprayed it after the final sanding using a Krylon "Seaglass" transparent spray paint. I'm experimenting with LED lighting inside for a subtle glow, i.e. bioluminescence.
Model making is a useful way for me to envision these microscopic forms in various placements and groupings that I hope will someday find a home in a public setting where many people can witness the diversity of plankton.
For the last 2 1/2 months, I have been in residence at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology on the Oregon coast. During my stay there, where I was given a working studio and a cozy cabin, I focused on my various plankton projects and engaged deeply with the local ocean environment. Regular visits to the nearby Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, connected me with plankton biologists and others who helped me understand more of the wildly fascinating life cycles and relationships in the plankton community right under my nose at the beach.
My microscope and its camera were excellent tools for total immersion in the plankton universe. John Chapman, a biologist at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, generously invited me to collect plankton late one wintry night off the end of the Newport fishing pier. He brought all the needed equipment and I was able to return to my own "wet lab" at Sitka with a veritable bouillabaisse of zooplankton to observe for the next several days. I was mesmerized and delighted with the quality of the images in every drop of water which I sketched and photographed continually as each organism gradually slowed down and eventually expired, making them much easier to draw!
My work on the prototypes for the plankton board game and action figures continues with more characters carved in alder and painted. Below are a few, poised to make a move on the prototype game board.
Plankton Action Figures - from top LEFT: Dinophysis, (produces diarrhetic shellfish toxin); Sea urchin larva; Pteropod; MIDDLE: Oyster larva; Diatoms, (the oxygen champs); Barnacle larva; BOTTOM:Alexandrium, (produces paralytic shellfish toxin); Ceratium, more oxygen! ; Crab larva
For 2 months my new oceanic sculpture will return to its watery source on the Oregon coast. The work that was fueled and created during my residencies in Boise and Playa will be shown, as well as, other projects currently in process.
The Rowboat Gallery in Pacific City is a beautiful light-filled venue just off the beach and across the street from the famous Sportsman's Tavern (excellent fish and chips after the show).
My work will be displayed alongside Judy Vogland's paintings of layered historical intrigue involving crusty loggers in Oregon's grand ancient forests. Overhill/Undersea considers the human effects on both forests and oceans, giving you something to think about while you walk off the fish and chips on the beach at Bob Straube State Park just down the road from the gallery.
Opening Reception: June 25, 5-7pm. Show continues through August 25.
Rowboat Gallery - 34950 Brooten Road, Pacific City, OR.
A new series of sealife emerged from the studio this week, ghostly white and ready for 3-D scanning and prototyping. Once they are printed as 3" plastic miniatures, they can be refined and made into collectible oceanic super heroes. I'm also working on trading cards with images and a little science to describe each character's attributes and super powers.
End of January will take me to an artist residency in downtown Boise at Surel's Place. I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to experience a new environment and wonderful people, and am looking forward to sharing my work and enthusiasm for ocean life.
After Surel's Place, I'll drive directly to Playa for a month residency there. I am so pleased to be able to return there and have more time in that nourishing creative place. In both residencies, I will be working on plans for marketing my planktonic sculpture both as large art forms and as educational toys.
After working all summer on developing new plankton forms, I've settled on three to show at the Sitka Art Invitational next week. Barnacles have returned to the spotlight, this time in their larval free -swimming form - bristling with antennae and slender jointed legs or setae. A larval form of a marine snail and the planktonic paddle swimmer, Tomopteris are all painted with a pearlescent paint giving them a ghostly and luminous appearance as they do in their ocean habitat.
My recently completed installation, "Tidal Chamber" has fetched up on two new beaches.
I placed one half of the completed assemblage in the entryway of the Discovery Museum - part of the World Forestry Center, near the Portland Zoo. The large kelp, several horseshoe crabs and many, many barnacles round out the piece. Thank-you to the WFC for giving Tidal Chamber a new home in this lovely forest setting. There is no charge to enter the lobby and see my piece, and a $5 charge to see the rest of the exhibits.
The other half of the work has been placed in a beautiful building in Olympia Washington. The Department of Ecology houses many fine works by regional artists in its very modern and light-filled spaces. "Tidal Chamber 11" has found a perfect spot among the cobbles of a long dry riverbed/beach that runs through the middle of the grand building's atrium area. Thank you to Jeffree Stewart for the invitation to show my work with all the other accomplished artists.
My marine organisms have been traveling around Portland since their emergence from the low tide zone a few months ago. Being sessile sealife, their first trip was short - to the front door of Rae's Lakeview Lounge adjacent to the studio where they were created.
Cherry blossom time brought horseshoe crabs out from the surf and into the waves of pink petals adrift on the PSU campus.
Early morning in the Pearl was a perfect swampy spot to let the Tidal Chamber out for some water sports. Tanner Springs Park on NW 10th and Northrup hosted the collection with curious comments from morning walkers.
I spent 2 weeks on the receding shores of Summer Lake at Playa a few weeks ago. 2 hours south of Bend in the pure high desert. After weeks of extraordinary rains, the area was bursting with life. Shorebirds, muskrats, coyotes, snakes and 7 or so other artists, writers and dancers shared this scenic spot in which to indulge our most fervent efforts and ideas. We were given lovely little houses on a walden like pond with access to studios for our work. Dinners were generously served in a commons house where we could all gather for food and/or society, but most of the time we were each well-immersed in our independent work. It was the very thing I needed to intensify my focus on my carving. Countless thanks to Deb Ford and PLAYA for the generous opportunity.