After immersing myself in Nina’s scientific research of the Arctica Islandica, I was amazed how special this small but mighty clam is as an archival tool. This marine bivalve is the longest lived animal known, with a possible lifespan of over 500 years. Much like tree rings, they produce annual growth lines. By studying the cross section, it provides centuries long records of changes in water properties via geochemical composition, insight into ocean circulation dynamics and ultimately the long term studies of climate variability.

As an Industrial Designer, I welcome the challenge of problem solving and model making. As an Artist, I strive to evoke emotion through my paintings. My goal is to present to our audience how necessary and interesting this research is. I will create 2 works of art that are relatable and tell a story. The large scale painted relief sculpture of the “Arctica Islandica 1520 -2020” is meant to elevate it as an object of elegance. Working on this project has been so satisfying and has opened my eyes to the relevant research of the oceanographic scientific community. My desire is to impress on the viewer the immense importance of the longevity of this ocean clam and its role in marine science.

The process of creating this sculpture was new to me, and I enjoyed experimenting with materials and techniques. Nina supplied me with photo reference, from which I made a quarter scale model and templates to construct a topographical half shell using layers and layers of foam core. These were glued and screwed together, then carved and shaped with an x-acto knife, files and sandpaper. Many coats of spackle and wood putty were smoothed over the surface, sanding in between layers. A final coat of acrylic molding paste was applied with a texture comb to create ridges typical of a clam shell.

Then the painting process began. I used a technique called glazing to paint many thin layers of transparent oil paint with ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, phthalo green and raw umber. This application of color simulated the rich patina of the dark protein layer, a distinctive feature of this ocean quahog. Scumbles of white were added to create the look of chipping and abrasion. A final assembly to a wood backing board allowed me to bolt it to the panel for display.

This sculpture will be paired with a cross section info graphic timeline titled “500 Years in the Life a Clam”. This piece will highlight historical, environmental, and societal events from the year 1520 to 2020.

Claire Marschak                                                                                                                                                                   Artist and Designer