Artist Cathy Hodge, Partnering with Chrissy Hernandez MIT-WHOI Joint Program,
WHOI Guest Investigator, Cornell University postdoc

As an artist I have long taken inspiration from exploring the natural world, aided greatly by my privilege in serving as Artist in Residence in thirteen of our national parks and forests. Working in environments where the earth’s structure is dramatically revealed, I have come to understand that no place on earth exists separate from the whole. Naturally I was very interested in joining in the Synergy project to expand my explorations below the surface of the ocean and try to understand how it fits into the cycle of life on earth.


This partnership of artists and scientists seems natural, as we are both on journeys of discovery, without knowing what direction it will take us.


My Synergy partner, MIT-WHOI scientist Chrissy Hernandez, has been studying the effects of currents and ocean temperature on larval fish populations, and has focused in the last few years on whether bluefin tuna were spawning off the North Atlantic coast. Due to the pandemic, I could not visit WHOI and observe larval tuna directly, so I began to collect and study other plankton samples from the coast, (larval fish are plankton in early stages) which has opened up the world of the ‘drifters’, microscopic ocean life that moves with the currents.


Gathering information from Chrissy’s thesis presentation, her charts and graphs, and our conversations online, I am incorporating all these elements into a large 3-panel painting, for which the work in this exhibition are studies. Chrissy checks my work in progress and lets me know if it rings true scientifically, and answers any questions that come up in my explorations.


Along this journey I have learned a tremendous amount about the hidden life of the ocean, how ocean currents affect that life and how we may be affecting the ocean environment to the detriment of the balance of life.


I hope to be able to communicate the importance of exploring the unknown, even deep into the sea. I would like to draw attention to importance of what lies below the surface which, due to size, depth or darkness, is yet unseen and undiscovered and how all are connected and critical to life on the planet on so many levels.


In this time of pandemics and climate change, what we discover just might save us.