SYNERGY PART II | January 6 – January 30 |
A Collaboration between the Art League of Rhode Island and Scientists from WHOI
Chris Maynard: Piercing the Veil, Blue & Gold Macaw primary wing feathers
Indigenous people who live next to the salt waters of the far northwest USA and through British Columbia and Alaska both on the surface of the waters to get from here to there and receive their sustenance from the waters below.
This world above the waters has been described as something of an illusion, the surface being the veil covering a more real world below.
Deb Ehrens: Marine Heatwaves Installation, kinetic sculpture, fabric
Scientists: Caroline Ummenhofer and Svenja Ryan
As these kinetic sculptures spin, imagine the immense circulating air masses and ocean currents that drive our climate. Come close. Look for the visual stories connecting today’s climate science to New England’s whaling past and the impact of marine heatwaves on our fisheries, marine ecosystems, and biodiversity.
In the world of oceanography, marine heatwaves are a recently “discovered” phenomenon and they are becoming more intense and more frequent. This Marine Heatwaves Installation is a creative art and science collaboration. My partner scientists, Caroline Ummenhofer, Svenja Ryan, and I began the project with months of conversation about our scientific and artistic processes. We were surprised and delighted at the many similarities and spoke in-depth about the challenges of creating visual representations of complex ideas and data. I asked both Caroline and Svenja “What is the driving force that makes you dive into these massive data sets, travel to polar regions, and seek out new data from the past?” When they both replied, ‘the thrill of discovery!” I realized then that my partner scientists are direct descendants of naturalist explorers who used ink and pen for journal entries and illustrations. Today, the tools are different, but the quest is the same. This project made me an explorer too. Early on I envisioned large moving forms to capture the big systems and big data at the heart of climate research. But to execute what I imagined, I had to explore and expand my art practice to include kinetic sculpture and three-dimensional design on fabric.
Each heatwave begins with a color gradient that is commonly used to convey oceanographic data. I wove data generated by Svenja’s computer models in and around 19th-century drawings of creatures impacted by marine heatwaves and layered computer code into whaling log entries of historical weather recordings that are compared with climate models. To create depth and texture I embedded graphs, charts, scientific instruments, and satellite photos of marine heatwaves into the design. The heatwave imagery is intentionally both large and small scale because we want to intrigue from a distance and invite viewers to come close and explore. This macro/micro viewing experience mirrors how both scientists and artists dive deep into rabbit holes on their way to seeing the big picture.
Dorothy Raymond: Origins III, fiber
Dye-painted stenciled cotton; wool, silk, rayon and cotton applique. Machine quilted. Underwater organic fragments emerge, recede, float and overlap. Stitching enhances the contrast of textures and colors to suggest something new, a mystery originating from the play of water on the rocks.
Ellen Biegert: Turbulence, mixed media
Scientist: Larry J. Pratt, PHD
Through this collaboration we explored ways to translate science through art to interpret and provide a visual connection to the turbulence of the ocean. Shapes and patterns were developed based on scientific understanding and used to give a visual feeling of movement. The process to develop Turbulence involved conveying knowledge and artistic process, exploring visual representation, and communication during development to help us both grow through collaboration. Ultimately the goal was to express the beauty and complexity of turbulence through the lens of creativity, to strengthen the connection between science, art, humanity and the environment.
TOP OF THE DRAWING
Turbulence takes the ocean movement and interprets the commotion through texture, rhythm and pattern to give the feeling of the expansive water bodies with layers of varying activity. It translates the complexity of motions from the microscopic to the basin scale by exploring the different scales with texture.
At the ocean surface, winds and unstable currents create a layer of elevated turbulence. The surface waters are also driven towards polar regions, where they are cooled and may sink to great depth. Some of the sinking occurs in turbulent “chimneys” that carry heat and dissolved carbon dioxide into the deep ocean, consequently buffering the effects of global atmospheric warming.
MIDDLE OF THE DRAWING
Although all levels of the ocean experience turbulence, movement in the stratified middle layers is less turbulent, and more wave-like, than at the surface or bottom.
BOTTOM OF THE DRAWING
Water that sinks in the polar regions collects in currents that run along the bottom, from one ocean basin to another. These waters slowly rise back to the surface as part of an overturning cycle that may take 1000 years or more to complete. Turbulence in the deep limbs of this overturning circulation is generated where these currents encounter bumps on the ocean floor and is especially intense in deep passages such as the Denmark Strait and Samoan Passage. Turbulence is also generated by the action of the tides, causing water to slosh across the rough bottom, leading to strange, up-hill flows along the flanks of mid-ocean ridges.
This piece features a glass buoyancy sphere. Utilized by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, this device has an important role in gathering information from the deep ocean and is used to keep instruments straight and capable of returning to the surface. This sphere has spent time in the ocean, subject to the enormous pressures and turbulent motions endured by deep-sea moorings and has emerged with scars from its undertaking.
On this sphere is etched some of the turbulence it has endured. The movement and interconnectedness of our oceans and global waters is interpreted as seen from above. Driven by winds and earths turning the waters circulate on the surface before sinking deep in the polar regions. The patterns distinguish major currents and areas with more turbulence while conveying the continual mixing and motion throughout the entire surface.
Heather Stivison: Visualizing the Unseen, Four paintings created in collaboration with chemical ocean scientist, Noah Germolus.
My scientist partner Noah Germolus is researching into ocean metabolites (amino acids, nucleosides, vitamins, etc.) to better understand the “life cycle” of these basic building blocks of life. Specifically, he is studying the chemical data he sampled from four distinct ocean locations, In Visualizing the Unseen, I use visual cues of color, shape, and form to “describe” the ocean ecosystem of these four data-collection zones. My goal is to offer more than a list of the various concentrations of chemicals that Germolus found, or to merely illustrate his data. My artworks are visual abstractions of his findings to help us imagine the life cycles that go unseen, beneath the surface. I abstract the information in ways that may offer an emotional resonance with and understanding of the relationships between the chemicals, microbes, and the specific and varied ocean ecosystem in which they exist.
- Coastal Surface: Community. 4´5 feet, Oil over Acrylic on Canvas.
Here the background–essentially an underpainting—visualizes of the data collected from coastal surface water off Cape Cod. I use wild colors, and interactions of lines and shapes, and sense of movement to suggest the activity in water that, to any person walking on the beach, would appear clear and empty. I aim for a sense of immediacy and uncontrived mark making in the first layers of paint to describe active water, that is full of movement, rich with vibrant mixtures of both land-derived molecules and oceanic molecules. Colors run randomly, ripple, and interconnect in community alliances to express the groupings of unseen molecular activity. Coastal water is a place where storms can bring run-off of land-derived molecules that interact with the communities of molecules native to the water. Toxic algal blooms can occur here when human activity causes nitrogen to build up. While to the naked eye, the ocean water might appear to be empty, I painted the unseen “hot-mess” of ever-changing molecules, where nutrients are amplified by pollutants, pharmaceuticals, and other human activity. To give a sense of water, I painted a layer of grey and white cloudlike shapes on top of this representation of the lively chemical ecosystem These shapes are abstractions of the reflections on the surface of the water that humans see when we look at the surface of water. They help give a sense that the painting is referencing what is just beneath the ocean surface.
- Ocean Surface: Desert. 4´5 feet, Oil over Acrylic on Canvas
This collection zone is also surface water, but it is completely different from coastal water in its unseen content. It is the surface of the Atlantic Ocean far out from the coast of Bermuda. Land derived molecules are largely absent here, and any oceanic molecules get used up, break down, and bleached out in the relentless sunlight. This made me think of the ocean as a desert where creatures hide during the daylight. This zone is a nutrient desert—a place where organisms grow slowly and deal with a strange mix of organic matter while the intense sun is beating down from above. In response to this information, I used colors we associate with an actual desert. I tried to create a sense a sense of expansiveness and calm mystery going onwards into the distance. I implied surface waves by using shapes and forms that were actually derived from microscopic views of bleached bones one might find on desert sand. Small black and white marks are scattered here and there to imply the remains of molecules that have been destroyed in by the UV rays.
- DCM: Party Zone., Oil over Acrylic on Canvas
This painting is based on data found in the water tens of meters below the Ocean Surface: Desert, in a zone known as the Deep Chlorophyl Maximum or “DCM.” My palette is primarily in the blue family to suggest UV rays filtered through the water, with a bright sunbeam illuminating the center of the canvas. Because the sunlight isn’t so brutal here, the DCM is the “sweet spot” for microbes, with lots of stuff happening all the time. The ecosystem here is full of vertical movement, with libations come from below and energy from above. Because all this activity seemed almost like a “party zone” I used shapes that resemble bubbles and balloons dancing in the blue light to suggest the chemicals and microbes that call this ecosystem home. In this part of the ocean, you can often find a species of cyanobacteria called Prochlorococcus and low light eco-types, which are suggested by some of the painted forms. I viewed the entire zone as a chemical and microbe “dance party” or rave.
- Deep Ocean: Disintegration. Oil over Acrylic on Canvas.
The final painting is based on the deepest ocean zone sampled in this project. The weight of the ocean above is tremendous. The excited up and down movements of molecules in the DCM are gone. The ocean currents of the subtropical gyre move steadily and powerfully in a horizonal direction across the canvas, like a massive conveyor belt. Instead, the detritus of molecules drift downwards, disintegrating in the deep darkness of this level.
Hong Xu: From Ocean Salt to Predicting Rainfall (4 pieces), Digital Art, Print on Metal
Scientists: Caroline Ummenhofer, Svenja Ryan, and Theo Carr
Hong Xu, artist, in collaboration with physical oceanographers at WHOI – Caroline Ummenhofer, Ph.D., Svenja Ryan, Ph.D., and Theo Carr, Ph.D. candidate – attempt to show that ocean properties can help predict rainfall on land. The key concept revolves around the following components: 1) The ocean is the ultimate water source on our planet. What goes up as fresh water due to evaporation from the ocean surface, leaving salt behind, will come down as rain somewhere else. 2) One of the ocean’s physical properties is its salt content which varies regionally. 3) The seemingly “inconsequential” variations of the regional ocean salt content (salinity) can help predict rainfall events on land several months in advance. Where and when rain falls will have direct impact on people’s lives.
Laurie Kaplowitz: Pursuit and Decay, book illustrations
Scientist: Jennifer Kenyon
- Ocean Breath
- Carbon, the Juggler
- Pursuit and Decay
- Thorium, the Timekeeper
- Climate Change
Luarie Kaplowitz, a painter has collaborated with Dr. Jennifer Kenyon (Joint WHOI-MIT Graduate Program in Oceanography, 2021) to create a graphic story book, Pursuit and Decay, based on Dr. Kenyon’s research. Ms. Kaplowitz’ paintings illustrate the carbon cycle and an oceanographer’s attempts, using radioactive materials, to measure the amount of carbon that sinks into the deep ocean. They have created this book as an educational tool for young students and have made it available for viewing online. Laser printed posters of 5 of the book illustrations are available as laser printed posters.
Saberah Malik: Toxic Algae Bloom, Plastic (Sushi Grass)
Scientist: Max Jahns
Saberah Malik, artist, and Max Jahns, PhD candidate in the Joint WHOI-MIT Graduate Program in Oceanography. Jahn’s research looks at the effects of viruses on the chemical composition of the world’s oceans. Ocean surface dwelling plankton are responsible for one-half of the production of oxygen every year and their healthy numbers are important for removing the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere. Among the thousands of species of phytoplankton, a few dozen of the algae produce toxins and pose a formidable natural hazard. In the spring and fall when nutrients are ripe, these photosynthetic plankton will create blooms that can stretch for miles. Jahns’ research on phytoplankton is the basis of Ms. Malik’s development of a new body of work depicting a symbiotic relationship of science and art in understanding and showcasing phytoplankton’s beautiful morphology as well as their known and unknown deadly threats.