From Field to Paint to Painting, Olivia Kiers



Jane Disney & Group, Mount Desert Island Biological Lab, Acardia, 2017


How do you use all the photos you take?

I take many photos of the work the marine ecologists do in the field. The actual seagrass, the context of each different environment. I use these to share the great inspiring work they are doing since I believe its very important and usually under the radar.

Do you know what the painting is going to look like when you begin?

With my regular paintings I don’t really know what it will turn out like. For example, in my painting “Mollusks at Low Tide,” I didn’t even know that this is what I was painting when I first started. I just experimented with different types of squiggly small marks in charcoal and magenta colors with browns. By the time I was finished and looked at the painting again, I knew what it was, seagrass and mollusks I had seen from Acadia. On one of my trips to  Acadia, I had found signs for “Eelgrass Restoration” but there was no seagrass in sight. I had to track Jane Disney to find the eelgrass at low tide…It was amazing. The richness in these shelled mollusks and the seagrass around it as beautiful, it was kind of like glistening jewels. It is moments like these, being out in the field  that influence my work.

Mollusks at Low Tide, Oil on Canvas, 36″x 60″, 2017 

How do you come up with the subject of your paintings?

It’s very process oriented and starts with color: I layer washes of color, let it dry, come back and then change it, add thicker paint, cover, reveal. It reminds me of tides, some things get completely covered and others get revealed. Everything is in constant flux, yet everything belongs in the same space.

I’m not completely sure how I come up with ideas for paintings. Sometimes shapes suggest a movement, or line forms an indentation that reminds me of something. Or it could just be one color next to another and somehow it makes visual sense to me. My memories from being out in the field with scientists play a huge role. Sometimes it’s the feeling of discovering a weird epiphyte, holding a green crab, or the way the sky reflects on the water. Other times, it’s the discovery of a million mollusks only visible in the seagrass beds at low tide.

 Why seagrass?

For me it’s been as much about personal growth as about a learning, and an area where I can take action.

Seagrass for me represents a focus. It’s a practical, metaphoric, poetic plant that represents the current state we are all in.

Our environment= our health.

This plant is literally in our backyard and hardly anyone knows about it. We are all aware of the disappearing corals and ocean acidification. But what about our use of nitrates in our fertilizers and the run offs that kill seagrass? We are loosing important ecosystems and diversity (20 football fields an hour, globally) and it impacts all of us.

I like the fact that we can all do something about it and take action. There is hope if we all do our bit help.


Have you changed your lifestyle to incorporate what you’ve learned, and if so, how?

I switched to reusable coffee mugs, recycled bags, recycled clothing. I stopped eating meat for about 3 years now, I do eat fish. Less meat means less CO2 and fewer nitrates in the water. Just this week I got my first composter, I am very excited!

These changes are slow, and haven’t happened overnight, and there is still more to do.

I love all the wonderful scientists I have been lucky enough to research. I have learnt so much from every single one and they are all inspirational for me. They are hopeful and positive reminders that we can all contribute even in small everyday actions.

How do you feel when your work is acquired?

It’s amazing when others can relate to what I am trying to do and resonate with the strange abstractions I paint. I feel honored when my work is placed in client’s homes. That it represents more than just an aesthetic product. It contributes to my continued seagrass research and allows me to continue painting. I am grateful!


Mollusks at Low Tide, Installed in Ball Ground, GA, 2018