Imagine Seagrass, 50 Ways to Say Seagrass
“Imagine Seagrass” is a series of abstract paintings inspired by the rich diversity of seagrass ecosystems. In the process of painting 50 seagrass canvases, I am interested in what will change and what will stay the same. How will my awareness of seagrass habitats develop?When I first encountered eelgrass on the East Coast, I did not notice much — they all looked the same. Some were in the water, some were out of the water. They looked like long pointy grass. Some were short, some were tall, and they swayed differently. Wow, that was not much to go on for 50 paintings!
However in the process of painting, the challenge of translating short/tall, wiggly/straight, or bright/dark into an abstract language became exciting. Dark green, light green, or what if it wasn’t green and instead pink and orange? I became more aware of the patterns and shapes the seagrass created.
Seagrass for me represents diversity. It is about the interconnectedness of many living organisms. Around 100 million years ago, grass from land adapted to seawater and submerged. Today there are 50-60 different flowering seagrass species across the globe.
I am fascinated by how this ordinary green thing can have such amazing impact. Seagrass helps with sedimentation and stabilization of the shoreline during storms, and holds down CO2. Seagrass meadows are nurseries for different fish. They provide shelter and are a food source for turtles, manatees, and more sea animals. I began to wonder what “home” might be like for these creatures. In my “Interior” painting I was imagining how tiny plankton might view their seagrass habitat. Instead of four walls, I started thinking about pliable surfaces and moving walls. The result was a kaleidoscope of geometric shapes.
What happens when I take away this description of a “submerged flowering plant, home to many species”? What am I left with? I am left with memory and sensations. I remember the eelgrass on Cape Cod, how the clarity of the water affected the way the light hit the stem and magnified its parts. Or how manatees come up for water every twelve minutes and leave a beautiful arrangement of bubbles. I remember the clams, crabs, fish, and plankton on the surface of the water. The movement and sound the grasses made were like an orchestra.
The process of repetition, saying the same thing over and over in paint, is fascinating. Each painting begins with washes of color, which get built up, subtracted, erased and redrawn. Some of the paintings take months to complete, and others go quicker. “Imagine Seagrass” allows me to look closer and in a way remember. With each painting, or reiteration, I hope to bring about a greater awareness of the delicate balance that coexists in the ocean.