321 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02118
NOVEMBER 18th, 2021, 6:00PM
Wow it was hard to believe- all those little studies and zoom talks during 2020 with so many people. I truly believe it takes a village – or a community of people to see projects like this through. Mrs. Graham my hippie teacher in the 70’s that gave me my first brush and said go for it at my elementary school in London. Which lead to my first official exhibition of my blue- green peacock in the entryway of our school. I was five at the time, and I also loved nature, animals and color. Well, on this special evening- I had exactly the same feeling of being five and looking up at my peacock : awe! It was hard to believe that my “Sustaining Life” seagrass painting had been scaled up ten times bigger and was now what greets guests as they come into the brand new building owned by BioMed Realty! It had been over a year I had not heard anything back from the initial project crew and all of a sudden I received an email from Joe Imparato from BioMed Realty inviting me to come look at the installation. It was just brilliant, hard to imagine and wow..I was lost for words. I met the rest of the team Andrea Windhausen and Kerry Buckley who helped organize this grand opening. It was by far the grandest opening I have had with beautiful music from the Kendall Square Orchestra, wine and hors d’oeuvres and of course our guest speaker from the EPA Phil Colarusso. What an evening to remember!
Here is the creative team behind the whole project, Emily Moodono and Eric Peterson from SMMA who envisioned the scale, the wooden slats, and the whole space. “Sustaining Life” is a 23 foot by 60-foot long art installation in the Lobby of a new 11-story office tower. I was commissioned by development partners CIM Group and Nordblom Company ( Todd Fremont Smith) to create a 34″x 88″ oil painting that would later be enlarged for this site specific location. Here we were in the space all done-just amazing!
The whole collaboration was wonderful, it allowed me to delve deeper into Boston’s ecological history and it’s relation with seagrass. I discovered many maps ranging from 1775 to 1800s that showed how the perimeters of Boston changed over time as landfill efforts occurred and Boston’s seagrass boundaries pushed further out into the ocean. The painting combines three maps of Boston from different historical periods and is woven together with seagrass blades. Sustaining Life weaves together elements of both being in water and looking from above with composite perspectives of Boston. It is a metaphor for the interconnectedness of all life. (More Info).
It is always a privilege to be joined by marine ecologist Phil Colarusso who shed light on seagrass’s critical role in defining Boston’s shorelines. Phil received a Ph.D. from Northeastern University studying carbon metabolism of eelgrass and has worked at the US EPA for over 32 years as a marine biologist and has spent over 600 hours in seagrass meadows. Phil was awarded a Gulf of Maine Visionary award in 2014 for his work in seagrass conservation. I am lucky to have Phil come out of the seagrass meadows and to shed light on what’s happening in our shorelines.
Behind the Scenes
My fascination with seagrass all began with when I found a used book called “The World Atlas of Seagrass” co- author by Fred Short. A year after buying this big text book, I decided I had to interview Fred Short, so I made an appointment to visit him at UNH. The two hour interview with Fred lead me to change my whole trajectory in art to focus on seagrass. Thanks to Fred I volunteered with Phil Colarusso, Alysa Novak, Sara Grady, Tay Evans, Julie Simpson, Randall Hughes, Jill Carr and so many other wonderful scientists. Since 2015 I have volunteered with over 10 different marine scientists and painted 250 works of art small to large all related to seagrass. When I was approached by the Nordblom team in 2019 and they explained that they had found seagrass in the basement of the building- it just made sense that we should have seagrass in the Lobby!
The project began with discussions on color and compositions. I made over 12 studies for this commission.
The team and I gravitated towards this study below, a 1775 map of Boston before it was filled in, with transparent layers of seagrass blades overlapping Boston.
This painting changed once I got started on the larger scale version in acrylics.
And as we discussed colors in the space with Emily, the whole palette became more subtle and I began to experiment with transparencies. The whole painting was completed in oil colors. All those years of teaching color theory came together as I worked on the large oil painting!
“Sustaining Life” is a contemporary depiction of Boston’s changing seagrass as our shorelines have shifted throughout history. In the 1800 we have recorded accounts of Boston having over 16000 acres of seagrass. Today we have 200 acres, which is an improvement to the 1980’s where we had only 25 acres( due to pollution.) This painting weaves together elements of both being in water and looking from above with composite perspectives of Boston. “Sustaining Life” is a metaphor for the interconnectedness of all life, how our actions impact our oceans. When we take care of our oceans as we did with the Boston Harbor Cleanup seagrass and marine life returned along our shores.
The whole evening was pure joy! So many thoughtful questions and interaction with the community. The music was great. The BioMed Realty team were so generous with their time and energy. Thank you everyone who attended, helped organize the event and friends that were there to support me. I am thankful to have such an amazing project to work on and a platform to share seagrass knowledge!