To belong somewhere, to have roots, a sense of history or home, and then to be uprooted. What does it mean for European green crab (Carcinus maenas) larva to be uprooted from their European shores and be transported to our coastline on the ballasts of boats in the 1800s? These seemingly small creatures proliferate to become an invasive species in New England and are now destroying acres of seagrass habitats. They dig away at seagrass roots and uproot these foundation plants. I am exploring the implications of how being uprooted affects both the European green crab and seagrass meadows in my abstract paintings.
Digging depicts the green crab’s process of burrowing through the sediment in seagrass beds. Everything becomes disheveled by the green crab’s natural curiosity and resilience. Here in this new environment, they not just survive but thrive. They dig away in the sand, uproot the seagrasses, eat through all the scallops, and leave empty shells behind. The painting depicts the frantic energy of the “raging mad crab” (the Latin definition of Carcinus maenas). I use broken shapes, fragmented lines, and overlapped objects where there is no focal area; this overall patterning creates unrest. The colors are uplifting shades of jewel tones used to represent the vibrancy of the seagrass habitat that is being destroyed.
Green Crab Cove, in contrast, is a calm abstract landscape with shimmering light. If the painting is viewed from afar, the whole cove becomes a single green crab basking in the sun. This play on being both object and land happened while I was thinking about how and why the green crab has been here for over 100 years, yet it still is called a migrant crab. At what point do we say “they belong”… or not? The periwinkle is also a migrant mollusk on our shores that came during the 1800s, but it is not seen as an invasive species. Periwinkles have been uprooted and assimilated.
Abstract volumes drift across the top of Floating Rock Crab. Another type of movement is happening on the bottom half of the canvas. Sediment and shuffling — the viewer may not be sure exactly what is occurring, only that there is a different kind of movement, more packed and dense. I contrast two types of movements: one of the top water column movement with the leftover floating shells of rock crabs and the other of the hungry green crab in the bottom of the canvas, rummaging. This painting is a reflection of the destructive nature of green crabs. Native crabs such as rock crabs, mollusks, and eelgrass beds are being lost at alarming rates. One green crab can consume 40 half-inch clams a day, as well as other crabs its own size.
When the Fog Rolls Inis a more poetic reflection of the colors in seagrass meadows when changes in weather occur. Visible yet intangible, the fog brings to our attention a wealth of sensations of which we are not usually aware. This experience of being engulfed by fog happened on one of my field trips with Alyssa Novak’s seagrass conservation group in Wellfleet. One minute we were harvesting seagrass and the next, the fog was so dense that we could barely see anything. It was amazing: all of our senses came alive; colors were brighter, textures more exaggerated, and the sound went up almost a notch. In this painting, I try to capture this tension between dulling down and the unexpected magnification of beauty of the eelgrass meadow in that moment.