SciArt Magazine - All Issues - Page 25

SAiA: As an artist, you have formal training in sculpture and ceramics as well as an M.A. in environmental studies. How did you come to combining art and science in the first place? CM: I’ve always enjoyed creating art and have been fascinated by the marine environment since my childhood along the California coast, but I first began combining art and science as a student at San Francisco University High School. In my first marine biology class, I quickly realized that I am a three-dimensional learner and it was difficult for me to fully understand the anatomy of the organisms I was studying without sculpting them. I had already taken a few ceramics classes so it felt natural for me to turn to clay and begin recreating marine invertebrates. still serve as inspiration for my sculptural work today. I developed an aesthetic appreciation for the extraordinary forms of reef invertebrates and I was thrilled to realize that the chemical makeup (not to mention delicate brittle nature) of reef-building coral skeletons is similar to that of the clay I use to sculpt them. I dove into (and continue to keep up with) the most current literature on human-caused threats to coral reefs and other ocean ecosystems and became deeply alarmed by the worsening impacts of our greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, and over fishing. Above all, I came to understand that my work could change people’s minds. Art has a unique potential to inspire environmental conservation by appealing to our minds and our hearts in ways that scientific data alone often cannot. My understanding of SciArt (or “ArtScience”) has shifted in my work from a selfish exploration of the anatomy of marine invertebrates to "Artivism"—art as a call to action. As founder Sam Bower says, “Art has a job to do.” Art can inspire us to save the ocean. As college application time rolled around, I felt like I needed a school that would let me pursue this threedimensional method of biological illustration that I had just discovered. Our Changing Seas: A coral reef story (2011) at the Department of Skidmore College Commerce and NOAA in April 2011. Glazed stoneware, porcelain ended up being the and terra cotta; wood; steel; enamel and acrylic paints; epoxy. Image © Derek Parks, NOAA. SAiA: Could you talk perfect place for my a bit about the conkind of interdisciplinary work since it offers a “Self-Determined Ma- ception and making of your piece Our Changing Seas: A coral reef story? jor” through which I was able to combine my emerging strengths as an artist and a scientist CM: By the time I became a master’s candidate into a single pursuit that was greater than the sum of its parts. I explored the marine environ- in environmental studies at Brown University in 2009, I knew that I was onto something with ment (particularly coral reefs) as both a biolothis idea of SciArt for marine conservation and gist and a sculptor, melding art with ecology as I had to do something huge. I was fortunate to much as I possibly could. I did fieldwork with be able to work between Brown and the Rhode leading researchers on the Great Barrier Reef during my semester abroad in Australia in 2007 Island School of Design with members of my thesis committee at each school, allowing me to and collected underwater photographs that explore the potential for art to inspire coral reef SciArt in America December 2013 25