Sculptures Under The Sea
We have all seen sunken wrecks with hulls encrusted in barnacles, corals and other aquatic vegetation. These rusted hulks also become habitats for a plethora of sea life. For decades, as we have lost more than 40 percent of our natural coral reefs, global initiatives have produced the deliberate sinking of ships and other durable and environmentally sensitive materials to help support and create artificial reefs around the world.
Now underwater artist Jason deCaires Taylor has discovered a unique and breathtaking way of bringing attention to the dire state of the world’s marine environments. Taylor is the first artist to craft massive underwater art installations that delight and amaze while lending critical infrastructure to dying coral reefs.
Taylor didn’t start out as an environmentally concerned underwater artist. He worked for a time in London, traversing the country sides building temporary installations, which he would then photograph and dismantle. Finding the work less than fulfilling, Taylor began traveling, sampling a variety of jobs. It was during his stint as a dive instructor that Taylor first began mulling a new concept for sculpture installations. “I spent a lot of time underwater and came across the idea of developing art pieces that could also become artificial reefs. I thought that would be kind of a wonderful canvas for my art; not just as an aesthetic piece but one that has real function and purpose. I felt much more comfortable building objects after that revelation. I started small and it’s been escalating every year since.”
Finding a niche
Installing sculpture in a gallery is one thing. Taylor had to install his pieces underwater. Using cement, silicone and glass fiber, Taylor developed a “recipe” and procedure for sinking his sculptures, then securing them on massive bases positioned on rocky surfaces of the ocean floor. Once he felt he had perfected his formulae, Taylor contacted the Grenada government in 2006 and asked if he could submerge pieces in an area that had been devastated by hurricanes. “That was the first seed. I started with 10 figures, until I reached about 65. Then the government turned the location into a national marine park.”
The Mexican government saw Taylor’s project and invited him to consider doing similar work there. “They had a problem with too many tourists coming to Cancun, which caused too much stress on the reef systems,” says Taylor. The government wanted to close some of the reefs so they could recuperate. Yet when local business people protested and demanded that if the government had to close access to the reefs, then they had to offer some type of alternative. “And that’s how they came to contact me.”
Taylor has now created and founded two large-scale underwater museums. The first, in Grenada, has subsequently been documented as a “Wonder of the World” by “National Geographic” magazine. The second museum, called MUSA (Museo Subaquático de Arte) in Mexico, boasts more than 450 pieces and is now listed by “Forbes” as one of the world’s most unique travel destinations.
Under the sea
Along the Manchones Reef system in Mexico, just 26 feet under the tropical waters of Cancun, stand 450 figures of men, women and children. These aquatic sentinels make up Taylor’s largest work to date: “The Silent Evolution.” How to describe this voiceless throng that, at this very moment, continue to morph and change as sea life moves in? Haunting? Beautiful? Hopeful? Ironic?
Taylor purposely crafts figures or objects that are easily recognizable. “I know it will be changed so dramatically I want to begin with something easily recognizable. If I start with something abstract, it just becomes a rock. I prefer strong forms that you can still see as they are transformed. Sea life takes over lightening quick,” says Taylor. “Within three days you already see a film of algae forming, then after a few more days, the fish start eating the algae, which attracts more, bigger fish. Then you start to see junipers and baby sponges and bigger algae. The real process is watching a group of residents take over, then after a period of time, another lot move in, and this pattern continues to evolve. They transform the familiar human forms into an evolving narrative of nature.”
Today, Taylor’s installations continue to grow, change and inspire. “The bigger goal is to educate people to how wonderful the seas are and how amazing the creatures are who live in them. There is a symbiosis of nature living with humans. I believe the two can coexist quite happily. If I can convey that, I will be very happy.”
Learn more about Jason deCaires Taylor’s works at www.underwatersculpture.com