Great Barracuda - Sphyraena barracuda

Great Barracuda - Sphyraena barracuda

January 10, 2011

A Tough One

Photo credit: Jorge Silva, Reuters.

As an artist (and now, teacher), I am very sensitive to artistic critique. OK, go back...

When I was in high school, my art teachers broke me down, criticized my work, prodded me to change, change, change. They found little in my style or choice of subject to praise. Ultimately, I gave it up to focus on my second love: Marine Science. It wasn't until years later that I stumbled upon a professor and a program that encouraged BOTH of my talents: art and science. In the end, I was lucky. I've had a wonderful career, and have been able to parlay both passions into a lasting legacy.

Now, as I teach 60 middle school boys the art of Science Illustration, I am very careful to encourage, not criticize. Their egos can be quite fragile... at this jucture, they can feel great about their progress, or just toss in the towel.

So, I was conflicted about this 'work of art.' On one hand, art is subjective -- there is no right or wrong when it comes to art (except in the case of pornography!). On the other hand, I don't feel a natual landscape is enhanced by human art. The landscape, or seascape, is ideal and most beautiful when left untouched. And when they are defaced and defiled, well, they are just that: defaced, defiled. Examples: Mount Rushmore (Yuck!); Red Rocks (Ditto); anything created by Christo (Sorry! I don't believe cloaking landscape in fabric is an improvement in the name of art); anybody's intials carved into a tree.

I understand the need for conservation and preservation of coral reefs. They are very fragile... But to say this work of art was created as an alternative attraction to divert divers away from the reefs? Seems to me like a flimsy excuse for littering the ocean floor to create revenue. This collection of statues is no more compelling to me than a collection of rusty oil drums. It may be art, but in my opinion, it doesn't belong at the bottom of any ocean. The ocean cannot be made more beautiful by human impact. I suppose in this case, my bind to the earth won over my bind to art.


  1. I find it interesting though that sea creatures and plants are taking over the art. Reclaiming things. Making their own commentary. Perhaps that's the statement that the artist was hoping to make?

  2. Nothing I read suggested that this was the primary goal, but it is certainly a secondary consequence! Marine plants and animals will attach to any immobile structure, creating the beginning of a food chain. If this piece stays in place, eventually it will become completely encrusted -- and possibly teeming with life. But will it likely won't look 'natural' for generations. Thanks for your insights!

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  4. My understanding of these series of statutes were one of a memorial to the slaves lost at sea during the travels from Africa to US and its surrounding islands.


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