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Unique Ceramic Coral Reef Art Stimulates Reef Conservation [Updated]

By Shane Graber - Posted Apr 19, 2011 02:30 PM
For her master's in environmental studies, Courtney Mattison meshes her love of the ceramic medium and her passion for coral reef conservation into a stunning 10'x15' wall of 3-dimensional art.
Unique Ceramic Coral Reef Art Stimulates Reef Conservation [Updated]

Credit: Mike Cohea/Brown University


Her thesis project is entitled Our Changing Seas: A Coral Reef Story and depicts a Pacific coral reef in stunning 3D detail. Each piece was hand crafted by Courtney, fired, and then bolted to a panel which was then attached to a metal frame support system.

This particular work depicts the changing times of a coral reef. The bottom of the display is a colorful diverse reef environment. As the display progresses upward, the scene changes from a healthy reef scene to bleached coral and finally an algal covered “green, hairy nasty rubble pile.”

In the artist's own words:

This large-scale ceramic coral reef wall installation is based on my interdisciplinary study of how art can inspire marine conservation. This project combines reef conservation science and policy, fine art, and social sciences. I interviewed marine researchers, artists inspired by nature, and marine professionals regarding their thoughts on how art can promote coral reef stewardship and policy change. Prominent concepts that arose from my interviews – particularly those regarding human interactions with reefs –informed the design of this installation. Selected quotes from these interviews are displayed on either side of the piece and in accompanying publications to illustrate these experts’ voices uniting to emphasize the critical importance of coral reef conservation to policy makers and the public.

Her work will be on display from Friday, April 15, through Friday, June 15, 2011, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration headquarters in Washington, D.C. More information about the artist and her work can be found on her website.


The NOAA website has just been updated with additional information and photos of this project along with the artist's statement about the project (pdf, 4 MB) which gives more insight into her sculpture.  Below is a photo of the artist with the NOAA Administrator Dr. Lubchenco.  This particular photo gives a much better rendition of the sheer magnitude of this project:

Dr. Lubchenco and Artist Courtney Mattison. Photo credit: NOAA, Derek Parks
Dr. Lubchenco and Artist Courtney Mattison. Photo credit: NOAA, Derek Parks

(via Brown University, NOAA)

Author: Shane Graber
Location: Indiana

Shane has kept saltwater tanks for the last 12 years, is a research scientist, lives in northern Indiana, and is a proud Advanced Aquarist staffer.


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