Student art exhibit “Disintegration” highlights environmental issues
Climate change and art were combined in “Disintegration: Ocean Acidification in the Salish Sea,” an art exhibition by two Western students.
A reception for the showcase was held Nov. 8 in the B Gallery of the Fine Arts building. Soft music played as visitors drifted around the room, admiring each piece. The lighting above each piece highlighted its texture, illustrating a variety of marine life, including barnacles, oysters, cormorants and otters.
The artists, Abigail Kuchar and Ruby Jones, spent nine weeks at Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes this summer. They shadowed 12 undergraduate researchers who were working on research projects there, said Kuchar, a fine arts major in her fifth year of the program.
“We got to make a body of work as a response to the kind of stuff that they were doing,” Kuchar said.
Kuchar hoped that events like this exhibition will motivate people to do something about the fear and uncertainty they feel about the ocean and political climate. She hoped that people remember the importance of the interconnection between organisms and animals.
“I think that that’s sort of an important thing that maybe people don’t always think about,” Kuchar said. “You hear about our oyster population going down, or our barnacle population going down and those are organisms that tend to be a little bit unloved. It’s kind of like, ‘okay, well, at least it’s not the polar bears’ kind of a thing. But, it’s recognizing that it is all interconnected. It’s inevitable.”
Kuchar’s work focused on barnacles. In one collection of pieces, titled “Horror Vacui 2050 CE,” she made paint out of calcium carbonate to emphasize the effects of ocean acidification on calcifiers.
Jones, a studio art major in her fifth year, explained her work which is focused on calcifiers.
“Calcifier meaning anything that has a hardened shell,” Jones said. “So, all shellfish, starfish. They make up 30 percent of the life in Puget Sound. So, it’s a large amount of organisms and they’re being uniquely, negatively affected. They’re kind of on the front lines of being negatively affected by ocean acidification.”
Shawn Arellano, a professor at Western, supported the internship and went to the exhibit to see the final results.
“They spent a lot of time at Shannon Point this summer thinking about both the marine environment and the kind of research that we do there,” Arellano said. “I think they’ve done a good job of incorporating some of their feelings and ideas about what they saw into their work here.”
Cecilia Lister, a fine arts major with a concentration in painting, agrees.
“I think it’s really successful,” Lister said. “I think the use of the space is really successful and the use of lighting and their pieces are really cohesive together. It just is a very well planned out exhibition.”
Lister was also impressed with all the work that went into the exhibition behind the scenes. She said people don’t always realize how demanding setting up an exhibition like this can be.
“There’s just so much that goes into it and then you show up to the opening night and everything feels really chill and artsy, but it doesn’t show the grit that goes into it. So, I’m just really impressed with these girls, I think they did a really good job.”
“Disintegration: Ocean Acidification in the Salish Sea” runs from Oct. 30 to Nov. 9 in Western’s B Gallery.