March 14, 2016

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COURTNEY MATTISON: SEA CHANGE

january 30 — april 17, 2016
virginia museum of contemporary art • 2200 parks ave • virginia beach • va • 23451
Hundreds of intricately hand-sculpted ceramic marine invertebrates currently inhabit the main gallery of Virginia MOCA, comprising two large wall installations and 11 sculptural works that explore the fragile beauty of ocean ecosystems and the human caused threats they face — especially the impacts of our greenhouse gas emissions on coral reefs — in a solo show by Courtney Mattison, a self-described ocean “artivist” (artist/activist) and part of the Mission Blue team.
sea change at virginia moca • image © glen mcclure / virginia moca

sea change at virginia moca • image © glen mcclure / virginia moca

aqueduct

What if climate change causes tropical sea creatures to migrate towards the poles and invade terrestrial spaces as seawater warms and sea levels rise? “Aqueduct” is a playful yet ominous exploration of this question, with hundreds of porcelain and stoneware corals, anemones, sponges and other marine invertebrates spilling into the gallery from a hand-carved porcelain air duct register, begging another question: Will we act urgently to halt climate change and keep the ocean in its place, or will we allow the sea to consume us?
 
aqueduct • 2016 • glazed stoneware + porcelain • 8 x 8 x 1 ft • image © glen mcclure / virginia moca

aqueduct • 2016 • glazed stoneware + porcelain • 8 x 8 x 1 ft • image © glen mcclure / virginia moca

aqueduct • detail • image © glen mcclure / virginia moca

aqueduct • detail • image © glen mcclure / virginia moca

our changing seas III

Our Changing Seas III is back in the wild as part of Courtney’s current show after its debut exhibition at the Tang Museum in 2014. At its heart, Courtney says, “this piece celebrates my favorite aesthetic aspects of a healthy coral reef surrounded by the sterile white skeletons of bleached corals swirling like the rotating winds of a cyclone. There is still time for corals to recover even from the point of bleaching if we act quickly to decrease the threats we impose — namely greenhouse gas emissions, overfishing and pollution. Perhaps if we appreciate the fragile beauty of our endangered coral reef ecosystems, we will act more wholeheartedly to help them recover and even thrive.”

our changing seas III • 2014 • glazed stoneware + porcelain • 10 x 14 x 2 ft • image © arthur evans / tang museum

our changing seas III • 2014 • glazed stoneware + porcelain • 10 x 14 x 2 ft • image © arthur evans / tang museum

fossil fuels

The exhibition also includes a selection of three works from Mattison’s Fossil Fuels series, with playful yet ominous explorations of the connections between greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, ocean acidification and coral bleaching.
fossil fuels: oil drum I • 2015 • glazed stoneware + porcelain • 24.5 x 24 x 21 in • image © courtney mattison

fossil fuels: oil drum I • 2015 • glazed stoneware + porcelain • 24.5 x 24 x 21 in • image © courtney mattison

hope spots

Finally, a selection from Mattison’s Mission Blue-inspired Hope Spots series offers a variety of ceramic sculptural vignettes representing eight of Earth’s most vital marine ecosystems in idealized states. National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle and her team at Mission Blue are working to protect “Hope Spots” — special places that are critical to the health of the ocean — by igniting support for a vast network of marine protected areas around the globe. There is time (but not much!) to protect and restore the ocean — what Dr. Earle calls the “blue heart” of our planet.

ARTlab

Mattison and Lynnhaven River Now assisted Virginia MOCA in creating hands-on activities about oyster beds in ARTlab (MOCA’s interactive gallery) to accompany the exhibition. “Oysters grow very similarly to coral reefs and both are threatened by ocean acidification,” said Alison Byrne, director of exhibitions and education at MOCA and curator of Sea Change. “Since coral reefs are found in tropical oceans near the equator, we thought exploring a local endangered aquaculture would provide a great stage for education and community activism.”
ARTlab • image © virginia moca

ARTlab • image © virginia moca


upcoming events

  • Tuesday March 15: Virginia MOCA will offer a free screening of the Emmy® Award winning Netflix original documentary, Mission Blue, which tells the story of Dr. Sylvia Earle and her quest to protect a global network of Hope Spots in the ocean. Check in here for more details coming soon.
  • Thursday March 24: Join Courtney along with Mission Blue’s Director of Photography and Expeditions, Kip Evans, at MOCA for an artist talk at 6:30 pm following a member’s only meet & greet at 5:30. Courtney and Kip will discuss the intersection of art, science and exploration and our efforts to create work that inspires the public to take action.
  • Saturday March 26: Join Courtney for a Master Class at the Virginia MOCA Studio School, where she will demonstrate ceramic handbuilding techniques while describing how her underwater photography and background in marine ecology inspire her sculptural work.

in the news

Learn more at www.courtneymattison.com.

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2 Comments

  • Ken says:

    These are all so beautiful that I don’t even know how I could begin to pick a favorite. I really really like Fossil Fuels, though.

  • Ainsley Skye Waters says:

    I would like to know whether the ocean(s) are irrevocably ruined by nuclear disasters such as Fukushima. Thank you for whatever info you can give on this little-discussed topic!

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