Friday, February 20, 2015

Mercury Switch- My experience at Vester Marine Research Outpost and FGCU

I arrived at Vester Marine Research Field Station on January 5th 2015 to participate in the first Florida Gulf Coast University residency which focuses on interaction between the sciences and the practice of visual art. The Crossroads of Art and Science Artist Residency Series will be an annual program which places the artist at Vester to mix it up with the scientists that run the facility and other faculty that come and go at the site. Vester is located in Bonita Springs, Fl about 14 miles away from the FGCU campus. It is on Little Cedar Island and surrounded by water on 3 sides. The environment there is absolutely beautiful, mangroves and small oyster beds rise from the dolphin and manatee populated waters. The wildlife is all around you at Vester and one can spend hours just watching the day unfold in conflicts between turkey vultures and osprey, dolphins speeding around catching fish and pelicans lazily floating by.
View from my room at Vester Marine Research Field Station

Local boat traffic passes Vester all day and night.

Vester seen from approach by boat.

My stay was to be 10 days and nights in which time I had to assemble and create work to be shown at FGCU's Artlab venue on campus. I had visited Vester some 6 months back and met with Darren Rumbold PHD, Director of Vester, and Bob Wasno, M.S., Coordinator of Marine Education and Outreach, from this meeting I learned that Darren had done extensive research in to the levels/affects of mercury levels in marine wildlife. I started my research on this particular direction and until I arrived for the residency the subject obsessed me. I developed several works based on the use of mercury in dental amalgam fillings as a symbol for human activity that adds mercury to the ecosystem.
My most ambitious work for the Artlab was to be sculptures of large amalgam filled molar teeth. Some of the teeth were to be sited outside Artlab and another series would be in the gallery.

Above the process of casting and building the "Mirror Teeth" is shown. The work took the entire stay to complete and by the opening of the exhibition I had two completed sculptures ( 1/3rd of what I wanted to make) The teeth found a home in the lawn outside of the Artlab while smaller sculptures and works on paper and plastic tarp were displayed in the Artlab Gallery.