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Under the Sea - Environmental Art at MassMOCA (Kidspace)

An art investigation using drawing and visual thinking strategies to understand and create contemporary art.

John Nordell

on 29 February 2012

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Transcript of Under the Sea - Environmental Art at MassMOCA (Kidspace)

For optimum viewing:
Please click on
"full screen".
Under the Sea
I walked into the video viewing
room for Deborah Wing-Sproul's
Tidal Culture Part III.
And was greeted with
ocean sounds, but a
blank screen.
I asked:
I found out that
the video would soon replay -
with imagery.
I then marvelled at James Grashaw's
elegantly constructed & painted cardboard fish.
And then did a blind contour drawing to appreciate the art more deeply.
I was puzzled by Johnston Foster's Life Psychotic Shark series. Why so angry?
Attaching the "skin" with screws seemed violent.
I did a gesture drawing to try and understand the artist's thinking. Mimicking the intensity of the work with strong pencil strokes led me to speculate that the artist is angry about human treatment of the sea.
As contemporary artists often use found materials or reworked items from everyday life to create art, the line between “what is art” and “what is reality” can blur.
In this context, could a gallery chair or wastebasket be considered art?
In the spirit of this inquiry,
I created a gallery label for art found in my home.
A couple of days after viewing Under the Sea, I was in Boston and went to the beach on a quest for ocean trash to make art with.
I stood at the borderline and thought of Deborah Wing-Sproul's Tidal Culture video.
I had hoped to come across some plastic and cut it to form large sunglasses:
A plastic vision.

But I was disappointed to just find small items like shells, sea glass or chips of bricks.
Nothing like the large plastic bottles that Under the Sea artist Aurora Robson found and cut, mirroring delicate undersea life.
I did find some rock rooted sea vegetation that evoked her creations. As a bonus, the tones matched my plastic collection bag.
Loosening my grip on wanting to find what I was looking for, I found a message in a bottle: The sands of time held in place by fragile ice.
Later, at home, I sorted through my found objects: a piece of driftwood, a section of metal pipe caked with rust, sea glass, a piece of wire and a safety pin.
I invite you to join my journey as I create a gallery activity guide for students visiting Kidspace at MassMOCA.

My discovery kit:
camera, pencil and sketchbook.
Seeing Green
Up next: the gallery activity guide that I created.
Thank you for your interest.
- John Nordell
Full transcript