Most people head off to an art exhibit with comfortable shoes and a deep appreciation for creativity.
Jason deCaires Taylor’s work requires flippers and, to really appreciate it, a depth of at least 12 feet.
Mr. Taylor labors over his sculptures for weeks, five-ton concrete figures of men, women and children, many of them modeled after people in the fishing village near here where he lives and works. The little boy Carlito sitting on a rock. The proud Joaquín glancing skyward. The old man everyone knows as Charlie Brown clasping his chin in contemplation.
In a stifling warehouse filled with bodies — ceramic replicas and false starts — he fusses over their lips and noses. Gets the hair just right. Adjusts their clothing.
Then he sinks them in the sea.
There, they rest in ghostly repose in the Museo Subacuático de Arte here, serving at once as a tourist attraction and as a conservation effort by drawing divers and snorkelers away from the Mesoamerican Reef, the second-largest barrier reef system in the world, and toward this somewhat macabre, artificial one.
The nearly 500 statues, the first ones placed in 2009 and 60 added this year, have acquired enough coral, seaweed and algae to give them the look of zombies with a particularly nightmarish skin condition. Eventually, in six years or so, the coral will completely overtake them, leaving only suggestive shapes.
“Foremost, it’s an opportunity to view this other world,” Mr. Taylor said. “We are surrounded by water, but people have no understanding what their planet is. It helps see ourselves as part of the world.”
Mr. Taylor places the works, anchored with special sand bolts, in water shallow enough for snorkelers to get a view, the sunlight filtering through the blue water casting odd shadows and drawing out unexpected pinks and oranges from the coral.
But divers get the most out of it, with close-ups of the rainbow swirl of coral and algae. Fish dart in and around and — in an ecological twist — feed off the “people.” At night, Mr. Taylor said, a family of sea turtles has been known to go sightseeing.
Purists may shudder at the idea of altering the sea in any way. But Mr. Taylor, who uses marine-grade concrete specially prepared to entice coral and be close to neutral pH, notes that the exhibit inhabits but a fraction of the sea.
via New York Times – RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
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