Allow me to take you on a journey. A journey of wonder and awe. A journey through soft, wet blue and colorful fish. Vibrant shades of vermilion and mauve intermix with golden-yellow bands of sand beneath the undulating sunlight. Your eyes alight on a coral embankment. Ribbon-like eels ooze out of holes on the embankment while fish dart to and fro in search of food. But wait! You notice something odd, and yet oddly familiar, about the embankment. A prominent protuberance sits atop an oval-shaped mass underneath two, black holes. You begin to wonder if the early morning coffee you had was drugged and you are now hallucinating. Could it be? Is that a…nose?! And are those holes…eyes?! You push backward with your fins a few feet to get a better view. You gaze in wonder and disbelief at a full-sized human statue sitting at the bottom of the sea. You may question the statue’s origin, but the fish have already made it a part of themselves.
Say hello to the one of the amazing and wonderful underwater sculptures of Jason DeCaires Taylor!
After turning the age of 30, sculptor and dive instructor Jason DeCaires Taylor made a major life change. Back in 2004, Taylor was working on the island of Grenada as a SCUBA diving instructor. Having studied sculpting in college, Taylor realized he should take the chance of becoming a full-time artist. Armed with an incredible idea, he approached his dive center, the Grenada government and marine researchers to talk to them about creating and installing an underwater sculpture park. His sculptures would serve as an attraction for divers to come and view as well as homes for marine life. Created from cement and weighing thousands of pounds, Taylor’s sculptures have been anchored and installed on bare seafloor beds where the light from the sun captures the intricate details of the sculptures. But Taylor is not the only artist involved in this project. The sea is his partner-in-crime; algae, corals, fish and other marine life are able to grow and hide in the sculptures. Each sculpture is different and unique in array of creatures that make the sculpture the basis of their underwater community.
The cement that Taylor uses is pH-neutral cement. He discovered this material from an artificial reef-building company called Reef Ball. The cement is incredibly durable and allows tiny coral polyps to attach and start building their carbon-based mineral structure. Each sculpture weighs up to several tons, takes anywhere from several days to several weeks to complete and has to be transported via crane to the sight. The sculptures are then cemented to the ocean floor so they don’t drift away with the strong current. In summary, here are four of Taylor’s pieces that he has completed within the past decade.
The Lost Correspondent:
According to Taylor, Grenada only has one bay that is suitable for snorkeling. In 2006, Taylor installed a piece called The Correspondent as a means to attract people to another diving location so Molinere Bay, the one good bay in Grenada, would not have to suffer further damage. The sculpture is a man sitting at a desk typing on an old-fashioned typewriter. “My grandfather had just died. He was an avid letter writer. This was my last letter to him,” says Taylor.
“The piece is about how we are all affected by our environment.” Vicissitudes was created in 2007 and features a Grenadian boy and girl repeated continuously in a circle. What is really cool about this particular sculpture is that the different castings on the sculptures look different based on their location in the ocean current. Taylor purposefully installs all of his pieces in barren locations where the ocean current can flow freely and allow marine life to grow and flourish. However, installing his sculptures underwater is no picnic. “I built it in the studio and it all fit together,” says Taylor. “But when we started to connect them underwater, there was a slight gradient in the sand. We had to dig down to install the next one, and every time we would dig, there would be a rock.” Taylor spent a total time period of ten days installing Vicissitudes.
The Silent Evolution:
One of Taylor’s biggest sculptures features a total of 450 life-sized figures immortalized in cement. Silent Evolution was created in 2012 and is installed in Cancun. Taylor created the figures from 90 real-life models who were first covered in Vaseline and then cast in plaster; a process that took anywhere from 20-40 minutes. His models loved going through the process. “I don’t think people at the time what it means. It’s only afterwards that they realize they have been immortalized.” The Silent Evolution symbolizes a community of people defending the Earth’s oceans. “A lot of the people are replicated,” says Taylor. “Because they change so dramatically underwater, I can have two figures from the same mold, and after a year they are completely unrecognizable.” A total of 2,000 juvenile corals now make The Silent Evolution their home. Talk about living art!
In 2014, a twelve-year old Bahamian girl named Camilla was immortalized in Taylor’s sculpture, Ocean Atlas. This sculpture weighs 60 tons and took a total of six weeks to create. Taylor says, “She’s supporting the weight of the ocean of her shoulders, like Atlas.” Ocean Atlas is a reflection of the enormous responsibility we, as humans, carry in providing preservation and stewardship for the Earth’s oceans. Each and every one of us must take care to ensure marine environments are protected for future generations; for example, the schoolgirl Camilla.
Your oxygen is running low. It’s time to head back to the boat. You take one last look at the mortal face immortalized in cement, algae and coral. One day, one-hundred years from now, other divers will come to this very spot and gaze at the sculpture. However, after time has built up generations of coral and currents have worn down the cement, they may not recognize the man in the piece. No. They will see the heart, soul and beauty of the ocean created from the joined hands of sculptor and sea.
- May Torgovnick, Kate. “Gallery: The Sculpture Garden at the Bottom of the Sea.” Ideas.Ted.Com. 23 December, 2015. Web. Accessed 9th January, 2015.