Crochet coral reef exhibition to open Feb. 10 at Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery

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The Toxic Reef at the the Sant Ocean Hall, in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C., 2011 (Institute For Figuring’s Crochet Coral Reef project, 2005–ongoing) © Institute For Figuring
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Hyperbolic crochet model by Anitra Menning (© Institute For Figuring)

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Crochet anemone by Margaret Wertheim (© Institute For Figuring)

Crochet Coral Reef: CO2CA-CO2LA Ocean, an exhibition by Margaret and Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring, is an artistic response to the environmental crisis of global warming and the growing problem of plastic trash accumulating in the ocean.

Melding mathematics, marine biology, handicraft, and community art practice, it spotlights not only the damage humans do to the earth's environment, but also their capacity for positive action.

The exhibition is designed to bring people together to embrace a devastating ecological challenge: the survival of coral reefs and marine ecologies throughout the globe.

Presented by the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery and the Arts Division’s Institute of the Arts and Sciences, Crochet Coral Reef: CO2CA-CO2LA Ocean will open at UC Santa Cruz on February 10, running through May 6.

Admission is free and open to the public.

The Werheim’s Crochet Coral Reef project has been exhibited in art and science museums worldwide, including the Museum of Art and Design (New York), the Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh), the Hayward Gallery (London), the Science Gallery (Dublin), and the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC).

“This fall, I saw the magnificent Crochet Coral Reef exhibition in New York at the Museum of Art and Design, including all of the pieces we’re bringing to the Sesnon Gallery,” said John Weber, director of the Institute for Arts and Sciences.  “I can guarantee that our community will be blown away by the jaw-dropping beauty and dazzling complexity of these works of art.”

“We are showing a number of the giant crochet coral ‘forests’ in the show,” Weber added. “These are the largest works in the Crochet Coral Reef, often standing over six feet high. Some are crocheted almost entirely from plastic and synthetic materials such as salvaged video and audiotape, echoing the immense accumulation of plastic in the oceans. They are an ecological wake-up call--a darkly elegant, sobering testimony to what humans are doing to the marine ecosystem.”

An opening public reception will take place in the gallery on Friday, February 10, from 5 to 7 p.m. Prior to the reception, Christine Wertheim will present an artist talk at 4 p.m., at the Digital Arts Research Center (DARC 108).

The public will also have a chance to meet the artists at the gallery on Saturday, February 11, from 2 to 4 p.m.

“I think every visitor will be impressed and surprised by the scope and scale of this exhibition, as it tackles big issues on climate change, ocean acidification, plastic trash, and community art-making,” said Sesnon Gallery Director Shelby Graham. “When you realize this powerful story is being told through crochet, you’ll want to learn about the math, science, and collaborative art practices behind it all.”

“We are thrilled to host such a provocative exhibition at the Sesnon Art Gallery,” she added, “Our goal is to reach out to all our students and community members to encourage them to see--and become involved in--this timely project.”

Weber noted that like coral colonies themselves, the Crochet Coral Reef is a product of collective, rather than strictly individual, efforts.

“That’s why it feels so life-like, so ecologically and structurally complex,” said Weber.  “What you’re seeing is not just one artist’s idea, it’s the synergy of many minds, eyes, and hands working together.”

For more information about the exhibition, contact the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery or call (831) 459-3606.