Deep Mapping the Gulf

I’ve taken the summer to reclaim my roots in painting, drawing, collage and printmaking. I am enjoying this immensely, meandering through whatever processes and content have called to me on any given day. I recently assigned my concept development students the task of deep mapping the ocean (they are to pick a topic within this very large subject), so I decided to take on my own assignment!

There’s many, many topics that have concerned me for some time in regard to ‘The Ocean’: acidification (A Sea Change), plastic (Bag It), the BP oil spill, loss of coastal wetlands (Katrina), noise pollution (National Geographic), dead zones (Carleton College), coral bleaching and destruction, and the safety of seafood (David Suzuki), to name a few. I assigned my students to fill up 10 pages with images, text excerpts, maps, diagrams, information, etc.  I followed suit, beginning with going through my stack of National Geographic Magazines. Almost every issue includes an article on the ocean–an excellent starting point!

I came around to a pile of clippings I had saved from the BP ‘Spill,’ which was paradigm shifting for me. I have always believed that social and environmental change was a slow process, and if I could reach even a few people with my artwork, writing or teaching, that would add up to something. The Spill made me seriously question my assumption. If one company, through negligence and greed, can  destabilize a vast ecosystem and a region’s livelihood,  how can I think that getting a student or two to recycle is effecting any kind of change? The gulf between an individual and a wreckless multinational corporation is unfathomable. I doubt that I will ever be able to hold on to such naive hope again.

A focus for my “deep map” began to form: the Gulf as a microcosm of the rich diversity of human and non-human life that is imperiled by our choices. Coincidentally, to back up my premise, I happened on a program last night on Katrina (anniversary: August 23, 2005). One of the interviewees said that the Gulf region is the “canary in the coal mine.”

So I have begun with my visual research, experimenting with both content and techniques. Here’s a few pages. More to come.


About Ann T. Rosenthal

eco/community artist, educator, writer
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