Jason de Caires Taylor is an environmental artist who specialises in creating underwater sculptures which serve a dual purpose of fine art and artificial surrogates of natural coral reefs. Currently, natural reefs are greatly suffering from over-fishing and scuba-diving tourism. Artificial reefs remove this pressure from natural reefs, allowing them the time and space to repair and regenerate with a higher chance of success. Taylor's works aren't simply an original gimmick of conservationism but also serve as a reminder of the constant flux and fragility our marine environments.
The Silent Evolution
The most recent and ambitious of Taylor's project sees 400 permanent life sized figures representing a large cross-section of predominantly Mexican society, ranging from an 85-year old nun, to a 3-year boy, an accountant, yoga instructor, fisherman, student, acrobat, carpenter and park ranger. Located in the National Marine Park of Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc it is one of the largest underwater artificial attractions in the world, occupying an area of over 420 sq metres and with a total weight of over 180 tonnes.
La Jardinera de la Esperanza (The Gardener of Hope)
Also located beneath Punta Nizuc is an underwater garden patio with pots brimming with rescued coral cuttings. Reefs which are damaged by storms and human activity, are often rescued by this conservation technique. As fine art, the piece is meant to symbolise the positive nature of human intervention in regenerating nature.
Vicissitudes, meaning regular change or succession of one state or thing to another, depicts a circle of children holding hands. The casts were taken from a of diverse ethnic background and the circle is meant to represent one of the primary geometrical shapes, evoking ideas of unity and continuity. From all Taylor's work, I find it to be the most mysterious, spell-binding and realistically magical. Also once again I am amazed by the power of beauty of nature.
Viewing Taylor's work is equally inspiring and eerie. The life size models always have their eyes closed drawing a very fine line between sleep and death. The highly organic nature of the art is a refreshing reminder of the magnificent artist that nature herself is, out-doing us every time. As Taylor describes himself, he 'relinquished the aesthetic control to nature'. Whilst Taylor's work is an original spin on marine conservation and a refreshing message of hope and possibilities, there is also a humbling reminder behind these cement sculptures; once we are long gone from this earth and all that remains is our concrete and cement and iron and rusting metals, nature and all her wonders will continue on, making a new home amidst our memories.
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