Featured LEISURE

Art explores kelp forests

Giant Kelp Study Original by Oriana Poindexter; cyanotype photogram created with giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) collected by the artist while freediving off Point La Jolla, 2022. (courtesy of Birch Aquarium)

Art explores kelp forests

On Feb. 8, Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is opening Hold Fast, an immersive art installation that explores local kelp forests and climate change through the lens of three local artists and scientists who are using their unique skills and talents to take climate action. 

Guests will weave through a labyrinth of cyanotype-printed giant kelp by photo-based artist and marine scientist Oriana Poindexter, dive into the details of local species via gyotaku prints by artist Dwight Hwang and witness up-to-the-minute kelp forest mapping by Scripps Oceanography PhD student Mohammad Sedarat. 

“Warming waters and giant kelp don’t mix. We have to be realistic about the outsized impact that climate change has on our local giant kelp forests,” said Megan Dickerson, Birch Aquarium’s director of exhibits and co-curator of the installation. “But at the same time, local people are doing beautiful things. This Hold Fast installation posits that the actions of local artists and scientists can give us hope that together, as a community, we can make collective change as we also acknowledge climate trauma.”

Through immersive experience and the stories of inspiring artists and scientists, Hold Fast invites us to identify how putting our talents to work in the climate crisis can bring joy while protecting the ocean planet. 

Hwang is a classic Japanese gyotaku artist who aims to tell stories through his animal and fish prints. In Hold Fast, his prints focus on local kelp forest animals found off La Jolla shores, allowing guests to get an even closer view of these fascinating species.

Poindexter is an artist and marine scientist who is documenting the changes in La Jolla’s local kelp forests through photo-based artwork. In Hold Fast, her life-sized cyanotype prints on fabric create a stunning kelp forest for guests to explore without getting wet.

Sedarat is a PhD student at the Smith Lab at Scripps Oceanography whose research explores the impact of climate change on La Jolla’s kelp forest. In Hold Fast, his work provides up-to-the-minute kelp forest mapping that explains why critical giant kelp ecosystems have not returned since recent marine heatwaves, and explores what we can do to bring them back. 

UC San Diego Library is hosting an accompanying exhibit, Ebb and Flow: Giant Kelp Forests through Art, Science and the Archives, at Geisel Library through April 21. Uniting archival material with contemporary art, this exhibit showcases works created as a result of continued observation of the local giant kelp forest environment by artists, scientists and community members over the past 134 years. 

Hold Fast will be on display until September. Advanced reservations required. Visit aquarium.ucsd.edu for more information.