Although coral reefs cover a very small part of the ocean, they are responsible for creating habitat for over 25 percent of marine species — and they are dying at an alarming rate across the globe. By integrating art, science, and technology, Colleen Flanigan’s work is playing a part to save our coral reefs.
“In our short lifespan, how much do we value living in harmony and beauty and abundance with what we’ve been given?”
Santa Cruz: Colleen creates living sculptures to save our coral reefs. Overheated seawater causes “bleaching” events where reefs die off.
Colleen Flanigan: In our short lifespan, how much do we value living in harmony and beauty and abundance with what we’ve been given? Nature is my sanctuary and my place of spirit. With climate change causing the oceans to increase in temperature, the coral reefs have been dying off at a much more rapid rate. Coral reefs — though they cover a very small percentage of the ocean — they are responsible for creating habitat for over 25 percent of marine species.
I work with coral reef restoration, approaching it from a background in sculpture and design. Zoe, A Living Sea Sculpture is a five-meter by three-meter by two-meter sculpture. It’s made out of rebar and expanded metal mesh. The projects that we’re making here at the UC Santa Cruz lab — the accumulates are going to be reference and scalable models that then we weld. And I’m just playing with fan shapes and folded shapes and ring shapes. I get to see how the variation and the voltage and amperage in the water flow — in the different variables that are happening from a flow-through tank — how does that affect the growth of these different small-scale experiments?
When I’ve painted or sculpted purely to make objects, it’s a really wonderful experience, but once I entered into working with nature, that constant curiosity of: What does this other organism need or want? How can we collaborate and work together? By integrating art, science, and technology, can I be part of the bigger dream for our survival?