Inspired by the sea, artist Courtney Mattison expresses its beauty and fragility through her large-scale ceramic installations. In creating intricate sculptures of coral reefs, she relays the importance of this underwater ecosystem—one that is under serious threat because of us.
We’ve marveled over Mattison’s work before, particularly Our Changing Seas, which is an ongoing series that features ceramic sculptures depicting coral artfully arranged on walls. A selection of her organisms pieces are colorful but ultimately surrounded by sculptures that are painted completely white to represent coral bleaching, a process in which coral turns white due to stressors like warmer water or other environmental changes.
One of the latest additions to the Our Changing Seas collection is a permanent installation aptly titled Our Changing Seas VII. Placed inside the Seabird Resort in Oceanside, California, it features 350 handcrafted ceramic corals, sponges, and anemones that swirl in a double galaxy spiral. “This sculptural wall relief celebrates the immense biodiversity of coral reefs while raising the specter of climate change,” Mattison explains to My Modern Met. “Porcelain tentacles and the brittle bodies of living corals share a fragility that makes them vulnerable to human impact.”
This vulnerability is also showcased through Mattison’s Revolve installation. While it still includes coral, the focus of this piece is on water. “Water connects us all, from the lush banks of Lawsons Fork Creek to the icy glaciers of the Arctic and glittering reefs of Southeast Asia,” she says. “Life on Earth is dependent on healthy oceans. The swirling design of this work is inspired by these connections and patterns, with revolving forms repeated in nature through hurricanes, seashells, ocean waves, and galaxies.”
Through these beautiful and thought-provoking pieces, the artist is helping raise awareness for the protection of our environment while imploring people—from politicians to everyday citizens—to conserve our changing seas.