We often associate ceramic art with fragility, and artist Courtney Mattison pairs the connection with imagery of colorful coral reefs. In a monumental swirling format, the ocean advocate crafts intricate sculptures of coral featuring representations of their forms and variety of species. At the same time, she also calls attention to the crisis these organisms are in. As we admire their beauty, we also must remember that the fate of coral populations hangs in the balance. They are under serious threat because of human-caused climate change.
Mattison has installed multiple works in an exhibition titled Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art at the Brandywine Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. This features one of her latest pieces, Gyre. Like previous works, including Our Changing Seas, Mattison has arranged a collection of ceramics in a way that she calls “antigravity” to refer to the fate of reefs being in our hands. The individual elements include some fantastical coral creations as well as others that are mashups of her favorite species.
While conservation is at the heart of Mattison’s work, wonder is also an important component. “The ocean is really my muse and I feel like the sea is full of secrets,” she shares in a video produced by the Brandywine Museum. “It’s really rare for people to get the opportunity to actually put their face underwater and see this alien universe that’s in our own backyards, and I think it’s really fascinating to bring that above the surface for people and hopefully inspire them to care about conserving it the way I do.”
Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art features works that span eight years of her work in her practice. It is on view until January 8, 2023.