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August 28, 2023

Currents: Turning the Tide on Ocean Conservation” is on display in Science Museum Oklahoma’s smART Space galleries, which are dedicated to the intersection of art and science. Exhibition dates are Sept. 2, 2023 to April 2024.

The “Currents” exhibit is a love letter to the ocean, honoring its importance and illustrated by the eloquence and action of artists. Just as tides, winds and the rotation of the earth influence the path of ocean currents, people’s individual actions can impact the challenges presently facing the world’s oceans.

When Alyson Atchison, SMO’s director of SmART Space, was contemplating a new exhibit, she realized that throughout history, the ocean has been depicted as majestic, commanding and sometimes even vengeful. “It is all these things, but today we know that it is also vulnerable and susceptible to human action,” said Atchison, which spurred her to create the “Currents” exhibit.

This exhibit explores how five renowned artists are addressing ocean conservation with their artwork. The first time Jason deCaires Taylor (Kent, United Kingdom) who creates underwater living art installations, placed sculptures on the ocean floor was to distract scuba divers away from delicate marine life so it could thrive.  Now, his sculptures provided a structure of growth for new coral and marine life.

Vanessa Barragão (Albuferia, Portugal) studied fashion design and observed the amount of textile waste in the industry. Her response was to collect the refuse of textiles in the industry and create elaborate illustrations of healthy oceans through multiple fiber techniques.

After Steve McPherson (Kent, United Kingdom) saw so much discarded plastic objects washing ashore, this has become his primary source of materials – and it is impossible to ignore the environmental concerns present in his work.

Plastic debris is also Aurora Robson’s (Hidden Valley, NY) primary medium of choice. Her sculptures use plastic debris, a material that she has been intimately sourcing herself from people’s trash for over a decade.

Ten years ago, Nick Pumphrey planned a photoshoot near Bali to capture images of a snorkeler swimming near manta rays. When he and the model dove underwater, they landed in a cloud of garbage under the surface. He was so affected that it changed the course of his career.

 “It has been said that today we know more about outer space than the depths and extent of our oceans on Earth,” said Atchison. “It has also been said that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean. The measurement and exploration of the truth in these statements are where the curiosity and importance of scientists lie in our future. And artists like the five featured in Currents bring tangible optimism and change through creative expression, observation and practice.”

Once again, original smART Space exhibitions at Science Museum Oklahoma are illustrating the hand-in-hand relationship between science and the arts. In Currents, these renowned artists respond to scientific research with action and eloquence.

“The artists featured in “Currents: Turning the Tide on Ocean Conservation” have changed my understanding of ocean conservation and how it can be reflected in art,” said Atchison, “and I hope part of that carries through as our guests see it. This exhibition illustrates the intersection of two amazing elements of our lives on Earth – the ocean and artistic practice.”