Every year, Ocean Conservancy hosts artists-in-residence to highlight the beauty and power of the ocean and to educate communities about the role of the ocean. This year, Josie Iselin and Joan P. Bogart were selected, and are hosting a year-long show in Ocean Conservancy’s Santa Cruz office. The following is based on an interview I had with Joan, an incredible artist that uses printmaking to raise awareness on ocean and ecological preservation. Check out my interview with Josie to learn more about her work with marine algae.
A life along California’s coasts has taught Joan the importance of ecological preservation. Through printmaking, she has been able to connect with the ocean and her roots in Indonesia to show others the beauty that comes from awareness and conservation.
Joan has had a relationship with art and the ocean since early childhood, participating in (and winning) a poster contest for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s water conservation program featuring a sea otter turning off a sink faucet with the tagline, “You Otter turn the water off.” Since then, Joan has moved on to even bigger projects, including being asked to design the logo for the new Southeast Asian Coastal Interactions (SeaCoast) research center at the University of California, Santa Cruz in her lino print style.
For those unfamiliar with printmaking, it’s a process of transferring an ink design from a matrix, such as a metal plate, polymer plate, woodblock or linoleum, to a surface (typically paper). In the case of Joan’s lino prints, she takes a block of linoleum, creates a design and carves out the design with specialized tools. Although drawing is a fundamental skill in art, the carving process must be meticulously planned to remove negative space since the positive space will leave the impression on paper (think of creating a drawing but in reverse). Once the carving is finished, the block is painted and pressed onto the paper surface to create a print or impression.
While the process may sound fairly straightforward on paper, Joan puts even more thought and consideration when creating her prints. Whether designing for commission or personal reasons, she takes the time to turn her work into a learning opportunity—to research and learn about her subject from where a particular species originates from to how it thrives. For the SEACoast logo design, Joan worked with the group to create a symbol of life above and below the tropical water line—Mangroves.
Mangroves are an important species to Southeast Asia and provide a variety of ecological, biophysical and socio-economic functions that many coastal populations depend upon. They have unique adaptations that allow them to live in saltwater environments and provide crucial habitat for many marine species. Besides providing protection and nutrients for wildlife, mangroves also help in treating polluted water, provide protection from coastal erosion and store large amounts of carbon dioxide (an important part in the fight against climate change).
Unfortunately, mangroves are at risk due to the rising growth of coastal development, sandy beaches and aquaculture. Since just the 1980s, global mangrove area has declined by 20%. Fortunately, due to artists like Joan, awareness around the importance of mangroves is spreading and there are worldwide efforts to preserve and restore mangrove habitats.
“Awareness and preservation exist in tandem and these two are crucial for motivating the next generation to protect natural habitats. It’s important to stay motivated in preservation by practicing it through art, reading, writing and learning and then applying it in the wild!”