written by Bailey Ferguson and Michelle Schwengel-Regala
Bailey Ferguson and Michelle Schwengel-Regala in front of Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Research Vessel Falkor, berthed at Honolulu Harbor in 2019.
Bailey Ferguson and Michelle Schwengel-Regala both live in Hawai’i, but on separate islands. They both secured berths aboard Research Vessel Falkor to be Artists-at-Sea with Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) departing Honolulu Harbor, but on separate voyages toward different ports (Michelle to Tahiti in 2016, Bailey to Fiji in 2019). They both participated in Kipaipai Workshops on Hawai’i Island, but in different years. Unknowingly, their collaboration began in 2018, in the Kipaipai Fellows Facebook Group when Michelle shared the open call for SOI Artist-at-Sea program. The two artists had not yet met in person, however their interest in art, science, and the ocean brought them into direct discourse. For the Collaborate and Create exhibition, they were eager to team up and layer their SciArt experiences at sea.
This Illustration shows the expedition for each artist’s route from Hawai’i to Fiji (left, 2019) and Tahiti (right, 2016) Image Source: Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Expedition Log
Each SOI expedition hosts a team of scientists carrying out a research mission. Wherever the ship goes, it is also conducting bathymetry using sonar to measure the depths and map the ocean floor, revealing more understanding of this vast and largely-unknown terrain.
Before Bailey embarked on her voyage, Michelle supplied a favorite ground for field work – waterproof archival paper with a slight blue tint. On this Bailey experimented with paints, pastels, seawater from the equator, and the motion of the ship to create dynamic brushstrokes evoking the deep blues of the open ocean. After arrival at port, the painting was sent to Michelle and together they realized stories the painting could tell about the Pacific Ocean.
Bailey experimented with paints, pastels, seawater from the equator, and the motion of the ship to create dynamic brushstrokes evoking the deep blues of the open ocean.
Together they realized stories the painting could tell about the Pacific Ocean. The knitted fiber was chosen for its reflective properties and topographic appearance, referencing the ship’s multibeam sonar survey of the ocean floor.
The painting sits between the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn, and each panel’s sides offer notes written in copperpoint (copper being a component of polymetallic nodules, some of the contentious resources potentially available on the ocean floor). The knitted fiber was chosen for its reflective properties and topographic appearance, referencing the ship’s multibeam sonar survey of the ocean floor. Engage with this work by turning on your flash photography and activate a shift in the appearance of the textile! The stitches trace the routes these artists took across the great blue expanse, linking them to the history of the region. Acknowledging that these modern voyages were made possible with state-of-the-art technology, homage is paid to the generations of ancient seafarers who navigated these routes for centuries.
The painting sits between the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn, and each panel’s sides offer notes written in copperpoint (copper being a component of polymetallic nodules, some of the contentious resources potentially available on the ocean floor).
Through this collaboration Bailey and Michelle have exchanged ideas and materials, crossing boundaries and bridging islands.The two formed interdisciplinary connections across art, science and navigation. May the spirit of kīpaipai also encourage and inspire you to be curious about and care for the deep sea, one of our planet’s last frontiers.
Collaborate and Create is an exhibition a collection of collaborative artworks by Kipaipai Fellows emphasizing the benefit of networking and community. “A Diptych of Depth and Distance” is displayed middle right. Image Credit: Kipaipai Workshops
Collaborate and Create first exhibited at the Loft at Liz’s in Los Angeles, CA from Jan 18 – March 3, 2020. The exhibition is now on view at The Lancaster Museum of Art & History (MOAH) until August 16, 2020. Experience the virtual tour. Curated by MOAH’s Director/Senior Curator Andi Campognone and Assistant Curator Robert Benitez.
“A Diptych of Depth and Distance” 2019
Medium: acrylic, pastel, equatorial seawater, reflective thread, and copperpoint on archival paper mounted to wood
A few weeks before my Artist-at-Sea experience, the program coordinator emailed me to see if I would be interested in creating a painting for a panel on the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s ROV submersible named SuBastian.
Well, I am so happy to share that my Antler Coral painting is finally installed on the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV SuBastian). The ROV is a state-of-the-art submersible deployed from the R/V Falkor; it travels to the bottom of the ocean to survey and collect information on the mysterious deep sea.
Coral Painting newly installed on the Schmidt Ocean Institutes’s ROV SuBastian. Image courtesy: Jason Rodriguez
I painted Antler Coral, Pocillopora grandis, since it’s used as a home to various fish and invertebrates all around the Hawai’i Island Chain — a true keystone species.
It’s exciting to see the painting installed on ROV SuBastian. I‘ve been imagining a scene where the ROV is flying into the pitch black waters, and attracts an audience of Anglerfish that use their bioluminescence to illuminate the painting: this deep water species will then view a totally “new” (to them) shallow water coral species. It tickles me and I am so humbled by this opportunity to have art on displays for my newest audience yet.
Three weeks ago I stepped off the R/V Falkor after 2 weeks at-sea. This was my first artist residency, and quite a unique opportunity, creating art on a research vessel crossing the Pacific. I found it rather humbling being on a 280 ft vessel with only 33 people as we crossed the equator. We were literally a tiny dot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Before the residency, I was filled with feelings of excitement — the new and unknown — yet also a part of me was fearful. I thought witnessing the effects of climate change on the ocean and people studying this might be intense.
Indeed, there were these sobering moments. Once while speaking to a young Ocean Physicist PHD I was brought to tears as he went into detail about his studies of heat (carbon) absorption into the ocean, and one specific situation of chain reaction of polar icecaps melting. It’s easy to get lost in feelings of hopelessness and dispair about the losses we are experiencing with climate change. But I can tell you I felt serious elation at the sight of a beautiful, healthy coral reef system in Fiji. More colorful and complex than I have ever seen before. It was magnificent and inspiring and hopeful. At times my emotions reflected these contradicting sides of sadness/grief of human induced catastrophes, then hope/humility to experience such intense beauty of our natural world. My artwork will no doubt be influenced by this experience for years to come.
I asked the scientist mentioned above what he felt was the most important thing for us to do in this age of climate crisis. He said something that made an impression, and something we all know….“there is no one magic bullet, but we need a spiritual and cultural shift, an important place to start is with a better connection to our food sources; specifically shopping at farmers markets”. This ultimately has a multi-beneficial effect on our community, economy and healthier for ourselves. I was really happy to hear this, as it hits the nail on the head for our work on The Culinary Edge TV. Promoting locavore lifestyles, avoiding meats from industrial feed lots, and shifting away from plastics; our program aims to share authentic food adventures and always highlights local, sustainable options. That conversation was a big takeaway for me, and he also said one last thing, “Plant trees.”
During the two weeks on the R/V Falkor, I completed about 14 works and discovered a few new techniques I’m looking forward to exploring further. I completed three major projects onboard:
ROV PAINTING; This coral painting will be installed on the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) SuBastian in January 2020. (Once installed, this painting will travel to the bottom of the ocean, seriously cool!)
Mapping the Line series; investigates our ship’s route and seafloor mapping. We only have 9% of our ocean floor mapped, we know more about the moon than we do about our own ocean. Click the link above for a blog entry on this project.
2,745 Nautical Miles; Movement Painting A Visual Memory of our Days at Sea: Daily movement paintings which allowed the ship’s movement to solely manipulate fluid paint on a canvas substrate.
All of these projects resulted in new techniques and pushing the artistic boundary.
I made many abstract studies inspired by the ocean surfaces/horizon lines to be used for a collage project. Also, I made another handful of works while my partner, Ellard and I, traveled across the southern coast of Fiji, from my port of entry in Suva to the International Airport in Nadi. It was a productive three weeks to say the least! (Click the links in this paragraph above to read more about each of my projects, I have two blogs still to be published on the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s website, until they’re published they will link to instagram write up.)
Art left Behind
As part of my residency, I select a few pieces of art to give to the program. I came to the ship knowing I would be leaving an important piece onboard, but I left leaving two pieces behind. The first is the ROV painting of the Antler Coral, and the second was a very impromptu work of art on plexiglass. Somewhere on the internet I’ve seen these glass paintings, they’re essentially like painting in reverse. So, when the ship’s Bosun, Lars, showed me a piece of plexiglass available I was eager to give this technique a try. My intention was for it to be temporary piece, as it is easy to scratch the paint off once dried. But this work gained a lot of attention from the Falkor crew. They liked it so much they said it needed to stay onboard.
The title is inspired from the initiation ceremony when we crossed the equator. Yes, there is quite an initiation ceremony! It began as trial on the bow of the ship for us pollywogs that have never crossed the equator on a ship before. We went on trial for our crimes committed against King Neptune, and my crime: creating representational art of King Neptune’s Domain, without permission. And I was very guilty!
The initiation was all fun and not humiliating at all. (Unfortunately, I think I have to keep the pics of me kissing a fish offline.) This work also reminds me of the flying fish I frequently saw onboard, really the only marine life during my time at sea. So, I am also titling it Flying Fish. Sometimes the best work is made when expectations are low.
Representational Art of King Neptune’s Domain, or (Flying Fish), 2019 Acrylic Paint on Plexiglass, 28x33x.25”
Being at sea
Being aboard the Falkor was the first time on a sea-fearing vessel and seeing no land in sight. It was rather fun and exciting to peer into this world of maritime navigation. We were given tours of the huge engine room, shown the many systems used to operate a high-tech vessel such as the hardware for high-speed data transfer, computer processing, and navigation centers. The ship has a water desalination system which provides clean drinking water and gray water for septic systems. Of course, my favorite was the galley, which was so well organized with spices, stocks, herbs and cans of food. Onboard, One of the things I immediately observed was the synergy of the crew and the many jobs required to keep a ship up, running safely, organized and fed! People often call the Falkor a floating village and it’s not far from the truth. The ship runs 365 days a year, takes on routine maintenance and goes into dry-dock every 2 years.
The boat was very comfortable, set up with nice berths, air conditioned cabins, hot water and a quiet engine. People say it’s the Cadillac of research vessels, it made me wonder about the conditions of seafaring before modern comforts. The book which accompanied me, on loan from the Hawai’i State Public Library and returned 15 days late (so worth it), was the Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s (1859-1860) New World, by Andrea Wulf. I had not heard of the great explorer and naturalist but quickly learned there are numerous rivers, waterfalls, parks and species all named after him, including Humboldt County in California. This book was the perfect compliment to my time at sea, taking me into the world of explorers from long ago. Perhaps more importantly how his observations in nature brought a higher understanding into the interconnectedness of nature as one big living organism, and also the artistic and poetic expression of the scientific study of nature. The book also spoke of his influence on Charles Darwin, John Muir and Henry David Thoreau. Needless to say, I too will inspire by learning about him for time to come.
Once I hit land in Fiji, I had 10 more days of travel before flying back to Hawai’i. It’s not often that I travel with so many art supplies, I took advantage of this and set up many temporary studios in hotels, bures (traditional Fijian hut) and sandy towels along the way. I wanted to savor that refreshing feeling of being on land again, especially in the midst of this new lush tropical environment and incredibly friendly culture. We went from the rainforest to the coral coast, day trips to surf and snorkel, and to the markets by cab, bus and foot. I highly recommend a visit to this island nation.
The trip re-infused me with a love of travel and adventure as well as allowing me the opportunity to witness the incredible web and interconnection of nature that becomes evident in the middle of the ocean. I am very grateful for the opportunity to sail along with Schmidt Ocean Institute’s team, an ultimately strengthened my bond to the ocean, to the sciences and to myself. As Humboldt said “It is essential that human knowledge is shared, exchanged and made available to everybody.” I’m happy to have the opportunity to learn more about the mysteries of our ocean and gain a closer connection to the mission of the Schmidt Ocean Institute — to create a deeper understanding of the ocean so that we can better care for it. (Be sure to follow their social media because they live stream amazing dives into the deep, and maybe someday we will see my painting on their submersible at the bottom of the ocean.)
Deeply grateful for all the support that helped me get here. Thank you for reading, Love and Aloha, Bailey
Aloha my friends! As many know, my art residency in September was postponed due to an unfortunate emergency. However, I’m excited to share that my new assigned Artist-At-Sea residency will now depart on November 2nd. Yay!!
I will be on board the mighty R/V Falkor for a total 2,745 nautical miles south-southwest, across the equator as we transit to the Islands of Fiji… The crossroads of the South Pacific! This transit from Honolulu to Fiji Islands will be a total of 2 weeks at-sea where I will be taking part in ocean research and data collection, and making art along the way.
I’m once again preparing my art toolbox to set up my temporary art studio on this moving vessel. It will be an exciting opportunity to study the ocean, experiment techniques and to work with scientists to help develop a better understanding of urgent issues facing our oceans today.
The science will be guided by Chief Scientist Dr. Sam Wilson from University of Hawai’i who researches microbial biogeochemisty with a focus on trace gas cycling.
More about the program: Schmidt Ocean Institute is a 501(c)(3) private non-profit operating foundation established to advance oceanographic research, discovery, and knowledge, and catalyze sharing of information about the oceans.
“Like scientists, artists conceptualize and put together ideas in new ways. We anticipate that the cross fertilization of disciplines through our Artist-at-Sea program will result in a broader awareness of the important research occurring on Falkor and a better understand of the complex ocean issues facing us today. We believe that by providing a platform where experts from different disciplines are brought together, cross-pollination of ideas will transform both the scientists’ and artists’ work.”
Mahalo Nui Loa!
Thanks for your support and all the messages, especially when I was feeling down after the postponed residency! I’m excited and humbled to share this new adventure at sea.
artist-at-sea postponed In an unfortunate turn of events, I suffered a dental emergency the day before departure for my Artist-at-Sea residency – a pretty severe cracked tooth. With the risk of infection and the possibility of lost time at sea, the Ship Captain made a very difficult decision to not allow me to participate in this cruise. Ahhh!! I am terribly disappointed, but I totally understand it was truly for my safety and also necessary for the most productive time at sea.
I did my best to enjoy the last morning on the ship. Sketching ideas, connecting with the scientists about coral research as it pertains to the Hawaii sunblock ban and learning about the technology from the ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) team.
I was parted with some good news: The coordinators are working to pair me with another research cruise in the coming months. So, as disappointing as it was, I am happy to at least say it’s only postponed and hopefully my promised art adventure is in the not-too-distant future. The possibility of my future cruise is really exciting too!
Thank you for your support and understanding, I will be excited to share the new expedition, once it is confirmed.
with Love and Aloha, Bailey Ferguson now it’s time to imua (Hawaiian: to move forward with strength)
The Preface: An artists prepares for voyage to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the North West Hawaiian Ridge.
I have been on the waitlist for the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Artist-At-Sea Residency since early 2019. This week I received news that I was invited on a mission leaving Hawai’i at the end of August. This will be a 3-week voyage to the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument which is the largest marine conservation area in the world. It consists of seamounts, atolls, islands and a lot of marine life.
The Artist-at-Sea opportunity caught my attention when a friend, who participated in a mission to the Antartica, posted that S.O.I. was accepting applications for 2019 artist-in-residence program. An art residency is an opportunity where I have the space, resources, inspiration and time to create art. In this case, I’m also a conduit for marine scientists to reach a broader audience and help convey their research. In turn, I get a deeper understanding of the issues facing our ocean today.
Over the past 5 years living in Hawai’i and learning how to surf, I’ve been more connected to the water and what’s underneath the surface. I’ve become highly sensitive and aware to how integral water has become in my life, and its become a major source of inspiration for my art in the past year. I have a deep gratitude for water, as it is a source of remedy for my mind, body and spirit. One of my interests has been activism for reef-safe sunscreen, so I am thrilled that the chief scientist on this cruise is a coral expert and I will have access to her and other marine scientists to gain further understanding of the coral ecosystems.
I, like many people, feel helpless when it comes to climate change and rising ocean temperatures, so when I applied for this residency I felt that if I could get a deeper understanding of the issues at hand, I could better communicate ocean activism through my art.
“Artists and scientists both have the ability to offer a deeper understanding of our Ocean. They are important storytellers that help people to see in new ways. Applying these talents to ocean science and conservation can create a new space for dialogue and understanding.”
– Schmidt Ocean Institute, Artist-At-Sea
My aim for this residency is to hone my voice as an artist and gain understanding in important marine issues for an audience of current and future ocean lovers. I look forward to experimenting with both abstract art and graphic design techniques while onboard, as well as using social media to share parts of my journey.