Underwater Sculpture Park – The Cacti Series by Claudia Comte Installed on the Seabed of East Portland Fish Sanctuary in Jamaica
Developed during Comte’s TBA21–Academy Residency at Alligator Head Foundation, The Cacti Series Stand as Permanent Monument to Marine Protection and Community Engagement
Renowned artist Claudia Comte, together with TBA21–Academy, has installed the latest series of her iconic cacti sculptures on the seabed in Jamaica, creating a permanent underwater exhibition in the East Portland Fish Sanctuary accessible by diving and snorkeling. Designed as a monument for marine protection and a tribute to the collective effort of the local community to restore the ecosystem, the sculptures will also support the reinvigoration of the reef and coral regrowth as they are overlaid with coral in January 2020.
An advocate for the protection of biodiversity in forests, Comte was inspired to create a work promoting care for the local marine environment during her TBA21–Academy Residency, hosted at Alligator Head Foundation (AHF), the Academy’s conservation science partner. Through this partnership, TBA21–Academy offers residents a profound and immersive experience working within the protected conservation area of the East Portland Fish Sanctuary. The residency also includes access to the Alligator Head Marine Laboratory, where artists can investigate and collaborate with scientists, conservationists, and the local community. The sculptures were created in close collaboration with Nathaniel Petre, the Academy’s first ever technology resident, who was investigating disruptive distributing manufacturing and how 3D printing with waste products can support economic transformation.
The installation of the sculpture park and the end of Comte’s residency this July coincided with the third anniversary of the East Portland Fish Sanctuary, which is managed by AHF and has seen an overall 200% increase of biomass and a 16% increase in species diversity as a result of facilitating alternative livelihood and training programs for local fisherman. The sculpture park is dedicated to the local community, whose commitment to the regeneration of the reef inspired the artist.
Comte’s residency also included the creation of a body of new works in wood, carved from 40 fallen tree trunks. Inspired by the shapes of corals, sponges, and other reef dwelling organisms, and commissioned by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation, a selection of these sculptures will premiere at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid in a 2020 exhibition curated by Chus Martínez.