New Installation Fuses Art and Science to Share Ocean Wonder


A new two-story art installation that celebrates ocean life in the Gulf of Maine and the scientific efforts to understand it will open at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences on Nov. 9. “Majestic Fragility” was created by Gulf of Maine EcoArts artists, in collaboration with ocean scientists and students from across the state.

The exhibit is the culmination of a three-year project with Bigelow Laboratory scientists. Inspired by the natural world under the waves, the artists worked to create a scene of the normally unseen. The installation aims to capture the dynamic biodiversity of our oceans and inspire people to think about how they are connected to it.

"Our research around the world is revealing so much about the wonder and opportunity of the ocean – as well the substantial threats it is facing,” said Senior Research Scientist Nick Record, the coordinating scientist for the project. “All of these issues are complicated, but the fate of the oceans is the fate of humanity. We need fresh ways to imagine the future in order to meet these challenges, and this art is a way of helping us explore new possibilities and inspire people to be part of the solutions."

Five Maine artists created pieces for the installation, a cross-section of sky and sea that illuminates the incredible diversity of life in the Gulf of Maine. It features a range of key endangered and threatened marine life from phytoplankton to birds, in sculpture, textile art, and prints.

At the center of the exhibit is a bone-white, 24-foot sculpture of a North Atlantic Right Whale, one of the most endangered species on the planet. Inspired by walks in the woods, artist Andy Rosen made the sculpture from parts of trees and other reclaimed terrestrial material.

“The whale is an abstraction of a model that would hang in a natural history museum,” he said. “It’s a juxtaposition of marine and forest systems. A whale from a human’s perspective is a discreet thing, but one in nature is part of integrated networks. Abstraction is a way of blurring the boundaries between individuals. It is a way to highlight more fluid connections.”

It was designed and built by the Gulf of Maine EcoArts, a collaborative of Maine artists who set out to create art inspired by, and to celebrate, the environment. In addition to Rosen, Lee Chisholm, Anna Dibble, Joe Hemes, and Pamela Moulton all contributed hanging artwork to the installation. It also involved a team of educators and students from more than 16 Maine schools – from middle school through college.

"We created “Majestic Fragility” to generate public awareness of our marine relatives in the rapidly warming Gulf of Maine and some of the precious habitats they rely on, like Cashes Ledge,” said Dibble, the founder of Gulf of Maine EcoArts. “The exhibit also champions the efforts of organizations like Bigelow Laboratory as they tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis, work toward finding solutions, and collectively invite us to take up our destiny as stewards."

“Majestic Fragility” can be viewed at Bigelow Laboratory, located at 60 Bigelow Drive in East Boothbay, on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. All visitors are required to wear masks inside the laboratory.