CULTURAL ARTS ALLIANCE OF WALTON COUNTY AND SOUTH WALTON ARTIFICIAL REEF ASSOCIATION REVEAL NINE DESIGNS SELECTED FOR SIXTH UNDERWATER MUSEUM OF ART INSTALLATION
SANTA ROSA BEACH, FL (November 29, 2023) – The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) and South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) are proud to reveal the nine new sculpture designs, chosen by jury for permanent exhibition in the fifth installation of the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA).
The 2024 installation will include the following pieces of sculpture: The Lost Kingdom of Artemis by Denna Ameen (New Orleans, LA), Mermaid. Siren. Galatea. By Raine Bedsole (Santa Rosa Beach, FL), Deep Sea Three by Matthew Gemmell and David Showalter (Baltimore, MD), Sea How We Flow by Elise Gilbert (Santa Rosa Beach, FL), Among the Anemone by Frank Henderson (Evanston, IL), Poseidon’s Throne by Nathan Hoffman (Highlandville, MO), Bubby Barnacles by Donna Conklin King (East Orange, NJ), Sunken Spores by Ashley Rivers (Gulfport, FL), and Ring My Bell by Bradley Touchstone (Santa Rosa Beach, FL).
Named in 2018 by TIME Magazine as one of 100 “World’s Greatest Places,” the UMA is presented as part of CAA’s Art In Public Spaces Program and augments SWARA’s mission of creating marine habitat and expanding fishery populations while providing enhanced creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for the benefit, education and enjoyment of residents, students and visitors in South Walton. The UMA recently received the 2023 CODAAward for Collaboration of the Year.
UMA sculptures are deployed with SWARA’s existing USACOA and FDEP permitted artificial reef projects that includes nine nearshore reefs located within one nautical mile of the shore in approximately 58 feet of water. The 2024 installation will join the 40 sculptures previously deployed on a one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park, further expanding the nation’s first permanent underwater museum.
Deployment of the 2024 UMA installation is slated for Summer with support from Visit South Walton. Visit UMAFL.org for more information on timeline and events surrounding UMA’s launch. Project and sculpture sponsorships are available. Please contact Gabby Callaway at firstname.lastname@example.org for sponsorship details.
2024 UMA SCULPTURE AND ARTIST DETAILS
THE LOST KINGDOM OF ARTEMIS is a limestone, concrete and metal sculpture by artist Denna Ameen. Lost Kingdom of Artemis draws inspiration from the architectural styles of Antoni Gaudí and the surrealism of Giorgio de Chirico. This sculpture, reminiscent of an ancient Atlantean ruin, aims to evoke a sense of mystique and wonder in the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. The sculpture takes the form of a submerged Greco-Roman building, appearing as a once-grand structure now gracefully reclaimed by the sea. Its design features three distinct entrances on different sides, with an open ceiling to allow sea creatures, particularly sea turtles, easy access in and out of the sculpture. Leading up to the open ceiling is a staircase, symbolizing upward mobility and the hope for ecological improvements.
This aesthetic choice as well as the marine life’s future development on the piece prompts reflection on the passage of time and the ever-changing nature of our planet’s ecosystems. Ameen believes this sculpture marries artistic expression with ecological stewardship. By crafting an inviting and functional underwater habitat inspired by ancient architecture, it not only celebrates the beauty and diversity of animal creation but also contributes to the ongoing revitalization of the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem.
MERMAID. SIREN. GALATEA. (Working title) artist Raine Bledsoe is based in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. Her work has dealt with the idea of ‘vessel’ for a long time. The boat sculpture and the figurative sculpture are both vessels of the psyche. Currently, she is working on a series of sculptures based on the female figure. Although they began as a ‘universal’ self portrait, these figures are somewhat androgynous. There is a feminine force that is present in both men and women referred to as the Anima. They are nature goddesses leading us back to a time when we were one with nature. Bledsoe’s vision for the underwater museum is of a water goddess or nymph. She lives in the reef and her skin is made of water drops, open for sea creatures to swim and play in. She is born of the reef and nurturer of all the teeming sea life there.
DEEP SEA THREE Matthew Gemmell and David Showalter are Baltimore-based artists who have worked together on various sculpture projects over the last 20 years. Their approach to this project was to consider diatoms as inspiration for creating an engaging underwater sculpture. These single celled organisms that inhabit our oceans are invisible to the naked eye, but a closer look at these foundational creatures in our marine ecosystem reveals a vast variety of geometric beauty. The shapes formed by the diatom’s silica walls have intricate patterns resembling those found in classic Platonic solids. It is the artist’s aim to represent an echo of these geometric patterns that occur in different variations on mathematical themes. They chose to do this by using repeating Platonic solids.
These forms naturally lend themselves to sculpture in addition to providing various surfaces for marine life to take hold. Over time the Platonic solid sculpture will take on a life of its own creating a habitat for many of the marine creatures it represents while also providing shelter for larger creatures that depend on these quintessential microscopic organisms. By combining biology, mathematics, art, ocean conservation, and inspiration from the tiny diatom they aim to create a unique engaging addition to the Underwater Museum of Art collection for divers and marine life to enjoy.
SEA HOW WE FLOW artist Elise Gilbert is interested in posing a question within the viewer’s understanding that draws on the philosophical proposition of naturalism. One of the key questions this concept evokes is whether nature possesses inherent perfection. Some may find perfection in nature’s complexity and balance, while others may argue that nature is chaotic, imperfect, or harsh in its manifestations. When the viewer experiences this piece, they are confronted with an image of two hands in reflection—the yogic hand symbol for the flow of wisdom during self-reflection.
Readers may recognize AMONG THE ANEMONE artist Frank Henderson from his recent Space Nest sculpture deployed in 2023 as part of the UMA’s fifth installation. Henderson’s newest submission, Among the Anemone, is a fun interactive sculpture that allows divers to experience the perspective of a clown fish swimming among the tentacles of the beautiful anemone. This sculpture is designed to have divers swimming in and around it, giving them a fun and immersed experience. There is also a clearing in the middle of the sculpture where a diver can feel completely enveloped by the anemone. Among the Anemone is also a great sculpture for sea life to find its home. The many tentacles of the sculpture allow plenty of spaces for animals to create their homes.
Missouri-based artist Nathan Hoffman is creating POSEIDON’S THRONE. Poseidon’s Throne sits empty. The ruler and representative of the rawness and power of the ocean, is gone. Where to? That we do not know, but who will take his place? Hoffman wants the viewer of this sizable throne to imagine themselves taking the seat. It is a huge burden, but one that we all must take up if we are to save the ocean from ourselves. We have the power to do it, just as we had the power to destroy it. The throne will act as a symbol of the power we all yield, if we so choose to take it.
The throne will also have many areas for fish and ocean life to inhabit and move throughout it, symbolizing that we must work together in order for our worlds to coexist. Ocean life inhabiting the piece also symbolizes that when given the right opportunities there is hope for renewal and the ocean can flourish once again.
SUNKEN SPORES by artist Ashley Rivers is a piece based off a few ceramic mushrooms she created in the past. Mushrooms are vital to ecosystems around the world. Through mycelium, mushrooms help other plants share nutrients and communicate through chemical signals. Created mostly of concrete, with metal mesh stabilizers, the piece will stand roughly 6′ 2″ tall. The shapes within the piece will allow the perfect surfaces for future corals and anemones to grow, offering new habitats, feeding, spawning, and nursery grounds for over 1 million aquatic species- a perfect analogy to how real mushrooms help other plants share nutrients above ground.
RING MY BELL is an interactive sculpture based on the historical form of an offshore bell buoy from artist Bradley Touchstone. Visitors will be able to ring the bell inside the tower using a striker that is permanently attached to the structure. The primary material for the piece is solid steel bar stock and 1/4″ plate. The four sides of the tower include cutout illustrations of sea life.
ABOUT SOUTH WALTON ARTIFICIAL REEF ASSOCIATION
SWARA is a grass-roots, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to raising funds to build permitted, beach accessible, artificial reefs in the gulf coastal waters of South Walton County Florida for the benefit and health of the environment and community. To join SWARA in making a difference, visit SwaraReefs.org.