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Giant Kelp Exhibit Shines Light on the Intersection of Art and Science

Ebb and Flow, an exhibit curated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography alumna, brings climate change and giant kelp forest ecosystems of Southern California into focus

Oriana Poindexter '15, Giant Kelp Study 8, Windansea Beach, February 2022. Original cyanotype on paper, 38 in x 50 in.
Credit: Oriana Poindexter '15, Giant Kelp Study 8, Windansea Beach, February 2022. Original cyanotype on paper, 38 in x 50 in.

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Ebb and Flow: Giant Kelp Forests through Art, Science and the Archives, a group exhibition hosted by UC San Diego Library and curated by San Diego-based photographer, marine scientist and Scripps Institution of Oceanography alumna Oriana Poindexter ’15, opens at Geisel Library on January 12. 

Located on the main floor of Geisel Library (in both its main gallery and The Nest), the exhibit explores the common urge of artists, scientists and community members alike to document the natural world, with a focus on the giant kelp forest ecosystems of Southern California. All works explore how San Diego giant kelp forests have been observed and documented over the past 134 years.

“Similar to our Art of Science contest, this exhibit celebrates the intersection of art and science in a way that brings much-needed attention to key issues that affect society and our planet,” said Erik Mitchell, Audrey Geisel University Librarian at UC San Diego Library. “I am also pleased to see archival works from our Special Collections & Archives included in the show and that a UC San Diego alumna has curated this exhibit.”

Ebb and Flow illuminates the evolution and the persistence of giant kelp forests, changing over time but continuing to hold fast to the rocky shorelines. Featured contemporary artists include Oriana Poindexter ’15, Julia C. R. Gray, Dwight Hwang and Marie McKenzie. Through Ebb and Flow, each shares their unique methods of observing and documenting giant kelp forests through artistic mediums including alternative photographic processes, gyotaku print-making, oil painting, installation art, ceramic and sculpture.

“Giant kelp forests are unique environments that many feel powerfully drawn to. Our fascination with this environment is collectively interpreted through observation and documentation, manifesting in forms varying from pressed herbaria to contemporary art,” said Poindexter. 

“My aim with this collection is to encourage viewers to collect their own observations of the nature around them as a means of both engaging in and contributing to the collective body of knowledge, and as an individual practice that can foster personal growth, self-care and investment in environmental health.”

The artistic works on display will be shown alongside a curated selection of archival seaweed specimens from herbarium archives from the Library’s Special Collections & Archives, the San Diego Natural History Museum and UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The seaweed pressings were created in La Jolla between 1890 and 2023 by citizens and scientists including Ellen Browning Scripps, Eliza Virginia Scripps, Mary S. Snyder, Paul C. Silva and current Scripps Institution of Oceanography professor Jennifer E. Smith. Each specimen is intended to highlight the value of natural history and collections, especially as our environment shifts. 

“Having the opportunity to host Ebb and Flow at Geisel Library is a great honor,” said Poindexter. “I am grateful to the Library for being open to host this exhibit to showcase the ebb and flow of the giant kelp forests through time and demonstrate the resilience and persistence of these species despite the anthropogenic impacts that complicate their existence.” 

Birch Aquarium at Scripps is hosting an accompanying exhibit, Hold Fast, which opens on February 8. This exhibit is an immersive art installation that explores San Diego’s local kelp forests and climate change through the lens of three local artists and scientists who use their skills and talents to take climate action. 

Ebb and Flow will remain on view at Geisel Library through April 21, 2024. To increase accessibility, exhibit panels will be presented in English and Spanish. An opening reception will be held at Geisel Library on Thursday, January 25 at 6 p.m. (this event will be free and open to the public). To receive information about this event, sign up for the Library’s e-newsletter. To learn more about Ebb and Flow, visit the Library’s website.

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