Underwater Sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor Pt. 1

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It has been reported that up to 40% of the world’s natural coral reef has been lost over the last few decades and 80% depletion is expected within the next 30 years.

Depletion—caused by over-fishing, warming oceans, pollution and over-visiting, among other factors—severely threatens the world’s coral reefs, which cover less than 1% of the ocean floor, but support 25% of all marine life. Reefs attract fish, turtles, sea urchins, sponges, sharks (the list goes on and on) and are vital to the sustenance of the underwater ecosystem; which is why Jason deCaires Taylor has made it his mission to create underwater sculptures that double as artificial reef units, designed to actively promote coral growth in shallow seas all over the world.

Taylor’s work is so amazing and so plentiful that we feel he has merited not just a post, but a series to showcase it. In each post of this series, we will feature photographs from some of Taylor’s major projects and installations.

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Born in 1974 to an English father and a Guyanese mother, Taylor grew up in Europe and Asia and spent much of his early childhood exploring coral reefs in Malaysia. He graduated from the London Institute of Art in 1998 with a BA Honors in Sculpture; is a fully qualified diving instructor with over 18-years of diving experience; is an underwater naturalist; and (as if that weren’t enough) he is also an award-winning underwater photographer.

Taylor’s life-size eco-sculptures are made from marine-grade cement that is engineered to last 100s of years and designed to attract coral. Each of his pieces can support an entire marine ecosystem. They begin as products of his artistic imagination, but are then given over to the mighty ocean, assimilating and transforming over time into entirely different—yet equally magnificent—colorful, vibrant works of art.

On their own, his living sculptures are moving and thought-provoking, honoring human experiences like loss and self-reflection, but the fact that they also help conserve marine life by breeding more coral reefs and divert tourists away from the threatened ones, allowing them to regenerate, makes his work truly remarkable.

Taylor’s underwater work, which can be found off the coasts of the West Indies, Mexico and Spain, attracts tourists from all over the world and can be seen by scuba diving, snorkeling or on glass-bottomed boat tours. “Taking art off of the white walls of a gallery offers the viewer a sense of discovery and participation,” Taylor states.

Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park

In 2006, Taylor pioneered the world’s very first underwater sculpture park in Moilinere Bay, Grenada. The Caribbean had suffered severe damage by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and the Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park was built as a diversion from the wounded coral reefs off of the west coast of the island. The park features four installations, comprised of 65 sculptures, across 800 square meters (half a mile). We’ve compiled a few of our favorites from each installation.

Grace Reef

Grace Reef was the first installation in the sculpture park. It’s made up of 16 female figures lying flat on the floor. The women have been long since over taken by coral polyps and algae.

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The Lost Correspondent

This installation is a man seated at a desk that is (or was, rather) covered with articles documenting the Cuban Revolution as he seemingly types at a typewriter. There’s a certain sadness that our correspondent evokes as he and his work are forgotten and transformed under the seas of time, not much unlike the dreams of his revolution.

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Vicissitudes

This ring of 26 outward-facing children holding hands is perhaps Taylor’s most notorious installation. Vicissitudes—which means changes of circumstances or fortune, typically those that are unwelcome or unpleasant—was rumored to be a tribute honoring the victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, but Taylor has never confirmed this. The children do, however, seem to be guarding or watching for something; what that is, each visitor can speculate for themselves.

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Un-still Life

This is the only non-human sculpture in the entire bay. The installation started off as a simple table with a bowl, some fake fruit and a pitcher, but the deep blue sea had other plans.

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Check back soon for more underwater sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor.

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Category: Art