Entangled: Chasing Bull Kelp
OCTOBER 22nd – NOVEMBER 29th
November 13th 4-7pm (weather permitting)
Limited indoor access
The Great Highway Gallery is excited to present Entangled: Chasing Bull Kelp. The exhibition will feature: a window installation, prints and sculpture by Josie Iselin.
I have been making images of and writing about seaweed for over a decade. Seaweeds are gorgeously varied, vibrantly colored, and interesting. The science behind their life histories and their ecology is not only fascinating, but important for us to know when thinking about the health of our oceans. My scanner has been the optimal tool for bringing these algal neighbors to life; for letting them speak.
But one species in particular has been of greatest concern: Nereocystis luetkeana, or bull kelp. This is the majestic kelp that makes up the kelp forest off our Northern California coastline, it is the kelp that collects on our beaches, right here in San Francisco. While it is a wonder of photosynthetic possibility, growing into 60-80 foot tall kelps—singular stipe with long flowing blades, collecting in massive tangles of biomass on the beaches in fall and winter—its ecology is fragile. Over the past few years, the great bull kelp forests of Sonoma and Mendocino counties have been reduced from enormous forests to tiny patches. The warming ocean, hordes of urchins and lack of top predators leave bull kelp vulnerable.
In my newest book, The Curious World of Seaweed, I devote the second chapter to bull kelp, the story of the extermination of sea otter, and subsequent rise in urchin and abalone populations, noting our human inclination to pull resilience out of complex networks of interactions that keep rich and diverse ecological systems in balance. I followed up with a more in-depth article on bull kelp, sea otter and our California Coast. I am working on a book length examination of this magnificent organism throughout its range from Central California to the Aleutian Islands.
So here at The Great Highway Gallery I want to celebrate Nereocystis luetkeana. This singular kelp that only exists here along this ribbon of ocean along our continent is sculpture and sculptor, primary producer and cyanotype muse. It is home to countless marine animals living in its forests and food for kelp flies and isopods when washed on the beach, in turn generating protein for migrating shore birds. It is my constant reminder that our oceans deserve our reverence and considered regard.
About the Artist
Josie Iselin is the photographer, author and designer of many books exploring our coastal universe. Her newest book, The Curious World of Seaweed (Heyday Books, August 2019), is an ambitious combination of essays and historical as well as contemporary imagery that explores the algal world just beyond the beach. Josie holds a BA in visual and environmental studies from Harvard and an MFA from San Francisco State University. For over twenty-five years she has used her flatbed scanner and computer for generating imagery. Iselin exhibits large-scale fine art prints at select galleries and museums, advocates for ocean health through education and speaks widely on the confluence of art and science. She teaches in the School of Design at San Francisco State University.