Turn the Tide: Courtney Mattison

Turn the Tide: Courtney Mattison

Herman Melville Room

Opened: November 15, 2021

Closing: May 1, 2022

CAPTION: (above) Malum Geminos or “evil twins” in Latin. pays homage to a statement by the Honorable Jane Lubchenco, PhD at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen referring to ocean acidification as the “equally evil twin” of climate change, caused by carbon dioxide emissions dissolving into the sea. The skeletal nature of this design also references Dr. Lubchenco’s other profound comparison of ocean acidification as “osteoporosis of the sea.”

Photo by artist Courtney Mattison at the Florence Griswold Museum.

Los Angeles-based ceramicist and sculptor Courtney Mattison self-identifies as an artist and “ocean advocate” in equal measure.

Her delicate and monumental installations easily align with both, offering visual interest and meaningful commentary on the health of our oceans and their imperiled state. The delicacy of her porcelain forms, which appear to grow outward into organic spiraling shapes, and then die before our eyes, bleaching into bone, poignantly illustrate the widespread and devastating effects of ocean warming and pollution on marine species, including corals and other invertebrates.

Visitors will encounter ocean acidification and climate change through Mattison’s 21-foot-long sculpture, Malum Geminos, (meaning “evil twins” in Latin) and then turn to the opposite wall, where they will be confronted by a view of New Bedford’s working waterfront. This juxtaposition emphasizes the centrality of Mattison’s message to the local economy, community, and lives of SouthCoast residents.

In addition to this enormous sculpture, the colorful and energetic piece titled Aqueduct, and other smaller works are included in the exhibition. Objects from the Whaling Museum’s collection, including coral and sponge specimens, offer a tangible reminder of man’s mania for the oceans, and the impact such collecting and voyaging has on ocean eco-systems.

(detail) Aqueduct, 2016, glazed stoneware and porcelain, 90 x 32 inches (approximate). Photo by Glen McClure for Virginia MOCA.
(detail) Aqueduct, 2016, glazed stoneware and porcelain, 90 x 32 inches (approximate). Photo by Glen McClure for Virginia MOCA.