Turn the Tide: Courtney Mattison - New Bedford Whaling Museum

Turn the Tide: Courtney Mattison

Turn the Tide: Courtney Mattison

Herman Melville Room

Opened: November 15, 2021

Closed: May 1, 2022

CAPTION: (above) Malum Geminos, “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.

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Related Programming

Children's Coral Clay Workshop 

Sunday, March 6, 2022
10:30am - 11:00am (EST): Exhibition Viewing
11:00am - 2:00pm (EST): Clay Workshop
Tickets: $30 Members l $40 Non-Members

Children and families will view our “Turn the Tide: Courtney Mattison” exhibition and then learn about coral reef ecosystems, different coral lifeforms, the importance of protecting the coral reefs. Children will be invited to form and build a beautiful clay coral to take home, with expert instruction by Courtney Mattison. Creating art can create a deeper sense of connection and caring for protecting these vital ecosystems and bring you closer to the intricacy and fragility of the organisms growing from the ocean floor. Art materials will be supplied. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Limited space available. 


Tuesday, March 8, 2022
6:00 - 7:00pm (EST) Private Exhibition Viewing & Reception
7:00 - 8:00pm (EST) Artist Talk
In person and via Zoom.
Advance registration required.

Hear from internationally recognized artist, Courtney Mattison, as she showcases her hand-crafted and intricately detailed ceramic sculptural works.

The Museum’s Douglas and Cynthia Crocker Endowed Chair for the Chief Curator, Naomi Slipp, will moderate this hour-long discussion as Mattison shares the story of how she arrived at the intersection of art and science, creating monumental artwork for projects around the world aimed at inspiring hope, action, and community engagement. Her work displayed in the museum’s latest exhibition, Turn the Tide: Courtney Mattison, draws on inspiration from human-caused threats and the fragile beauty of coral reefs, and raises awareness for the protection of our blue planet, urging policy makers and the public to conserve our changing seas.