Retiring visual art professor creates kelp installation for Deep Bay Marine Field Station

August 16, 2012 - 9:20am

Visual Art Professor Fran Benton was quick to volunteer her talents when she heard that staff at Vancouver Island University’s Deep Bay Marine Field Station were interested in additional aquatic-themed art for the new facility on the shores of Baynes Sound.

“I’m retiring and I thought this would be a nice way to say thank you to the institution for treating me so nicely over the past 18 years,” Benton said.

Benton shaped and kiln-fired close to 130 pieces of clay that will form a ceramic mural that’s almost two metres wide and five metres tall.

The pieces are modelled after bull kelp, the distinctive form of algae that have large bulbs that keep the top afloat with long, flowing blades or fronds beneath the surface.

Benton, who has degrees in science and art, has taken artistic license with the fronds and has stamped and carved aquatic phrases into the clay and made impressions with shellfish.

“I have an absolute passion for fossils and geology,” said Benton. “I thought, ‘why not have the fronds speak to the fact that there are ancient shellfish in the rock around here as well as reflect the clams and scallops still in existence?’”

“It depicts 65 million years of history on the Island,” she said.

“We are very excited and honoured to host this piece that Fran has created,” says Brian Kingzett, Manager of the Deep Bay Marine Field Station. “In many ways it typifies what we are trying to accomplish at the Field Station, At first glance, it is beautiful but as you explore the playful stamps in the fronds it both invites curiosity and education.”

Benton has already had an artistic influence on the Deep Bay Marine Field Station.

Emily Rigney, a VIU biology and art student who works part-time at Deep Bay, created a jellyfish sculpture made from shoreline trash following an assignment from Benton.

The piece, called “Beach garbage jellyfish”, has already been installed at the field station.


On the web

Photos of the kelp project:

Deep Bay Marine Field Station:

Fran Benton’s art projects:

Story on beach garbage jellyfish:

Tags: In the Community

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