Ochre Sea Star Comeback
During the years that I was visiting the Central California coast, before actually making a move here, I loved seeing the many bright orange and purple sea stars in tide pools and attached to the pillars of the pier. In recent years, I worried that they seemed to have disappeared. I learned that Sea Star wasting disease had wiped out more than 80% of the population and had affected star species up and down the coast. Ochre stars took the brunt of the damage. Though study is still in progress, scientists are looking at a possible virus caused by some sort of environmental stress like warmer water and acidification.
On beach walks during the last year, I would watch anxiously for stars and, on days when I would spot one clinging to the bottom of a rock outcropping at low tide, I began to photograph and document my findings in a journal. I learned that the Ochre Star is apparently making an unexpected comeback. The few remaining animals with plague-resistant genetics went into reproductive mode as an evolutionary response. Those bright orange stars that I’m seeing are living examples of natural selection in process!
I went to work and figured out how to use my twining technique to create a five-pointed Sea Star sculptural form. I placed them on the pedestal that they deserve, each unique and evolving.
Forest, Flames, Flood
If you’ve watched the news in the last couple of years, you know my inspiration for this pictorial piece.
I completed a move to Santa Barbara in October of 2017 and in early December we saw our first big fire (the Thomas Fire) only a few miles away from our home. We weren’t evacuated from our home, but as we watched the bright orange flames on the hillsides, we wore masks on our faces to protect against thick ash and smoke.
Hillsides were scorched black, homes and lives destroyed. High winds had spread the fires quickly and made them impossible to control. It was a frightening and humbling reminder of the possible future extremes of global warming.
More than a month into the fire in early January, winter rains began. At first we were glad for relief from the fire, but then awoke in the middle of the night to a more violent rainstorm than we had ever experienced. The ensuing flood rushed downhill on its way to the ocean, and made a swath through our nearby community that took out homes, cars, giant boulders, everything in its way. Over 20 people were killed by sudden flooding and debris flows. The community was devastated.
The creation of this piece, Forest, Flames, Flood allowed me to process what we had been through. It took hours to complete, hours of meditative, repetitive therapy.
Wavy Turban Snail Shells are always a cherished “find” on a beach walk. Sometimes I am surprised to discover an occupant still living inside and send it back out to sea. I am forever amazed by nature’s spiral design and the shell’s pearl beauty.
I was challenged when I tried to copy the Turban Shell design. It’s much more complex than it looks.
Exploring Date Palm Inflorescence
Working With Bark