(In our September/October 2017 issue, Donna Dodson wrote of her experience at the Ringkobing International Woodcarving Symposium in Denmark. In this follow-up report, along with husband Andy Moerlein (collectively known as The Myth Makers), she travels to Taiwan for the International Marine Environmental Art where they create an outside sculpture as Artists in Residence at the Keelung National Museum of Marine Science and Technology).
KEELUNG CITY, TAIWAN — August, The Myth Makers were invited to be the Artists in Residence at the Keelung National Museum of Marine Science & Technology in Taiwan. Organized by Jane Ingram Allen, this International Marine Environmental Art Project invites artists from the USA, Europe and Taiwan to complete monumental public works that connect art and science.
We worked with three groups of volunteers to complete our project on site. We also worked with the local students at the Keelung National Senior High School and shared our process of art making. We used a puppet making curriculum where each student made two animal headed avatars, one representing their favorite animal self and one representing a secret animal self. Then the students wrote myths and stories and acted out plays with their puppet avatars. On the last day, we worked in teams demonstrating bamboo techniques and the students built a bamboo environment at the center of their school campus.
During the month-long residency, our own sculpture transformed from its original idea into something new and site specific. We arrived eager to learn more about bamboo as a sculpture medium. We had visions of continuing our globe embracing mission to advocate for sustainable ocean resources. We expected to build a twin to our New Bedford, Massachusetts, “Widow’s Walk.”
We began conversations about fishermen and our American whaling traditions. We talked about the architecture of Victorian houses and “Widow’s Walks” aa well as the dress of 18th Century America with our Taiwanese hosts and friends. We could not seem to reach a clear understanding. When we mentioned cormorants, they were puzzled. This was not a familiar bird. We found ourselves with a lot of ideas that perhaps did not belong.
We built a majestic female figure using bamboo techniques learned from Keelung’s 85-year-old Bamboo Master. We asked everyone we encountered in the ocean side fishing village, “What bird symbolizes the vast ocean ecology?” The Albatross stood out. The albatross is sometimes used metaphorically to mean a psychological burden that feels like a curse. This is an allusion to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798). The albatross is a natural anomaly — a bird that flies all the world’s oceans on wings that are up to 12 feet (3.3 meters). The albatross chick can stay at sea for up to five years before finding their way home to begin a lifelong mating. Birds that lose their mates do not breed again. A majestic and storied bird, the albatross was just the poetic symbol we sought for our work at NMMST in Keelung Taiwan. You can see a short project video here: Youtube
She stands facing the sea, like generations of sailor’s wives. The Intrepid Albatross is optimistic for the ocean’s future bounty, yet she feels uncertain about the sustainability of this massive rich resource. Like the Myth Makers, she believes in a world where all nations contract together to protect and celebrate the sea’s vitality. This is one of a series of monumental temporary sculptures in a globe embracing project by The Myth Makers.