“A Diptych of Depth and Distance”

Artist-At-Sea, Exhibitions

written by Bailey Ferguson and Michelle Schwengel-Regala

Bailey Ferguson and Michelle Schwengel-Regala in front of Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Research Vessel Falkor, berthed at Honolulu Harbor in 2019.

Bailey Ferguson and Michelle Schwengel-Regala both live in Hawai’i, but on separate islands.  They both secured berths aboard Research Vessel Falkor to be Artists-at-Sea with Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) departing Honolulu Harbor, but on separate voyages toward different ports (Michelle to Tahiti in 2016, Bailey to Fiji in 2019). They both participated in Kipaipai Workshops on Hawai’i Island, but in different years. Unknowingly, their collaboration began in 2018, in the Kipaipai Fellows Facebook Group when Michelle shared the open call for SOI Artist-at-Sea program. The two artists had not yet met in person, however their interest in art, science, and the ocean brought them into direct discourse. For the Collaborate and Create exhibition, they were eager to team up and layer their SciArt experiences at sea. 

This Illustration shows the expedition for each artist’s route from Hawai’i to Fiji (left, 2019) and Tahiti (right, 2016) Image Source: Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Expedition Log

Each SOI expedition hosts a team of scientists carrying out a research mission. Wherever the ship goes, it is also conducting bathymetry using sonar to measure the depths and map the ocean floor, revealing more understanding of this vast and largely-unknown terrain.

Before Bailey embarked on her voyage, Michelle supplied a favorite ground for field work – waterproof archival paper with a slight blue tint.  On this Bailey experimented with paints, pastels, seawater from the equator, and the motion of the ship to create dynamic brushstrokes evoking the deep blues of the open ocean.  After arrival at port, the painting was sent to Michelle and together they realized stories the painting could tell about the Pacific Ocean. 

Bailey experimented with paints, pastels, seawater from the equator, and the motion of the ship to create dynamic brushstrokes evoking the deep blues of the open ocean.

Knitting needles points to the artist’s respective destinations in the World Atlas; Fiji on the left, Tahiti on the right. Photo credit: Michelle Schwengel-Regala
This illustration show the latitude and longitude coordinates that directly sits between the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn. Map Source: ibiblio.org/; digital rendering by Bailey Ferguson

Together they realized stories the painting could tell about the Pacific Ocean. The knitted fiber was chosen for its reflective properties and topographic appearance, referencing the ship’s multibeam sonar survey of the ocean floor.

The painting sits between the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn, and each panel’s sides offer notes written in copperpoint (copper being a component of polymetallic nodules, some of the contentious resources potentially available on the ocean floor).  The knitted fiber was chosen for its reflective properties and topographic appearance, referencing the ship’s multibeam sonar survey of the ocean floor.  Engage with this work by turning on your flash photography and activate a shift in the appearance of the textile! The stitches trace the routes these artists took across the great blue expanse, linking them to the history of the region.  Acknowledging that these modern voyages were made possible with state-of-the-art technology, homage is paid to the generations of ancient seafarers who navigated these routes for centuries. 

Detail of right panel: Hawaii to Tahiti. Photo credit: Michelle Schwengel-Regala
Detail image of the copperpoint application illustrating the port of departure and latitude coordinates. Photo credit: Michelle Schwengel-Regala

The painting sits between the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn, and each panel’s sides offer notes written in copperpoint (copper being a component of polymetallic nodules, some of the contentious resources potentially available on the ocean floor). 

Through this collaboration Bailey and Michelle have exchanged ideas and materials, crossing boundaries and bridging islands.The two formed interdisciplinary connections across art, science and navigation.  May the spirit of kīpaipai also encourage and inspire you to be curious about and care for the deep sea, one of our planet’s last frontiers.

Collaborate and Create is an exhibition a collection of collaborative artworks by Kipaipai Fellows emphasizing the benefit of networking and community. “A Diptych of Depth and Distance” is displayed middle right. Image Credit: Kipaipai Workshops

Collaborate and Create first exhibited at the Loft at Liz’s in Los Angeles, CA from Jan 18 – March 3, 2020. The exhibition is now on view at The Lancaster Museum of Art & History (MOAH) until August 16, 2020. Experience the virtual tour. Curated by MOAH’s Director/Senior Curator Andi Campognone and Assistant Curator Robert Benitez.

“A Diptych of Depth and Distance” 2019

Medium: acrylic, pastel, equatorial seawater, reflective thread, and copperpoint on archival paper mounted to wood

diptych, 16x24x1.5”
(2 panels 16x12x1.5”)