Nan Smith is a sculptor and a professor of art at the University of Flordia. Her work uses ceramic figures along with digital photography and assorted other media to create narrative sculptures inspired by social issues. She states:
“Spurred by environmental and health concerns my current studio practice combines research from science with art. I have an explicit interest in environmental impacts to the land and waterways. Through this new work I hope to contribute to a growing awareness of human health issues and to inspire care for the natural world that sustains us.”
One such work is Mercury, which is on display at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida through January 5. Mercury is Smith’s response to the environmental impact mercury poses to the oceans and their ecosystems. The work was accompanied by scientific research which you can see here.
Her statement regarding Mercury follows:
The health of our land, water, and air is inextricably linked to the food we eat and to our own health. Environmental information can inspire care for the natural world that sustains us. Every year American coal – fueled power plants release 50 tons of toxic mercury into the air polluting our nation’s lakes and streams and silently affecting our health through the seafood we eat. My research combines science with art to reveal the danger of coal producing power plants along with bringing a message of the importance of conservation.
The contemporary figure of the woman bathing within the installation Mercury sends an urgent message of cleansing. She is a metaphor for removal of toxins.
Images in the foreground reflect her thoughts as she attempts to clean herself after escaping the polluted waters. Gossamer images on translucent fabric float in space offering a sense of time and her story. The narrative ocean spaces are integrated within the installation to offer a panoramic water environment.
Methyl-mercury is imagined as a vehicle moving within the ocean. This poison is pictured in the form of sleuth 1949 Mercury coupes as they travel, in formation, among the fish. The impact for fish begins with the southern based Gulf menhaden and the Atlantic herring which are found in the northern waters. The beautiful bluefin tunas feed on these smaller fish and humans will feed on the tuna. Many are unaware of the links of coal production to environmental health issues. Canned tuna appears in the water as does the effort for clean up imagined as a car wash through which the cars run.
Smith sent this work to CFile through our submissions page.
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