BRATTLEBORO — When Vermont sculptor Art Costa first read The Soul of an Octopus, he says, he was fascinated by author Sy Montgomery's description of her friendship with an eight-legged "extraterrestrial." Curious about other organisms living far below the surface of the ocean, Costa dove into research that became his most recent body of work, "Sounds Deep," currently on view at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC).
On Thursday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m., Costa joins BMAC Director of Exhibitions Sarah Freeman for a discussion of his art practice and the mystical animal sculptures in "Sounds Deep."
Freeman describes the exhibit as "the conjuring of a beautiful world we seldom see, a world of strange, sightless creatures that inhabit the darkest depths of the ocean." Constructed from reclaimed cardboard, papier-mâché, and other natural materials, Costa's "deep-sea denizens are richly textured and colored, and their faceless forms are full of personality and humor," Freeman says.
Costa's use of repurposed materials in his artwork stems from his experience growing up on a dairy farm in California, where he made his own toys from whatever objects he could find, such as plastic bottles and old shoeboxes. He says that as an emerging artist, he "combined cast-offs from construction sites with treasures from thrift stores and yard sales" to assemble larger-than-life figures that were influenced by the Funk Art movement prevalent in northern California during the 1960s, '70s, and '80s.
Costa's current work is on a slightly smaller scale, but is no less arresting. Corrugated cardboard plays a major role, becoming the curved outer shells, flowing tentacles, and ridge-like scales of creatures that are inspired by what Costa calls "fantastic animal forms" that live under extreme conditions. "Their existence has given me the freedom to push my cardboard sculptures to the limits," he says.
"Sounds Deep" may feel otherworldly, but Costa's message is rooted in scientific facts and projections.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), he says, 91% of marine species have yet to be classified and more than 80% of the planet's oceans is "unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored," but a continued decline in the health of ocean ecosystems means that many species may not be able to tolerate conditions associated with climate change.
Costa encourages viewers to respect the lives teeming below the surface of the sea. "I hope my work helps inspire a collective effort to protect Earth's fragile environments," he says.
Admission to the event is free. Registering in advance is optional, and walk-ins are welcome. To register, visit brattleboromuseum.org or call 802-257-0124, ext. 101.
This The Arts item was submitted to The Commons.