By Students in Studio I and Advanced Printmaking Students
Art Informed by Science: The Mediterranean Monk Seal
Instructor’s Note from Ms. Barbara Putnam: This is the first time I have done this assignment with the collaborative help of a scientist in the field. Dr Bundone is affiliated with University Ca’ Foscari of Venice and with Archipelagos, of which he is co founder, to save the critically endangered Monk Seal from extinction; There are thought to be only about 400. Currently, he and his team are working on a project to photo ID all of the remaining seals and catalogue them for protection and legislation.
Interspersed essay by Darius Wagner, III Form
Advanced Printmaking by students Celine Ma, V Form; Jenny Tang, VI Form, and Waverly Shi, V Form
We were handed a task that was quite out of the ordinary: to research the Mediterranean monk seal. We did not initially understand the ambitious expedition we were soon going to embark on. In collaboration with Dr. Bundone, we immersed ourselves in the fight of our lives, the climate crisis, while still learning how to transform what we could see and our passion for this issue into our artwork. Throughout this project we learned a lot about ourselves as students and a lot about our role in the environment. This project was a testament to the skills we have acquired in our Studio 1 art course. Dr. Bundone’s studies engaged us deeply in our work: seeing his passion for his life’s work inspired us each time we lay a brush to our paintings. Though we were in collaboration with Dr. Bundone, we were also very independent. We learned to remain patient as we faced challenges to fix “mistakes” that were actually bright spots in our paintings in the end.
Before we began our paintings, which would take us weeks and many hours, we had to understand this creature that is not often studied and is often confused for a Sea Lion; there are approximately under 700 left in existence. We studied its appetite, its environment, and threats to its livelihood. We wanted to be as accurate as possible to record the shameful circumstances of such a joyful mammal. The Mediterranean Monk seal has a very ambitious diet, it is often referred to as the dog of the sea, consuming up to 3 kg or 6.6 lbs of food each day. As we involved ourselves in its livelihood, we learned the seal lives in coastal, shallow waters and in caves which is a major threat to its life as it can get trapped, hurled by the tides and drown. Even outside the cave the Mediterranean monk seal faces just as many threats: microplastics, trash, and oil filled waters combine with the threat of getting caught by a fishing net or killed by a fisherman. The Mediterranean monk seal is in a desperate situation. Such an intelligent animal is weakened in its own habitat.
As a class we give profound thanks to Dr. Bundone because he had faith in our work and his passion for his own life’s work encouraged us to be better artists, students and humans. Dr. Bundone’s studies brought realism and accuracy to our work by answering specific questions for information about the Mediterranean monk seal to help us convey the ongoing situation occurring in the Mediterranean. The additional presence of scientific study inspired us as artists to create very accurate and informational pieces focusing on every angle, every shadow, and matching every color. We have had our fair share of struggles translating details from sketches to paint, conveying specific colors, finding how to make the presence of a shadow known, and blending colors. When our climate crisis seems less important than anything else, my generation must deal with these problems as those in power now ignore the scientific evidence. It is in our hands to make sure we have a future.
Top row (L-R): Andrew Hung, IV Form; Chase Hornstein, III Form, Claire Sudduth, III Form
Middle row (L-R): Darius Wagner, III Form; Josh Bergers, IV Form; Joy Wei, IV Form
Bottom Row (L-R): Pearse MacDonald, III Form; Weston Harkey, III Form