Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Capturing the beauty of Marine life

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Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee, a marine conservation artist, is on a mission to raise awareness about the importance of conserving the marine world’s beauty. In a conversation with The Pioneer, she takes us through her journey with the cause.

Tejal Sinha

The beauty of the oceans around the world is simply inarticulate. Every other day, we see a lot of people posting underwater pictures from their vacations.Many people talk about how beautiful the underwater world is.But a question that arises here is, “How many of us think about its conservation, just like the nature around us?”

Today, however, we have Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee, a marine conservation artist, who creates ethereal, intricate shapes she refers to as “characters” that are meant to invite the public into something very private.Her painting intends to take the viewer into the work’s moment of origin.Folmsbee captures various forms of the marine work through linear progression, color, and a visual take on abstract and representational painting.

Folmsbee, an avid diver, began diving with local marine scientists and biologists around the world and learning more about different marine ecosystems out of personal interest at first, in order to bring more reason and relevance to her work. She informed us, “What I was creating needed to make sense to myself first, as an artist and a diver. Then, over time, what I was doing seemed to have an actual impact scientifically.

Marine biologists and local communities began to approach me to be an advocate for reefs and programmes and work with them. I never realised the impact that the works I was doing would have both artistically and physically on a reef.”

Indian-born artist Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee settled her roots in the beautifully diverse city of Houston and is overloaded with ideas that she brings to life by showcasing them in multiple series. Speaking of the beauty of the oceans, not many people are aware of it. We appear to have advanced so far technologically as a species, but it’s no secret that much of our oceans remain unexplored. She said, “Out of sight, out of mind,” a wise man had told me when I was a teenager. I have always decided to prove him wrong.

That statement struck me as erratic but, unfortunately, true at the time. Not everyone has the experience of diving or knows what it feels like to dive underwater. If I can create that experience with my work underwater, I would like to keep doing so to inspire others to begin to want to care and have a stake in something that benefits and affects our entire planet.”

In her work, Folmsbee creates ethereal, intricate shapes, which she calls “characters,” that are meant to invite the public into something very private. Her painting intends to take the viewer into the work’s moment of origin.On sharing about how she brings the beauty of oceans and marine conservation to life through her art, she explained, “Over time, I have learned to gravitate toward the brightness, colors, and patterns you see in the marine world. I’ve also learned how to transform something that appears profoundly mundane into something ethereal, revealing its true beauty.

A talent that I have learned is to adapt to my specific style of abstraction and realism. It has taken me eight to nine years of dedicated studio practise to evolve into this process, where I have learned this skill. It often starts with a simple sketch; an idea percolates into a giant painting, and then a massive installation or interdisciplinary work of art.”

Her conceptualisation of her work always starts from the same place. Somewhere out at sea, that is where true beauty comes from: nature. Marine conservation is not something that many people focus on. To raise awareness about any such thing is a huge task; that was true for Janavi too. She continued to say, “There has been a time I have struggled as an individual marine conservationist. I have felt that dread of, “Why am I doing this?” No one cares. What is the purpose of my working so hard as an artist making art, and who cares? I have asked myself the difficult questions we all ask ourselves as environmentalists and as artists. Both of these roles are difficult in today’s world; they are both considered the not-so-normal path to cross.

The art talks and lectures the public works I create have impacted many and will continue to do so. I have realised the most important part of what I do is having hope. I will not give up that hope for the cause I care about, and it is deeply rooted and demonstrated in what I do and create. After all, if I fail at what I do, I can only learn from it and try again and again. If I give up hope, that’s losing everything.”

She’s always been a strong believer that in order to get positive change, you need to send out positive actions, and so her message and focus are on ocean optimism.“I don’t believe in negativity. I feel it is wasted energy and not needed to achieve a greater outcome. We are doing something good here to benefit all. I believe that the focus needs to be positive to impact a higher calling and a larger audience. Hence everything I creatively put out and alchemize is uplifting, educational, and flooded with light and happy energy.”

Ignorance has been the biggest threat to marine life, and Janavi believes it too. She in fact shares a real-life example with us: “In 2015, I remember a dive trip with my parents. I took a walk on the beach with my mother in the evening. It was very depressing to see that there was a fisherman hacking up coral in his net and throwing it back into the reef.

I don’t think he knows it takes 0.3 to 2 cm for coral to grow in 1 year; that’s ignorance. Not to mention, I saw the one travelling global tourist with a spear gun and an octopus coming to shore that evening.There had been no octopus sightings by the divers in the last six months. It’s the local divers in the Flowers Gardens that keep us informed at NOAA.

I think we could learn and implement that elsewhere to educate other parts of the world. I am sure that the fishing village in Kadmat would benefit from the information on local marine conservation educational efforts. It would replenish their fish and make their waters thrive, and everyone would benefit, even tourism.”

She’s in fact been the brain behind transforming Houston’s remarkable Aquarius Art Tunnel into an immersive passenger experience at one of the largest airports in Texas.The Aquarius Art Tunnel is a 240-foot-long, interdisciplinary, immersive tunnel art installation. Off the coast of Galveston, in the Gulf, there is a world of colour that roars with vibrancy.

She has captured this world by transforming this tunnel into a space of what it feels like to be underwater in our very own National Marine Sanctuary off the Texas coast, using my abstract and realism aesthetic.The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, protected by NOAA, is one of 15 U.S.

Marine National Marine Sanctuaries. Its reefs and banks sit relatively distant from shore, approximately 75 to 200 miles from Galveston, Texas. The sanctuary is home to some of the healthiest, most robust corals and deeper mesophotic habitats in the world. The artwork at the ends of the tunnel depicts the mesophotic, deeper zones of the reef and moves to the shallower depths in the centre of the tunnel; this is scientifically accurate to the species depicted in these zones.

She further ended the conversation by saying, “One day at a time. One dive at a time, and one work of art at a time. Given the opportunity, I hope to create a monumental work of art in India soon.”

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