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New Sculpture Designs Revealed For 2024 UMA Installation

The Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County (CAA) and South Walton Artificial Reef Association (SWARA) are proud to reveal the sculpture designs chosen by jury for permanent exhibition in the sixth installation of the Underwater Museum of Art (UMA).


The 2024 installation will include the following pieces of sculpture: Reef Goddess By Raine Bedsole (Santa Rosa Beach, FL), Deep Sea Three by Matthew Gemmell and David Showalter (Baltimore, MD), Sea How We Flow by Elise Gilbert (Santa Rosa Beach, FL), Poseidon’s Throne by Nathan Hoffman (Highlandville, MO), Bubby Barnacles by Donna Conklin King (East Orange, NJ), Sunken Spores by Ashley Rivers (Gulfport, FL), and Ring My Bell by Bradley Touchstone (Santa Rosa Beach, FL).


Named in 2018 by TIME Magazine as one of 100 “World’s Greatest Places,” the UMA is presented as part of CAA’s Art In Public Spaces Program and augments SWARA’s mission of creating marine habitat and expanding fishery populations while providing enhanced creative, cultural, economic and educational opportunities for the benefit, education and enjoyment of residents, students and visitors in South Walton. The UMA recently received the 2023 CODAAward for Collaboration of the Year.


UMA sculptures are deployed with SWARA’s existing USACOA and FDEP permitted artificial reef projects that includes nine nearshore reefs located within one nautical mile of the shore in approximately 58 feet of water. The 2024 installation will join the 40 sculptures previously deployed on a one-acre permit patch of seabed off Grayton Beach State Park, further expanding the nation’s first permanent underwater museum.


Deployment of the 2024 UMA installation is slated for Summer with support from Visit South Walton. Visit UMAFL.org for more information on timeline and events surrounding UMA’s launch. Project and sculpture sponsorships are available. Please contact Gabby Callaway at gabby@culturalartsalliance.com for sponsorship details.


2024 UMA SCULPTURE AND ARTIST DETAILS


REEF GODDESS artist Raine Bedsole is based in Santa Rosa Beach, FL. Her work has dealt with the idea of 'vessel' for a long time. The boat sculpture and the figurative sculpture are both vessels of the psyche. Currently, she is working on a series of sculptures based on the female figure. Although they began as a 'universal' self portrait, these figures are somewhat androgynous. There is a feminine force that is present in both men and women referred to as the Anima. They are nature goddesses leading us back to a time when we were one with nature. Bedsole’s vision for the underwater museum is of a water goddess or nymph. She lives in the reef and her skin is made of water drops, open for sea creatures to swim and play in. She is born of the reef and nurturer of all the teeming sea life there.


DEEP SEA THREE Matthew Gemmell and David Showalter are Baltimore-based artists who have worked together on various sculpture projects over the last 20 years. Their approach to this project was to consider diatoms as inspiration for creating an engaging underwater sculpture. These single celled organisms that inhabit our oceans are invisible to the naked eye, but a closer look at these foundational creatures in our marine ecosystem reveals a vast variety of geometric beauty. The shapes formed by the diatom’s silica walls have intricate patterns resembling those found in classic Platonic solids. It is the artist’s aim to represent an echo of these geometric patterns that occur in different variations on mathematical themes. They chose to do this by using repeating Platonic solids. These forms naturally lend themselves to sculpture in addition to providing various surfaces for marine life to take hold. Over time the Platonic solid sculpture will take on a life of its own creating a habitat for many of the marine creatures it represents while also providing shelter for larger creatures that depend on these quintessential microscopic organisms. By combining biology, mathematics, art, ocean conservation, and inspiration from the tiny diatom they aim to create a unique engaging addition to the Underwater Museum of Art collection for divers and marine life to enjoy.


SEA HOW WE FLOW artist Elise Gilbert is interested in posing a question within the viewer's understanding that draws on the philosophical proposition of naturalism. One of the key questions this concept evokes is whether nature possesses inherent perfection. Some may find perfection in nature's complexity and balance, while others may argue that nature is chaotic, imperfect, or harsh in its manifestations. When the viewer experiences this piece, they are confronted with an image of two hands in reflection—the yogic hand symbol for the flow of wisdom during self-reflection. It is a gesture that encourages the practitioner to turn their attention inward, seeking self-realization and deeper understanding. The perceiver may experience the image of the hands with a sense of harmony and peace. As time progresses, the underwater piece will slowly undergo changes in its appearance, gradually becoming more asymmetrical as it is overtaken by sea-life. The question then arises: as the form changes, does its perfection also change? Or does it become more harmonious and perfect in the realm of nature?


Missouri-based artist Nathan Hoffman is creating POSEIDON'S THRONE. Poseidon’s Throne sits empty. The ruler and representative of the rawness and power of the ocean, is gone. Where to? That we do not know, but who will take his place? Hoffman wants the viewer of this sizable throne to imagine themselves taking the seat. It is a huge burden, but one that we all must take up if we are to save the ocean from ourselves. We have the power to do it, just as we had the power to destroy it. The throne will act as a symbol of the power we all yield, if we so choose to take it. The throne will also have many areas for fish and ocean life to inhabit and move throughout it, symbolizing that we must work together in order for our worlds to coexist. Ocean life inhabiting the piece also symbolizes that when given the right opportunities there is hope for renewal and the ocean can flourish once again.


When building the concept for her piece BUBBLY BARNACLES, artist Donna Conklin King thought about the duality of decay and resiliency and found inspiration in barnacles. Barnacles stick to the undersides of vessels, to other sea life, to each other, and to pretty much anything they come in contact with. While they are an annoyance, the beauty in their destruction is also their strength - the glue! They secrete a fast-curing cement that is among the most powerful natural glue known. The glue is so strong that researchers are trying to determine how it can be used commercially. The piece is titled Bubbly Barnacles because these barnacles are round like a bubble and hollow to allow space for sea creatures to make a living reef. Rather than being destructive or unwanted, these barnacles are welcome and inviting. The tallest central component consists of three large oblong asymmetrical forms that have openings you can see through. Fish can swim through them, and Divers can look through them. Divers can also shine a light into any of the 6+ barnacles at the base of the sculpture, and hopefully find some delightful surprises living or hiding inside.


SUNKEN SPORES by artist Ashley Rivers is a piece based off a few ceramic mushrooms she created in the past. Mushrooms are vital to ecosystems around the world. Through mycelium, mushrooms help other plants share nutrients and communicate through chemical signals. Created mostly of concrete, with metal mesh stabilizers, the piece will stand roughly 6' 2" tall. The shapes within the piece will allow the perfect surfaces for future corals and anemones to grow, offering new habitats, feeding, spawning, and nursery grounds for over 1 million aquatic species- a perfect analogy to how real mushrooms help other plants share nutrients above ground.


RING MY BELL is an interactive sculpture based on the historical form of an offshore bell buoy from artist Bradley Touchstone. Visitors will be able to ring the bell inside the tower using a striker that is permanently attached to the structure. The primary material for the piece is solid steel bar stock and 1/4" plate. The four sides of the tower include cutout illustrations of sea life.


To learn more and view all UMA sculptures, visit umafl.org.

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