In praise of the tiny coral — nature’s jewel

My two latest linocuts deal with jewels — jewels of the living kind. Out of Many, One is a bird’s-eye view of part of the Great Barrier Reef. Made up entirely of coral polyps, this living structure stretches over 1,400 miles off the eastern Australian coastline.

From above, the reefs seem to glow as if illuminated by an underwater light. And yet the National Academy of Sciences estimates that it has lost half of its coral since 1985 due to coral bleaching. Warmer oceans stress the coral, which depend on a symbiotic relationship with algae-like protozoa that photosynthesize and provide the coral with nutrients. Stressed coral expel these protozoa and begin to fail.

Aerial view of part of the Great Barrier Reef
Elizabeth Busey, Out of Many, One. Reduction Linocut. 28 x 14in, Edition of 10, $350 unframed.
I was struck by the almost infinite number of tiny organisms that make up such a massive and impressive structure. A piece of jewelry for the world. And it could disappear.

Coral reef in the Pacific Ocean provide hope for the survival of reefs.
Elizabeth Busey. Refugia. Reduction Linocut. 15 x 24in, Edition of 11.

My second linocut looks at coral from a closer perspective. Here shallow waters make some coral appear to be above the water, and yield pools of a particular blue green hue. Refugia considers the coral around the islands of Palau — an isolated island group in the Pacific Ocean. Refugia means places where organisms can grow during a period of unfavorable conditions.

In the case of Palau, researchers have found an area with water much more acidic than usual, where the coral continues to flourish. Scientists think these conditions were caused by an El Nino weather pattern. The discovery of this refugium points to possible ways corals might adapt to changing conditions. Sometimes nature brings it own hope.

I’m taking a short break from my Beloved series to consider some new ideas and just breathe. Sometimes you have to get out of the studio and experience this amazing world.

Wishing you a summer (or winter for you southern hemisphere folks) of inspiration and wonder.

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