“The health of our land, water, and air is inextricably linked to the food we eat and to our own health. Mercury Art + Science features the research of mercury deposition and bio-magnification gathered during the development of the Mercury installation.” Nan Smith

My visual art practice involves research strategies often used by researchers in other disciplines including: interviews, site visits, review of past research, gathering data, studying current literature on-line and in books. I am including a sample of the research completed to inform the Mercury installation. This research method is an example of my creative practice used in developing a project. The information I gather offers me insights that spur visual imagery, not through illustration or known symbols but as created metaphors and poetic visualizations.

My inquiry began with the following research questions:

In my studio, I researched art historical bath figures found in painting and sculpture. I made molds for multiples, i.e. the cars and fish. I also created molds for the clothing for the human figure. I took great care in sculpting the facial expression, heightening the details in the sculpted body to punctuate realism to create resonance and presence. I took photographs of my model swimming and of bodies of water from all points of view. The photographs were composed in photoshop to create the narrative banners hung within the installation.

Tests were done for prints on fabric. Glazes were tested. The installation’s platform was designed to be sectional and disassemble.

Studio Process Images

The Mercury installation was supported by a generous research award from the University of Florida’s Scholarship Enhancement Fund. Special thanks to the scientists who offered their time and research information to me in support of this project; especially Dr. Andrew Kane, Director Aquatic Pathology Laboratory at the University of Florida, and Dr. Arik Diamant, National Center for Mariculture, Israel. I also wish to thank the scientists who allowed me to interview them: Dr. Daniel Obrist, Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada, Dr. Barak Herut, Director, Dr. Nurit Kress, and Dr. Efrat Shoham-Frider, Mercury Scientists, Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research LTD., Hafia, Israel, Dr. Muki Speigel, Dr. Bill Koven and Dr. Amos Tandler, who work on the domestication of bluefin tuna, National Center for Mariculture, Eilat, Israel, Dr. Tamar Zohary, Director of the Kinneret Limnological Laboratory, Migdal, Israel which monitors and studies water cleansing in Lake Kinneret. A personal thank you to – Brian Skerry, National Geographic Underwater Photographer for his support, interest and photographic collaboration. Big thanks to my colleague Stan Kaye, Lighting Designer, Department of Theater, who worked with me to develop the integrated light and underwater effects within the installation. My gratitude and thanks to Alan Saperstein for his interest in the project and for his video “Mercury Flow”. Special thanks to Allen Cheuvront for his critique of my photographs and for supporting my evolution as a photographer.

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