World Oceans Day – Marine Animals and Sea Workers
In the Ziegfeld Collection of International Children’s Art, there is a set of pastels entitled Marine Animals, a diptych created around 1955 by an unknown artist under the direction of Teacher Elias Nielsen at the Emdrupborg Kommuneskole, Copenhagen, Denmark. The work celebrates simple ocean life in deep rich sea colors: the greens, yellows, oranges, blues, pinks, and browns of starfish, clams, fish, lobster, sea fans, and kelp. The diptych hangs on the western wall of the library’s third floor reading room, its colors complementing the rich red seating, warm finishes, and traditional golden reading lamps.
Contrast with Sea Workers, a triptych, also from Ziegfeld, but hanging on the eastern wall of the first floor. This piece, which uses powder color and ink on paper, is painted in 1957 by Kasuke Matsunaga, a fourteen year old from Japan, under the direction of Teacher Takashi Shibata at Yui Secondary School, Yui-machi, Anbara-gun, Shizuoka, Japan. In cooler colors of gray, blue, black, brown, white, and yellow, the art depicts fishing as a way of life, with people united by their livelihood. Commented Teacher Shibata, “Three out of five boys are living by the sea and they are very good divers.”
The beautiful art from the East and West stands out, a much starker contrast to headline news: the explosion on April 20th of Deepwater Horizon, the largest oil spill in United States history. Eleven people have died and fifteen thousand gallons of oil are pouring into the ocean each day, as environmental and economic damage continues to escalate. From another perspective, we have the photographs of oil drenched pelicans, ruining of habitats, dollars lost in tourism, fishing, and real estate — all the more imbalanced by the overuse of diminishing oil supplies.
Joining art and science, we take stock. Why, in dealing with disaster, is there a lack of coordination and denial of scale? How will our ecosystems be affected in the short and longer terms? Will there be anything left to fish? Can we surmount global debt and climate change? What can we do to encourage productive dialogue and more social responsibility? How can we work towards sustainability, educating ourselves for the greater good of our planet?