“The wonder invoked by Marin Art and Garden Center’s spectacular gardens expanded visitors’ curiosity and enthusiasm for learning about another flora—the flora of the ocean.”
Josie Iselin is an author, photographer, designer, beachcomber, and activist. She has sold over 250,000 books, including the beloved Seashells and Beach Stones, Sea Glass Hearts, Leaves & Pods, Heart Stones, and more. In 2019, she released The Curious World of Seaweed, which illuminates the marine world in a new and fascinating way. In it, Josie artistically tells stories of the seaweed and kelp flourishing in the Pacific Ocean, combining vibrant seaweed portraits with stunning historical images.
Josie holds a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard and a MFA from San Francisco State University. At the forefront of ocean activism, she collaborates with scientists and groups who work to preserve the kelp forests of the Pacific Coast. She collects, presses, and scans seaweed specimens before combining the historical process of cyanotype printing with contemporary scans to create colorful abstract compositions. She uses paper, metal, or fabric as her canvases. Through it all, she achieves her goal to give viewers the same sense of wonder they find when walking on the beach, snorkeling, or exploring tidepools.
Josie brought her exhibition, The Curious World of Seaweed, to The Studio at Marin Art and Garden Center in 2022.
“Despite the huge scale of The Studio for a one-person show, I jumped at the chance and had a wonderful experience designing and creating The Curious World of Seaweed,” she says. “Hanging the show was grueling and long work, but Marin Art and Garden Center made their gallery assistant available to me, and between the two of us, we hung a beautiful show. It was the kind of positive and productive collaboration I experienced across the board at Marin Art and Garden Center.”
The Curious World of Seaweed exhibition was displayed in The Studio from May through July, while an inspiring lineup of events were offered to enhance its impact, including an opening reception, cyanotype photography workshop, and an enrichment program with students from Bridge the Gap.
“The opening artist’s talk and two different workshops were all well attended, vibrant events where the wonder invoked by Marin Art and Garden Center’s spectacular gardens expanded visitors’ curiosity and enthusiasm for learning about another flora—the flora of the oceans,” Josie explains. “I worked seamlessly with all Marin Art and Garden Center staff as well as The Shop to create marketing materials and draw audiences into the show and events.”
“Perhaps the most meaningful event at the Center was the Bridge the Gap workshop I did with local high-school juniors and seniors, making cyanotype prints of seaweeds under the shade of the spectacular momma oak tree,” she recalls. “The afternoon was hot, and students had been at school all day, so they were tired. But the forgiving shade and peaceful respite of place allowed for a relaxed and engaged afternoon, chatting easily amongst ourselves about the ecology of seaweed, watching the magic of the blue image emerge in the water trays, finding beauty and joy in the ordinary sea weeds, and then being able to look up and find the beauty all around. The potting shed area proved to be the perfect spot for this workshop,” she says. “I have given this workshop dozens and dozens of times, but under the grace of the oak tree is perhaps its most memorable spot.”
Josie’s exhibition had a profound impact on students, gallery visitors, everyone at Marin Art and Garden Center, and even Josie herself. So much so that she has expanded into other areas and has moved full speed ahead as she endeavors to share her art while raising awareness for marine wildlife.
“The Curious World of Seaweed has continued on as an exhibit in other forms to other regional museums,” she says. “I cannot thank Marin Art and Garden Center enough for giving me the opportunity to originate the exhibition. I only wish I lived closer, as I would then be attending all those wonderful concerts on summer evenings.”