The Curious World of Seaweed

by Josie Iselin

In The Studio, May 15 through July 10, 2022

Gallery Hours

Thursdays–Saturdays | 10 am–4 pm

Sundays 12–4 pm

Josie Iselin is the author of numerous books combining the art and science of our oceans. She holds a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard and an MFA from San Francisco State University. Her writing and art focused on seaweed, kelp, and sea otter put her on the forefront of ocean activism, collaborating with scientists and groups working to preserve the kelp forests of our Pacific Coast. Through art, design and research Iselin celebrates the marine flora and brings thoughtfulness and stewardship to this realm of our oceans. You can often find her on various coasts at low tide exploring tide pools and investigating the intertidal realm.

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Colorful, contemporary seaweed portraits combine with fascinating historical imagery to create an exhibit that takes us deep into the beauty and science of seaweed. The Curious World of Seaweed is a journey into the underrepresented stories of the marine algae, (seaweed and kelp) flourishing just under the dynamic waves of the Pacific Ocean. In The Studio, Josie Iselin exhibits the artwork that inspired the research and writing of her book, and makes us appreciate in awe these dynamic and spectacular organisms of the ocean world or found flung up on a local beach or in the tide-pools. 

The seaweeds have taken me on a visual and ecological adventure that I could never have imagined would be so profound. Marine algae (seaweed and kelp) are extraordinarily beautiful—vibrant and varied—and as the primary producers of our near shore oceans they are the underpinnings to life in the sea. They are the base of the food chain and they create habit, a place to live for the diversity of organisms that make the coastal waters of California so rich. And yet, the usual reaction to thinking about seaweed is “Yuck” or “Oh I never noticed that before.” Getting people to notice this “other flora” is my mission; and once noticed to be astounded enough to want to know more.

—Josie Iselin

The exhibition begins with five foundational kelp panels and then introduces us to the three color groups that designate the evolutionary lineages of the seaweeds: the greens (from which all our terrestrial, vascular plants evolved), the reds, and the browns (which include the kelp). We will consider the coralline algae, that calcify in their cell walls to protect themselves from the gnawing jaws of small herbivores, and encounter nori, or Pyropia as it is known scientifically. There will be a visual reference to sea urchin, the voracious kelp eaters, whose increased populations are threatening the bull kelp forests of our Northern California Coast. The bull kelp itself will be celebrated as will be the abundance and color and diversity of this algal flora of the oceans in multi-paneled artworks.

Seaweed at The Shop