Update: Roanoke’s Olin Gallery will host a second reception for the Roanoke Reef and Phenomenal Indicators exhibitions on Friday, Feb. 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Food and drinks will be served. The gallery is open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week.
Crochet needles, yarn, and more than a hundred hands created a unique semblance of sea life now on display at Roanoke College.
The Roanoke Reef, an art exhibition known as the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, debuted Jan. 25 at the College’s Olin Gallery.
Visitors will find more than 1,800 multi-colored yarn pieces crocheted by people in the Roanoke Valley and throughout the country in the past year and a half. These pieces resemble lifelike coral reef shapes, complete with starfish, sea urchins and anemone.
The global exhibition aims to encourage preservation of coral reef life through a series of satellite art reefs set up throughout the United States, Europe and Australia. Roanoke College’s reef is the only satellite site in Virginia.
The reef project is sponsored by the Institute for Figuring, a Los-Angeles based non-profit that promotes scientific and environmental issues through creativity and education.
But this Roanoke Reef houses more than just colorful sea pieces.
Old coat hangers, aluminum cans and plastic bottles, glued together and standing against one wall of Olin Gallery, represent a Toxic Reef, which shows the harmful results of pollution and trash on sea life. Crocheters even wove pieces of plastic into some of the shapes. This gray and black display stands in stark contrast to the colorful reef creations throughout the gallery.
Another display represents a dying bleached reef with white and natural-colored coral shapes. The white shapes resemble calcium deposits.
Jan Minton, a mathematics teaching associate at Roanoke, is the spark behind this unique project’s debut at the college.
A similar coral reef exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., caught Minton’s eye during a visit in early 2011.
“I immediately thought, ‘Roanoke College should do this,’” said Minton, who was drawn to the project’s unusual combination of math, science and art. A large number of single crochet stitches form these coral shapes into a curving pattern that resembles hyperbolic geometry.
Beginning in the fall of 2011, Minton hosted meetings at Roanoke for people throughout the community to learn about the exhibition and crochet coral pieces for it. The word spread, and Roanoke faculty, staff and some students studying science crocheted starfish and other coral pieces to contribute.
“It has really caught the fancy of some people,” Minton said, explaining that local residents have arrived this week with bags full of coral pieces for the exhibit’s installation.
Additional pieces will be accepted through the exhibition’s end, which is March 4.
Colleen Smith, wife of Roanoke Dean Richard Smith, even enlisted her mother, brother, niece and sisters-in-law, who live in Hawaii and California, to crochet for the exhibit.
“I have taken yarn and needle everywhere,” she said. “Everyone can be an artist.”
Incorporated in The Roanoke Reef exhibition will be “Untitled (Symbiosis),” created by Amanda Agricola and Mateo Marquez. This is an interactive installation that explores the concept of long-term mutuality between two or more biological entities. These reciprocal interactions are the basis of a vital coral reef, as well as a fundamental link in the development of ourselves. This installation goes beyond the basic biological correlation and enters into the contemporary, creating a balanced amalgamation of beings and technology.
Craig Voligny’s exhibition “Phenomenal Indicators” showcases work from the artist’s 2010-2011 Fulbright Program exhibition “Meridians and Parallels: Painted Abstractions of the Kenting Reef,” held at the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Taiwan in 2011. Along with his Fulbright work, the artist will include new work that focuses on decomposing trees, fungi and plants as natural climate models. In this exhibit, decomposing logs with fungal blooms, algae expelling coral colonies and fantasmic representations of species long relegated to historical imagination are depicted as hybrid interpretations between natural representation and a developing scientific aesthetic.
– Submitted by Roanoke College