Horror Vacui, 2050 CE

tryptic total dimension- 48" x 108" x 1.75"

oil, acrylic medium, calcium carbonate on canvas


In an article titled “Can ocean acidification affect population dynamics of the barnacle Semibalanus balanoides at its southern range edge?”, by Helen Findley, et.al. the researchers forced a barnacle population model at Cellar Beach, (on the southwestern edge of the United Kingdom), to investigate the influence of Sea Surface Temperature and ocean acidification. The projections that they produced were horrifying. According to their model, the entire population on Cellar Beach would die out by 2060 from just an increase in SST alone, and when ocean acidification is considered, that date drops down to 2050.

 I’ve titled my series, Horror Vacui, 2050 CE. Horror Vacui is a Latin derived statement meaning “fear of emptiness” or “fear of the empty”. In a more literal sense, I’m referring to the traditional usage of the term, with there being a lack of emptiness on the canvas itself. Nearly every inch of the over 5,000 square inch total of the series is covered in barnacles. I am also referring to the fear of the emptiness of each individual barnacle shell and the shared sense of uneasiness around this form. However, really, I’m talking about the fear of emptiness in general.  A fear of ecosystems become vacant, abandoned. A fear of people having to leave their homes and communities due to changes in climate, leaving behind empty houses.  This issue goes much deeper than simply no longer seeing barnacles on the shoreline. It’s about the gap in our food web that they would leave behind. Our planet is a dense, rich, deeply complex system, that is starting to have major holes. I have a fear of the emptiness we are creating.

This work was supported by NSF-OCE-1559940 and NSF-OCE-1538626. Thank you to the Shannon Point Marine Center and Western’s College of Fine and Performing Arts for the opportunity to observe and celebrate the diverse ecosystems of our beautiful Salish Sea.