The Plankton Project: Exploring Marine Biodiversity and Vulnerability through Ceramic Art

by | Jul 3, 2022 | All


The Plankton Project celebrates the incredible diversity of oceanic plankton, while referencing the varied threats to their viability. Plankton are oxygen engines, the ‘forests of the ocean’, and the base of the marine food web. Plankton are also marvelously varied in form- serving as wonderful subjects for sculpting in clay.

From the layered calcareous housings of coccolithophores like Calcidiscus leptoporus (see above) to the elegance of pteropods (see below), there’s a near limitless variety of shape in oceanic plankton.

To date, I’ve sculpted twelve individual species of plankton, with many expansions planned. My goal is to highlight the ramified diversity of plankton- while spurring conversation about their vulnerability to threats like ocean acidification and climate disruption. To evoke these threats, I’m creating a sculptural range of surface colors and textures- using a range of firing methods and surfacing techniques. Some surfaces are ‘healthy’, evoking life, photosynthesis, and balance. Other surfaces look burnt, degraded or bleached. There are over 50 components in the full body of work, representing the range of past, current and potential conditions in the marine environment.

I’ve displayed plankton sculptures individually in shows, but I’m currently offering an integrated, gallery-based display, adaptable to the needs to individual settings. Components can pedestal displayed or wall mounted. Please see additional images below for a representation set of examples.

Silicoflagellate 1

David Roon

David Roon

An artist working at the interface of visual art and Conservation Biology, and a professor at the University of Idaho (Natural Resources and Society).

Mixed media and printmaking, with a strong grounding in ceramics. Exploring the interface between humans and the global biosphere (particularly coastal and marine ecosystems). Installation, sculpture, and ginormous functional pots.

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