Ocean Art at its Finest – The Smithsonian Brings It

Soul-enriching opportunity alert! Two very beautiful, very different new exhibits are going on display next week at my favorite Hall of Wonders – the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Starting Tuesday, September 17th, twenty of Brian Skerry’s most breathtaking and thought-provoking photographs will be featured in a “Portraits of Planet Ocean” exhibit on the 1st floor of Sant Ocean Hall.

Skerry said this about the upcoming exhibit, “I am deeply honored to have an exhibit of my work at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. This creatively designed show will bring visitors into the sea for an intimate look at marine wildlife while highlighting environmental threats and the value of conservation. The show gives a fresh, new perspective to the photographs and I am excited about continuing to reach new audiences about the magnificence of the sea!”

Earlier this year, the Smithsonian asked people to vote for the Skerry image that best represents a “Vanishing World” theme for the display, and the winners have been chosen. I’m happy to see that some “charismatic microfauna” made the cut, in addition to the very compelling seal, manatee, and whale photographs.

Speaking of charismatic microfauna, both Skerry and fine artist Corneila Kubler Kavanagh will be featured in “Fragile Beauty: The Art & Science of Sea Butterflies,” also in the Sant Ocean Hall.

Kavanagh has brought the tiny sea butterfly into our visible world with her soaring, elegant sculptures. She has been collaborating with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution ocean acidification researcher Gareth Lawson to capture the movement and importance of these imperiled animals, who are showing signs of extreme stress as our seas rapidly change.

Pteropods, planktonic animals including the sea butterflies and their arch-nemesis the sea angels, are some of the most essential prey items in the ocean. As our guest plankton reporter Casey Deiderich said last week, “If the phytoplankton are at the base of the food chain, then the zooplankton are at the first rung.”

Hopefully, this special show can help people understand what is at stake so we can find the political will to dial up our national efforts to combat climate change. Not only that, but if you don’t have a boat and a microscope you may never get to see a pteropod in person, so don’t miss this opportunity to gaze upon their ethereal beauty in these two exhibits.

As if this all wasn’t enough reason to make haste to the Smithsonian, did you know they have two giant squid there? My family had to drag me away when we visited a few years ago. I could have poked around the ocean exhibits for days. And there was only one giant squid then.

We are heading to DC again next month and good luck getting me out of the Ocean Hall this time, because in addition to 100% more giant squid, there is now a high concentration of beautiful ocean art to be lingered over. My kids can head to the Air and Space Museum without me.