“Floating Islands”

In the western U.S., water is a precious and defining element. Particularly for wildlife: the species who can exist in a landscape often depend on access to water (or their adaptation to the lack of it). I read an article on Arizona endangered species; 90 % of them were dependent on riparian (beside rivers, lakes or ponds) areas. What could I as an artist do fro the riparian species? Ironically, we humans are also drawn to the same landscape areas, and displace many other species by building in them (where we are often flooded out). What could I imagine as an artist to help these other species?

One idea for riparian ponds or rivers was to build islands, or rafts, which would host waterfowl and perhaps other aquatic species. At first I was thinking just of ducks, but basic research led me to think that the more physical levels of sculpture could help more species. So I designed for use from underwater, to water level, to above water level. I built the first “Island 1” experiment in my studio, un-assembled it and took it up to a small mountain pond near the experiments on “Marten Havens”. Both were located on land leased by friends from the forest service where a historic lodge still exists.

"island 1, the first experiment in floating sculptures

I re-assembled “Island 1” and launched it in the chilly pond. It had sections of wood boards, dead branches, and one segment of wire mesh which I thought might provide nesting area.  I took some pictures, but realized I wanted people to understand the island’s purpose from the pictures so I added a duck decoy. But the more I thought about this series idea, I realized with small adjustments, more species could use it.

The “Floating Islands” were to become probably my most successful habitat sculptures, with invertebrates moving onto them within 24 hours and in one case frogs taking up residence while I struggled to finish the sculpture! The structure would set up a whole life web: invertebrates drew flying insects which drew frogs, turtles, birds, & fish drew larger birds, ducks, geese, and I always hoped one in Florida would attract an alligator, but the hurricane came by first.

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