Art Costa takes us into a world of strange, sightless creatures that inhabit the darkest depths of the ocean. Costa makes his forms from reclaimed cardboard, papier mâché, and a variety of natural materials. His deep-sea denizens are richly textured and colored, and their faceless forms are full of personality and humor.
The number of species that live in the ocean is unknown. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, scientists estimate that 91% of marine species have yet to be classified and more than 80% of our ocean is “unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.” These statistics suggest awesome possibilities, yet research also tells us that the number of species in the ocean is decreasing as ecosystem health declines and extinction rates rise.
In Sounds Deep, Art Costa conjures a beautiful, dark world we seldom see. He encourages us to imagine with him, and to respect and treasure the lives teeming below the surface of the sea.
— Sarah Freeman, curator
During my childhood on a California dairy farm, I learned to construct things from found materials. I built toy cars from bubble containers and plastic bottles by adding cardboard wheels and parked them next to houses made of shoeboxes. By the time I discovered that this sort of activity was encouraged in art departments, my choice of methods and materials was well established. I combined cast-offs from construction sites with treasures from thrift stores and yard sales to assemble eight- to ten-foot figures. In the 1980s, these objects entered the California Funk art scene, led by ceramic sculpture luminaries such as Robert Arneson, David Gilhooly, and Clayton Bailey at the University of California, Davis.
My current work, made in Vermont, where I moved in 1996, is inspired by Sy Montgomery’s book The Soul of an Octopus. The narrator’s description of her friendship with an eight-legged “extraterrestrial” motivated me to explore images and videos of organisms that inhabit the deepest parts of Earth’s oceans. The existence of these fantastic animal forms, which live under such extreme conditions, has given me the freedom to push my cardboard sculptures to the limits. I hope my work helps inspire a collective effort to protect Earth’s fragile environments.— Art Costa