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Posted 1:12 am
January 29, 2014
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Seaweed exhibit previews artist alum’s upcoming book

The beauty of nature is on vivid display in the main lobby of the Administration Building this semester in the form of three large images of seaweed.

Josie Iselin, the artist behind the images, earned a master’s degree in fine arts from SF State in 1994. Iselin is a photographer, writer and book designer and the three images on display come from Iselin’s seventh book, “An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed.” The book is coming out in March.

It was the diverse colors and forms of seaweed that first drew Iselin’s interest in seaweed as a subject. Iselin first used seaweed as part of a previous book but felt that it deserved its own book once she began experimenting with different types of seaweed.

“Once I started exploring seaweed a little further as a visual artist and a designer it was just intoxicating because (seaweed) has these really strong forms, really intense colors that range from kelly green to magenta to pale pinks to these beautiful olive browns,” said Iselin. Along with the form and color of seaweed, Iselin is interested in the fact that the plant is slightly unknown to humans, hidden beneath the surface of the ocean.

Josie Iselin, a photographer, artist, and book designer makes intimate portraits of seaweed, trash, stones, and just about anything she finds at the beach by scanning them. Photo by Rachel Aston / Xpress. Josie Iselin, a photographer, artist, and book designer makes intimate portraits of seaweed, trash, stones, and just about anything she finds at the beach by scanning them. Photo by Rachel Aston / Xpress.

Iselin collected many of her seaweed samples from Fort Funston, located west of Lake Merced and SF State, and the Duxbury Reef in Marin County. Other samples came from the East Coast. While growing up in New York, Iselin vacationed with her family in Maine, and has continued to visit the East Coast since moving to San Francisco. “An Ocean Garden” showcases seaweed from beaches on both coasts of the country.

Iselin’s book and the exhibit are a mixture of science and art. Iselin tried to present the beauty of nature while explaining some of the science behind it in accompanying captions. As part of that goal, Iselin wanted to show and explain the difference between different seaweed populations.

“One of my goals was to make the seaweed from Maine look as lovely as the seaweed from out here in California,” said Iselin. “(In California) you have a really robust variety of all three categories, the browns the greens and the reds, whereas on the East Coast the browns dominate, you don’t have as many of the reds, such as the really beautiful magentas and the pale pinks.”

Sharon Bliss, the Fine Arts Building Gallery Manager, was interested in Iselin’s work in part because of the connection to science. Although a date has not been scheduled, a talk on the biology of seaweed may happen later during the semester, according to Bliss.

The exhibit is part of an ongoing program at the Alumni Hall Gallery in the Fine Arts building. Each semester the artwork of an alumnus with a master’s degree is displayed in the gallery. Bliss aims to showcase a different type of art in the space each semester.

Iselin’s prints caught the eye of one student standing in line in the main lobby of the Administration Building.

“It’s nice to see some new artwork,” said Sam Rosen, a third year cinema major, “I see a lot of older alumni art on campus, but I think they should do more of this.”

The exhibit will be open until July 1.  Iselin will be present for an opening reception and book signing April 4, from 3-5 p.m. and will be giving an MFA visiting lecture between 5:30-6:30 p.m., April 24th, in FA 193.