Catherine Rahn:

A treasure hunt in reverse?

 

The Maps

During the week of April 10, 2000 Catherine Rahn re-visited Hawaii for the opening of an exhibition of her work at the Elizabeth Doyle Gallery in Lahaina on the island of Maui.

If the island of Maui (at right) looks like a head and torso, then Lahaina is the black word floating on the blue water next to the figure's forehead.

 

Treasure Diving the St. Anthony

All of Rahn's work takes its inspiration from the creatures and events that are concealed beneath the surface of the sea. During the Maui visit, Rahn learned about a sunken vessel named the St. Anthony, sitting in 65 feet of water, roughly one mile off the coast (approximately on a straight line between Molokini Island and Makena in the detail map at right).

While traditional treasure hunters seek sunken ships as part of a quest to extract value that is closely guarded by the ocean depths, Rahn plays this game in reverse: she assembles a dive team (including photographers and writers) in order to return a gift to the ocean.

 

That is Glass That was the Prow

So when the time came to dive the St. Anthony, Rahn was ready with a group of shimmering, and very fragile, glass sea stars that she had made on the mainland. The goal: to explore the St. Anthony site with the artworks, affixing them (for a few hours) as if they were some kind of hieroglyphic writing, symbols or icons addressing and recognizing the beauty of the ocean realm.

Divers Surprised!

Although Rahn's work is made of glass, in the undersea world it is frequently mistaken for some kind of living creature. This was made evident during the St. Anthony dive, when a group of divers (not part of the team) arrived to dive the wreck, and discovered several of Rahn's Sea Stars on the sandy bottom. Although it is almost impossible to read a diver's expression beneath his or her mask, we could feel and see their surprise as they discovered these rare creatures, unknown to marine science. A hastily scribbled sign on a plastic note board ("art for photo shoot") kept the divers from harvesting these rare creatures from the ocean bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

A A Glass Sea Star Grabs the Prow of the St. Anthony

 

AA Sea Star whose transparent glass arms absorb filtered light and merge into the ocean blue

Surfacing after the dive, the St. Anthony in the background