Crochet Coral Reef: CO2CA CO2LA Ocean

By Margaret and Christine Wertheim and the Institute For Figuring is on display at UCSC Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery through May 6, 2017.

The IFF’s Crochet Coral Reef project responds to the environmental crisis of global warming and the escalating problem of oceanic plastic trash. Residing at the intersection of mathematics, marine biology, handicraft, and community art practice, the Crochet Coral Reef highlights not only the damage humans do to the earth’s environment, but also our power for positive action. The project constitutes an elegiacally beautiful, artistically complex, and socially powerful way to bring citizens together around a devastating ecological challenge—the survival of the coral reefs and marine ecologies throughout the world.

The Crochet Coral Reef has been exhibited in art and science museums worldwide, including the Museum of Art and Design (New York), the Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh), the Hayward Gallery (London), the Science Gallery (Dublin), and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC). The current exhibition at UC Santa Cruz, Crochet Coral Reef: CO2CA CO2LA Ocean, features immense sculptural crochet “coral forests”, delicate “podwords”, and a monstrous undersea ceiling made of trash (the Mitten”).

In conjunction with the showthe university is collaborating with the local community in a public art project to create a UC Santa Cruz Satellite Reef. This latest addition to an ever-evolving wooly archipelago of crochet reefs worldwide will be exhibited at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center beginning May 4, 2017. See for more details. 

Crochet Coral Reef: CO2CA CO2LA Ocean and the UC Santa Cruz Satellite Reef are sponsored and organized by the Institute of the Arts and Sciences in partnership with the Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery and the Seymour Marine Discovery Center. The Institute of the Arts and Sciences is part of UC Santa Cruz’s Arts Division. It is an interdisciplinary programming unit which creates public exhibitions, public events, publications, and collaborations with faculty and students, aligning with UCSC’s teaching and research.

Gallery hours: Tues–Sat, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Wed until 8 p.m. Closed on all university holidays.


IFF Exhibition webpage: here

UCSC/IAS Exhibition webpage: here

UCSC Satellite Reef webpage: here



“Coral Forest” by Margaret and Christine Wertheim, constructed out of yarn and plastic trash. In background hangs a section of the “Latvian Satellite Reef” courtesy of Tija Viksna and Gallery Consiento, Riga Latvia.


“Coral Forest: Chthulu” constructed out of video tape, tinsel, cable ties and drinking straws by Christine Wertheim, with contributions from Evelyn Hardin.


Visitors explore an “undersea grove” of miniature coral “Pod Worlds” featuring plastic bottle anemones by Nadia Severns and Vanessa Garcia. These sculptures are sitting on a bed of plastic “sand” from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, gathered on Kamillo Beach Hawaii by Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Foundation.


Visitors exploring miniature coral “Pod Worlds” arranged beneath “The Midden” – four years worth of Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s domestic plastic trash suspended from the ceiling in a fishing net.


Spelunking beneath “The Midden” – four years worth of Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s domestic plastic trash.



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