Project Funded by a Creative Research Grant
Washington University, St. Louis, MO 2011

As a sailor I have sailed out of the sight of land and had the experience of feeling extremely small in the ocean world where land is no longer in view. It is something one never forgets. And yet, the ocean being so vast has not escaped the impact of the human race. The deterioration of our waters has been created by mankind- and my art addresses this global concern.

The relationship of human beings to the sea provides the foundation for my creative works. Another connected strand in my work is the problems caused to the ocean’s ecosystem by pollution. Plastic is being consumed at an alarming rate by our wildlife and 10% of all plastic made ends up in the ocean Our coral reefs are dying at an alarming rate at the same time we are realizing the oceans are linked to our health and healing in constantly new ways. Horseshoe crab blood is harvested to test for dangerous bacteria and ocean sponges might be the next cure for some cancers. Recent works such as Dying Ocean, changes each time it is installed-representing the fact that our bodies and the ocean are constantly changing and never the same.

The Gulf Project is an immersion in the Gulf of Mexico from Johnson’s Bayou to Grand Isle, Louisiana. My plan is to travel with a mobile studio and do in depth research on pollution in the area. The RV will be a mobile studio so I can travel with papermaking supplies and frames and make paper in the ocean or cast pieces along the shore. I plan to document and collect debris along the shores to be used in the work based on this research. A new addition to my work will be sound, In the past I have collected things and taken them back to my studio to incorporate in work. The Gulf Project would allow me to take my studio practice to the sight of my interests. I have found that being in an area for an extended period of time affects how I connect to the site. In Here No More, the laser cut steel pieces are a result of picking up broken shells along a deserted beach. They represent the constant changes that evolve in a natural way, and sometimes not. By having a mobile studio I will be able to incorporate a new method of documentation in my work that is more immediate. This new method of working will be incorporated in my current methodologies.

The work for the Gulf Project will combine the mapping of the gulf through handmade paper, sound and found objects created on site. I am continually investigating paper and how I can push its properties. I am currently experimenting with flax being left outdoors, and so far a sheet has survived all the storms in the past month. The immediacy of a mobile studio to record impressions with my paper is of great interest to me in further developing my practice. This method of recording goes back many years when I used to prepare gum transfer paper for lithographs in order to record patterns and textures. The merging of the “field work” and the studio work will add a new dimension to my studio practice.

My work is the catalyst to create conversation and awareness about the deterioration of our greatest resource-water. By creating an exhibition from the Gulf Project I want to bring awareness to the viewer and create a dialog about the state of our planet today. The exhibitions both in Denmark and Texas produced those results-as this is a world wide problem. Recently my work was shown as part of a scientific conference in Hawaii on ocean debris. The visual arts can be a powerful tool for awareness and change and it is my goal to continue doing research and artwork that address my interest in bodies of water. The sea is a metaphor-one infinitely larger than ourselves-for the fluids that pulse through us and sustain us.


Our relationship to the sea is the foundation of Joan Hall’s creative works. Plastic is becoming a global problem, polluting our great- est resource–WATER.

In June 2011, Hall and her studio assistant, Danielle Spradley, drove an RV to the Gulf of Mexico to document pollution on the coast of Louisiana. This “mobile studio” allowed her to integrate “field work” into her studio practice. These forty works are a result of this trip.

Near the Texas border in Johnson’s Bayou, plastic containers, rope, and gloves washed up on the shore each day from as far away as Haiti. They were combined with handmade paper to document, map, and freeze the pollution as relics of a specific time.

Grande Isle, located south of New Orleans, was opened just after the 2011 oil spill. Clean-up gloves filled with oily residue, hard hats, and plastic washed up constantly on the shore. The “black sand” left on the beach after a very low tide proved to actually be coagu- lant used to dry up oil in the water.

As an experienced sailor, Hall has experienced the vastness of the ocean beyond the sight of land, and yet has not escaped the im- pact of the human race.

Johnson’s Bayou 2012
124″ x 142″ x 4.5″
20 elements approximately 20″ x 27″ 3″ each
Handmade Paper, detritus, steel

Grand Isle 2012
109″ x 179″ x 4.5″
20 elements approximately 20″ x 27″ 3″ each
Handmade Paper, detritus, steel

Rigs to Reef(Grand Isle), 2012
60″ x 20″ x 18″ framed
Etched steel with motion activated recording
Original score written and performed by Hollis Taylor, field recording by Joan Hall

Listen to the original score here


< back to Exhibitions