Art Series: Micro Nomos & Ocean Interweave

Sarah Lafontaine

University of Maine, Orono
Bachelor of Fine Arts Undergraduate Student

Artist Statement

My name is Sarah Lafontaine and I’m an ink artist of both printmaking and drawing mediums. Over time I’ve explored naturally occurring patterns and forms. Through the research I do for my projects I found the work of Ernst Haeckel, a German zoologist who created elaborate illustrations based on his findings. His work has inspired me to work at a fine level of detail that captures the otherworldly quality of these alien-like forms. I like to mesh these natural/biotic concepts with vast and atmospheric spaces that have a flow or direction to them, incorporating design elements into my work as well.

The work that I do more often than not depicts textures or creatures from the ocean. I have a deep rooted fascination with the deep sea as well as crippling thalassophobia. These factors have motivated me to take a closer look and study some of the specimens you see in my work. I’ve always tried to capture how beautiful, while also delicate, these specimens are in my line work. These are creatures who have long predated humans, and yet we could easily become their demise. There is no adaptation these creatures could make in time to protect themselves from human interference.

It’s our responsibility to maintain a balance that our oceans have managed for millions of years, as well as with all other ecosystems on Earth. I believe that before any substantial changes are made to our level of ocean sustainability we need to recognize it as vulnerable, which has yet to be entirely acknowledged. Efforts towards a fully sustainable future need to continue, and so does our mission of education, awareness, and knowledge.

Ocean Interweave. 17.5” x 12” copperplate etching.

In “Ocean Interweave” I took some of the oldest and most fascinating ocean life forms and put them within the tentacles of a jellyfish. I created this piece when I first came across the work of Ernst Haeckel and I was so intrigued by how all sea creatures operate within an ecosystem simultaneously and have managed to adapt to their surroundings for millions of years. I tried to highlight some of the patterning and shapes you would find on these creatures. In the print you can find a jellyfish, feather star, horseshoe crab, fan coral, seahorse, kelp, sea urchin, anemone, and zooplankton. Many of these specimens are ancestors of some degree or have remained the most fit for their environments. This is a copperplate etching with aquatint.

Micro Nomos. 12” x 10” copperplate etching.

Micro Nomos” is a print I created in an effort to exhibit some of the ocean’s most intricate and beautiful microorganisms, Radiolaria. ‘Nomos’ comes from the Greek term “law”, which I included because of the nature of these heterotrophic microorganisms. They feed on phytoplankton, zooplankton, and bacteria. Their shells are actually a silica skeleton, which can come in an enormous variety of shapes. I find it incredibly fascinating how each of their shells appear to be randomly generated and yet always intricate and beautiful. It’s the law of nature that they always take these elaborate shapes. This is a copperplate etching with aquatint.

I typically work with ink, whether it be through the printing process or simply a pen. I love the rich contrast and detail you can achieve with ink. I’m interested in printmaking in particular because it allows me to experiment in many ways, as well as in a format where I can replicate and revise my work with different colors. My prints are mostly copper plate etchings, which requires ‘biting’ an image into the surface of a copper plate with ferric acid. The copper plate serves as a template which I can then use to produce multiple copies of the image.

Editor’s Note

Sarah Lafontaine’s Micro Nomos was the winner of this issue’s cover art contest. Our review team felt that the piece was a visually striking representation of siliceous oceanic organisms at risk of ocean acidification. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise and are absorbed by the ocean, the pH of the sea becomes more acidic, which places a wide range of organisms with mineral skeletons at risk. As the foundation of the marine food chain, plankton such as the Radiolaria represented here are critically important to the health of our marine ecosystem.