A Sad Message Told Through Art

SeaLuxe loves the ocean. Along with that love, though, comes great concern.

Regular readers of this blog know we write about a wide range of topics, mostly in the name of education. We love sharing with you the reasons we use certain ingredients in our products, the benefits of using certain seaweeds, our favourite smoothie recipes, along with oceanic news. The latter, especially, is important for us to share as our beautiful oceans are under great stress and relief will only come about by education, care, and action.

Along with science periodicals, we devour news articles about our oceans. We’d like to share our latest finding, as told by an artist to Toronto Life magazine.

Gillian Genser is a sculptor in Toronto, Canada. She started small, selling sculptures made out of eggshells at the One of a Kind Show. She then expanded into larger pieces using bones, coral, and dried plants. This was in 1991. In 1998, she created a sculpture of Lilith (the first woman, according to Jewish folklore) out of eggshells. To create her counterpart, Genser began working on Adam. Instead of using eggshells, she used blue mussel shells bought from the bins in Chinatown markets.

Genser said she spent up to 12 hours a day grinding and sanding the blue mussel shells from Atlantic Canada to fit into the shape of Adam’s body. “They beautifully replicated the striations in his muscle fibres. I sifted through thousands of mussels and served them to friends and family two or three times a week,” she wrote.

Then, she became ill. It started with headaches and vomiting. Her condition worsened. Genser lost hearing in her left ear, her short-term memory became impaired, she developed spatial disorientation, she lost the ability to recognize people she knew. She tried everything. Doctors were at a loss.

She visited the Royal Ontario Museum one day where the curator of invertebrates mentioned to her that bones and shells accumulate toxins in their environment.

“Upon further research, I discovered that common blue mussels are filter feeders. They pump several liters of water per hour and concentrate chemicals in their tissues. In some countries, mussels are used to read toxicity levels in the water. Suddenly, everything clicked into place,” Genser wrote.

She was diagnosed with heavy-metal poisoning in 2015. Doctors figured the water where the mussels grew was probably contaminated from industrial waste so the mussel shells Genser had worked with for so many years were toxic.

Genser said she will never make a full recovery. She hopes that, through her art, others will feel a sense of awe and connectivity for the natural world.

“… I feel a terrible sadness. When we talk about environmental damage, we speak of declines in populations. Numbers and species. But I’ve experienced the suffering of so many creatures trapped in their polluted habitats. I now hope their voices can be heard…”

Thank-you Gillian, for your art, and thank-you Toronto Life for publishing such a sad, but amazing, story. To read Gillian’s full piece, click here.