Weighing 60 tons, “Ocean Atlas” is the largest single sculpture to reside underwater, according to Taylor. A local student named Camilla served as the model for the colossal girl, who gazes serenely at her surroundings, her head resting sideways on one bent knee, further propped up by her arm. During low tide, her reflection appears on the underside of the sea’s surface, creating an illusion of a mirror for divers. To place her carefully in site, Taylor had to develop a technique that involved lowering and assembling the work in smaller sections.
“It was [created] using 3D scans and a layered mould,” Taylor wrote through email. “Once the individual sections were made, a series of interlocking keys ensured the pieces located themselves underwater. The challenge was to get each piece to not weigh more than 12 tons.” To aid marine navigation, he also affixed a solar light and flag to the sculpture’s apex.
Commissioned by the Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation in honor of its founder Sir Nicholas Nuttall, “Ocean Atlas” is part of an ongoing, environmentally friendly underwater sculpture garden that also includes works by local artists Willicey Tynes, Andret John, and Reefball. Its texture, designed to aid coral polyps to attach to its surface after spawning, encourages the colonization of reefs. Taylor intends for his work to draw tourists away from natural reef areas, which face environmental stresses from global warming, overfishing, and water pollution, among other threats.
“The aim was to show the vital role the local community and especially the younger generation have in conserving the islands’ natural resources,” Taylor wrote.
Previously, he has planted hundreds of underwater sculptures throughout the waters of the world that respond to environmental concerns and aim to relieve ocean stresses. His first and unprecedented underwater sculpture park was created in 2006, submerged off the coast of Grenada. Today, it features a ring of children holding hands, a man at work on his typewriter, and a still life of fruit. In 2009, he co-founded the Museo Subacuatico de Arte, home to over 500 of his sculptures, sprawled on the seabed off the coast of Cancun. “Ocean Atlas,” resting permanently in the waters of the Bahamas, represents a considerable increase in size from these previous works.