Making Was Below

This sculpture was grown at The Johnson Oyster Company, located about thirty miles (100km) due north of San Francisco. At this farm they use a culturing technique that grows baby oysters onto old, dead shells.


The lines of oysters are hung beneath long docks in the middle of the bay. They sit here for three years filter feeding on the microorganisms that live in the top few feet of the ocean environment.

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After three years the oysters had grown to maturity and it was time to remove them from the water and bring them to the land.


How do you clean a ton of oyster meat from their shells? While the sculpture was growing I was figuring out this vexing problem. After looking into many possibilities (a room full of carnivorous beetles!) I learned how natural science museums clean their oceanic samples; they place the remains into a body of water that is different than the one that the organism originally comes from. The scavengers in the new water eat all the tissue, leaving the bones and not much else.

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The sculpture was left in the backyard of my studio for an additional six months, allowing the sun to bleach the shells and insects to remove any last bits of sea life.

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Projects > art

Was Below - Now Above