The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth. Coral bleaching as a result of global warming was highlighted in the 2017 documentary film "Chasing Coral." Amid the barrage of montages of colorless coral skeletons, a sobering miracle is caught on camera. Out of nowhere, patches of coral glowing purple, blue, and yellow illuminate the water where there once were pallid fields of white. The coral, upending death in its very last moments, makes one more valiant attempt at survival by spontaneously self-generating a protective layer against the sun. This photoprotective pigments are what give dying coral their vibrant color. It is their last, beautiful cry for help.
Ultimately, death is inevitable. Coral bleaching is an issue that I have been familiar with, but relatively unmoved by, until I witnessed and experienced the passion that marine biologist and college student Zackery Rago had for the species. I myself have long since been fascinated by marine life and inspired by ocean imagery, but Rago's commitment to his cause in the face of seemingly endless frustrations and setbacks, along with the coral's colorful story of survival, have moved me so deeply that all I can hope for is to be able to pay back the passion, and to pay forward the awareness.
My primary Spring Show submission is titled "Rago," after Zackery Rago -an individual whom I witnessed work tirelessly to capture the footage of the coral bleaching. A majority of the film documented their failures and setbacks -battling technology, the elements, physical and mental health, etc. Creating this piece for me was also a tedious, albeit rewarding journey. The piece is not only an homage to the life, survival, and death of the coral reef, but also my statement on the process of accomplishing any challenging work of passion.
The series consists of 3 pieces -a wire headpiece, and a hairpin dangle, and a single earring (matching the hairpin). The wire headpiece consists of a coral habitat on the verge of death. The coral centerpiece is created with thermoset acrylic and is painted. The shells and marine life are made of silicone rubber, inlaid with pearls, shells, foil, and other sparse pigments. The covering is knitted steel wire on the back, and knitted monofilament in the front, both sides sewn onto the wire frame. The use of silicone rubber is for the translucent, jelly effect -as well as for its lightweightness.
The hairpin piece is a coral skeleton and attached to it are two strands each of rock colored crystals, pearls, and silver. These are to symbolize the pearls of wisdom and beads of hope that guide us through difficult obstacles -even death. The pearl and beads are also sewn into the main center headpiece. The coral skeleton was created out of varaform and attached to two brooch pins.
The third and final piece is the single earring matching the hair pin. The earring hook is made from sterling silver wire and embedded into the thermoset acrylic coral skeleton piece. The earring is meant to be worn with the headpiece to echo, balance out, and support the rest of the ensemble.
My name is Gloria Tu, and I consider myself a balanced blend of East and West. "Rago" was actually initially conceived as a Qing Dynasty Fashion Headpiece worn by the ladies of the Imperial Court. Fascinated by, and fluent in the English and Chinese language, history, and culture (among others), I am also very environmentally conscious and hope to be helpful to Mother Nature, who has always been so very helpful to us. Natural forms are always present in my work, and I've additionally included in this portfolio submission my wooden ring necklace & earrings series titled "Breakfast." I hope to change the world with my ideas, one design at a time.