Skip to main content
Abigail Losli standing in front of her paintings

Art inspired by marine science debuts at SPARK reception

By Srila Nayak

Artist Abigail Losli (BFA '16)

Artist Abigail Losli (BFA '16) will exhibit her painting, "Five Days at Sea," at the SPARK kickoff reception October 7 after she participated with scientists on an exhilarating and eye-opening research cruise on the Pacific Ocean. Launching a yearlong celebration of arts and science at OSU, the reception will be held on the third floor of the Learning Innovation Center from 4-6 pm.

Abigail Losli's ocean paintings

Losli accompanied an all-female scientific crew led by Sarah Henkel, a senior researcher at Hatfield Marine Science Center, on a five-day research cruise in June this year. The research team aboard R/V Pacific Storm conducted a study of organisms and habitat classification on the seafloor between Newport and Coos Bay to obtain a greater understanding of the seafloor in preparation of offshore wind energy installations. The cruise was sponsored and funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) with support from the Colleges of Science and Liberal Arts.

Sarah Henkel with colleague checking out samples in a boat

Marine biology doctoral student Maritza Mendoza and Abi Losli process samples from the seafloor.

This unique collaboration between arts and science was the first event of SPARK, a yearlong celebration of the convergence between the arts and science at OSU throughout 2016-2017. Abigail's 24" x 24" painting captures her experiences at sea and reflects the coexistence of arts and science during the research voyage. Losli's painting will also be exhibited at the October 2016 State of the Coast conference in Glenden, Ore.

But that's not all. Losli's paintings at sea will be exhibited at the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HSMC) and then transferred for permanent display to the new Marine Studies Initiative in Newport currently under construction. The striking images of water and its reflection of light were painted by Losli at sea and form the series called "Five Days at Sea," which will also be exhibited at the SPARK reception. The horizontal panel comprises five 8" x 8" acrylic paintings, one representing each day Losli and the research team were at sea (pictured at top).

Sarah Henkel, Abigail Losli, and team on their boat

(From R to L) Marine researcher Sarah Henkel, undergraduates Brittney Bair and Anna Le, artist Abigail Losli and postdoc Lenaïg Hemery

Earlier this year Losli exhibited her water series, "Life and Living," at Fairbanks Gallery and West Gallery on campus—a set of 100 vivid panels depicting moving water that constituted her BFA thesis.

But the research cruise gave Losli her first opportunity to spend time on the water and observe the sea at close quarters. Her days involved helping scientists with process samples, engage in wide-ranging conversations about science and art and long stretches of painting.

"I was amazed by the different colors of water and the change in light. If there was a cloud I could see the difference in color. The cruise allowed me to do a more in-depth study of water," said Losli.

Not surprisingly, one of Losli's artistic studies is a diptych called "Morning Day Five/Mid-Morning Day Five" that captures the changing colors of the sea.

Abigail Losli's ocean paintings

The cruise was one of the first ventures of the cross-disciplinary Marine Studies Initiative (MSI) at OSU, of which Henkel is a member. MSI aims to foster collaboration among disciplines from across multiple colleges, including the natural and social sciences and the arts to pioneer new research and experiential learning programs about the coastal and ocean systems.

Henkel, whose brainchild this was, recounted how having Losli onboard and witnessing her daily paintings influenced her own perspective of the ocean and the research cruise. "Having an artist on the boat made me see the beauty in so many elements of both the ocean and our work." Henkel looks forward to creating her own art to encapsulate the essence of a scientific voyage. "I have two scenes in mind that I want to try to paint that I think communicate the sense of a research cruise."

While Losli says it was a "honor" to assist the scientists with processing of sea organisms, such as brittle sea stars, she particularly cherishes the warmth and camaraderie she encountered during the cruise and the freedom to ask questions of Henkel and her team.

"I never felt like an outsider. That is something I will take with me—the ability to ask questions with confidence and in different scenarios. I am excited about what will come from it as I continue to work and reflect in my studio."

Read more

Art meets Science on the Pacific
Sci-fi author and scientist David Brin visits OSU
Sparking a year of arts and science