October 30-31st you can catch the Coral: Symbol, Substance, and Significance conference in the Big Apple. Mercer R. Brugler a graduate student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will be giving a 1 hour presentation titled “What is a Coral?”. Brugler specialty is deep-sea coral evolution, so I am sure the presentation will be slanted toward everybody’s favorite environment.
Symbol, Substance, and Significance will be a comprehensive examination of this astonishing organism, exploring its place in both the natural world and in the realm of culture where it has been a traditional material for art objects and jewelry. Beginning with the role of coral within the reef and the criticality of coral reefs to ocean ecology – and thus to human existence – we will turn to forces threatening reef survival, and to efforts being made by scientists, governments, and nongovernmental organizations to protect and restore them. We will address laws and treaties formulated to govern trade in coral, a substance that has been termed “too precious to wear.” And we will examine coral in history, both its evolving associations over time and its traditional place in the wunderkammer. Last, we will explore its changing role and use in jewelry, art, and fashion, with specific discussion of the move both to the mimetic use coral alternatives and the symbolic use of coral as an inspiration. Initiatives in Art and Culture has a long-standing commitment to explorations both of cultural patrimony and of art and ornament. In Coral, we again celebrate the object by placing it in the broadest possible context, discussing strategies and approaches to ensuring its sustainability.
Among those who have agreed to speak are: Michael Kowalski, Chairman and CEO of Tiffany & Co.; Richard E. Dodge, professor and dean, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Oceanographic Institute and Executive Director of the Center’s Coral Reef Institute (NCRI); Michele Oka Doner, artist whose breadth of artistic production encompasses public art, sculpture, furniture, jewelry, and functional objects, a significant number of which draw inspiration from coral and the sea; Godfrey Reggio, producer and director, who is prominent in the film world for his Qatsi trilogy (Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, and Naqqyqatsi, music by Philip Glass) which conveys a humanist philosophy about the earth, chronicling the destructive impact of the modern world on the environment, and for Anima Mundi, (music also by Philip Glass); David Wolfe, creative director and chief forecaster of Doneger and Co.; Sarah Graham, jeweler whose point of departure for her coral inspired work are the plates of the zoologist and contemporary of Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, published in Art Forms in Nature; Steve D’Esposito, president RESOLVE and formerly president, Earthworks Action; Dawn Martin, president of SeaWeb; and Géza von Habsburg, an art historian who has served as chairman of two auction houses and whose numerous publications include Princely Treasures (1997) and several definitive volumes on Fabergé. The conference is organized by Lisa Koenigsberg, president and founder, Initiatives in Art and Culture.