Jason deCaires Taylor - New Underwater Sculptures in Mexico

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Dec 08, 2009 / 0 comments

One of my very favorite artists is Jason deCaires Taylor. His underwater sculptures have long intrigued me. I can't WAIT to get underwater and see them. We've interviewed Jason about the Underwater Sculpture Park he created in Grenada. We've also explored the beginnings of the new sculptures you'll read about today.


The first phase of a new ambitious underwater project in Cancun, Mexico is now complete. The first three sculptures were submerged in November, entitled: The Archive of Lost Dreams, Man on Fire and The Gardener of Hope.
Construction of the monumental second phase is also underway which includes over 400 life-size figurative works, which when complete will form part of the world's largest underwater art museum.

Man on fire depicts a lone figure standing upright and defiant. The sculpture is installed 8m deep in the clear Caribbean waters surrounding the island of Isla Mujeres at a location named Manchiones.

The cement figure has been drilled with over 75 holes and is currently being planted with live cuttings of fire coral (Millepora alcicorni ).This is a fast growing marine organism, yellow, orange and brown in colour which emits a painful stinging sensation when touched, thus reflecting its name and the title of the sculpture. It is anticipated that over time the figure will appear to be on fire underwater. The holes have been drilled on each profile of the body so that when the coral starts developing it will grow in pointed fingers resembling flames. Thus, when covered in coral and viewed from a distance there will appear the silhouette of a figure in flames. The fire coral is currently being sourced from pieces which are damaged from human actively or by tropical storms. A small proportion has also been artificially grown.

The statue which weighs over 1 ton is cast from a local Mexican fisherman called Joachim. The piece is intended to symbolize the current environmental situation in which we live. The man is on fire, burning but unaware of his situation, we too seem to be unaware of the impact that our actions are having on the planet on which we all live.

Our dependence on and over use of our limited natural resources, such as fossil fuels, has meant that we have been living on borrowed time. The fire is alight but we have the capabilities to control it, the current generation must rise to the challenge.

Jason deCaires Taylor- Man on Fire

The Archive of Lost Dreams depicts an underwater archive, maintained by a male registrar. The archive is a collection of hundreds of messages in bottles brought together by the natural forces of the ocean. The registrar is collating the individual bottles and categorising the contents according to the nature of each message - fear, hope, loss, or belonging.

Various communities from a broad spectrum of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds have been invited to provide the messages, which, it is hoped, will document current values and aspirations for future generations to discover.

The sculpture is placed within an area of the national marine park which had been previously damaged by hurricanes and tropical storms. The choice of location aims to draw the high number of visitors to the region away from other sections of pristine reef allowing them space to develop naturally.

Jason deCaires Taylor - The Dream Collector

La Jardinera de la Esperanza depicts a young girl lying on garden patio steps, cultivating a variety of plant pots. The completed sculpture is sited four metres beneath the surface in the National Marine Park of Cancun, Isla Mujeres and Punta Nizuc. The empty pots will be propagated with live coral cuttings taken from areas of the reef system damaged by storms and human activity. This technique, a well established procedure in reef conservation, rescues damaged coral fragments by providing a suitable new substrate.

The sculpture, a synthesis between art and science, conveys a message of hope and prosperity, portraying human intervention as positive and regenerating. The young Girl symbolizes a new, revitalized kinship with the environment, a role model for future generations. The interaction between the inanimate and living forms highlights a potential symbiotic relationship with the life systems of the underwater world.

Over the past few decades we have lost over 40% of our natural coral reefs. Scientists predict a permanent demise of 80% by 2050. The
Gardner of Hope is designed to focus attention on this important, often forgotten, ecological issue.

Built into the base of the sculpture are specialized habitat spaces designed to encourage individual types of marine creatures such as moray eels, juvenile fish and lobsters.

Jason deCaires Taylor - La Jardinera de la Esperanza

Jason deCaires Taylor diving next to La Jardinera

Jason deCaires Taylor - the Gardener


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All photos and information courtesy and copyright Jason deCaires Taylor.