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Christine Ren’s Surreal Underwater Artwork With a Global Message

Christine Ren Art

The worlds of Ocean conservation and ballet don’t often meet in an underwater setting, but San Francisco-based artist and documentary filmmaker Christine Ren is doing everything in her power to change that while conveying an important environmental message in the process.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that nearly 1.4 billion pounds (635 million kilograms) of garbage makes its way into the planet’s oceans every year.

Ren, with her credential as a professional ballet dancer and a Master’s degree in Marine Affairs and Policy from the University of Miami, is using her carefully staged imagery that requires months of planning to showcase how humans are perpetually taking the oceans for granted. Says Ren: “Through using a human canvas in my work, I hope to convey at a fundamental level that ocean conservation is a human issue.”

Blind Spots Christine Ren
For Blind Spots Ren was blindfolded with a garbage bag to help illustrate a message that consumers need to stop accepting plastic bags handed out by retailers and to carry re-usable bottles for their water.  Photo: Brett Stanley

“My work focuses on raising environmental awareness for issues facing our ocean, so staging the images underwater is a natural choice. The underwater sets create a narrative bridge for viewers, bringing them into the heart and soul of the ocean realm.”

Christine Ren
In Jellyfish Soup, Ren is posed “slicing through the sea of fishing lines.” Here the focus is on urging people to purchase only sustainable seafood as outlined in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide. Photo: Brett Stanley

“As a professional dancer, and also in the science realm as a graduate student, I had both the access to witness and support to experiment with the power of bridging knowledge across genres of expertise. It was a natural idea at some point to think reflectively about what my own unique strengths were and how I might bridge my three main passions, dance, media and ocean science, into a cohesive body of work.”

Christine Ren
Pre-production planning and conceptualization for each photo series takes months. Up to eight people are needed on shoot days to bring Ren’s environmental vision to reality, with weeks of photo and footage editing afterwards. Photo: Brett Stanley

“It took me seven years to make that first underwater photography series with Brett Stanley. Seven years of imagery ideas and dreamlike conceptions that no matter how hard I tried to put down, simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. It’s the something I can do.”

Christine Ren
Silent Killers tackles the destructive swath of fishing nets, which can last up to 400 years in the ocean. Shot in New Zealand, Silent Killers is meant to highlight the damage ‘ghost nets’ inflict upon coral and marine life. Photo: Jose G. Cano

“Sylvia Earle, a powerhouse woman and ocean advocate, has also been a guiding voice and inspiration throughout my work. “No water, no life. No blueno green,” as Sylvia would say. And seeing her speak at a University of Buffalo lab I was working at so many years ago was a pivotal moment in my career. She convinced me of the paramount importance to not only conduct research, but to communicate it. From there, I began the slow steps towards finding my own voice and way to make an impact.”

Christine Ren
Ren is championing net buyback programs that pay and train fisherman to re-claim lost gear which is then recycled into sustainable products. Photo: Jose G. Cano

“A Japanese concept termed, “Ikigai,” also persisted in my mind for many years as I attempted to learn the language for a time. Ikigai is a concept, roughly translated, that means a reason for being. Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Where does what you love to do and are good at intersect with what the world needs? What is your gift to the world? The one thing that you and only you can do in your unique way as a service to humanity?”

Christine Ren
With The Eleventh Hour, Ren’s pursuit of conveying climate change through art and not just statistics introduced a character, Mistress Time. The message? The countdown is on towards the destruction of our planet, but that by working together people can still create an energy revolution that will give nature the chance it needs to bounce back. Photo: Jose G. Cano

“I have so many plans for future works, it’s sometimes overwhelming. I fund the projects myself, so I am limited in my creation process currently only by finances. I’m currently working on two new concepts with Brett Stanley again, as well as Lana Chromium, an incredible body painter. We’ll be tackling ocean trawling and coral bleaching.”

To stay up-to-date on Christine’s projects, follow her on Instagram and Facebook. You can also visit her GoFundMe page if you’d like to consider making a financial contribution.

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Christine Ren’s Surreal Underwater Artwork With a Global Message


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