Since 2001 Ellen Gallagher has continued to add to her Watery Ecstatic series, which consists of assorted drawings of marine life, some scientific and others imaginary. The series recalls the myth of Drexciya, created by the electronic band of the same name. In the story, an aquatic world is populated by the children of West African women who were pregnant when cast overboard during the transatlantic slave trade. Gallagher relates her labor-intensive cut-paper process to scrimshaw (the illustrative carvings made on whalebones, ivory, and other materials). The bright white paper, sometimes tinted with watercolor, ink, or oil, emulates the mammal bones used for such carvings, while the forms depicted conjure a world deep beneath the sea’s surface. Through Gallagher’s persistent markings, botanical and biological marine life suggests a utopian realm, adjacent to a horrific one, that speaks to opportunities and a way of life allowed only in fantasy.
Watery Ecstatic Series
12 drawings: watercolor, ink, oil, pencil and cut paper
About this artwork
Read more about Ellen Gallagher