The fisherman, whose name is Maurice, is 80 years old. He told the artist he has watched the shore’s ecosystem decline over the decades. “One of the biggest problems in the Mediterranean is overfishing,” says deCaires Taylor. “The fisherman, who has been fishing his whole life on the coast, said, ‘I catch only 20% of what I used to catch.’ That has massive domino effects on all the ecosystems; it puts everything out of balance.”
Another problem is pollution. Before installing the sculptures, the artist had to clear out garbage at the bottom of the sea. “It was rubbish, old pipes, discarded boat engines, and cables,” says deCaires Taylor. “I think we have a misconception that the underwater world is beautiful, filled with coral reefs, but that’s often not the case.”
Once the garbage was cleared out, he started lowering the finished sculptures underwater. Each face is sliced in half as a symbol for a double-edged problem we face—the ocean’s strength and fragility. “My work always tries to bring people under the surface to see what’s there,” he explains.
This isn’t his first underwater art project, nor will it be his last. The artist has created over 1,000 underwater sculptures across the world, from Grenada to Australia and Mexico. His work can be seen in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, among others, where they act as artificial coral reefs.