Meet Isabella Campos: 2022 We All Rise Prize Winner and Ocean ArtivistMarch 6, 2023
Hi! My name is Isabella Campos and I’m a high schooler from Florida. I am so excited to share my artwork with you all!
My art has featured all kinds of subjects over the years, but last school year I began focusing primarily on the ocean. I entered one of my first pieces, Changing Coral, into the 2022 Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Contest and won the We All Rise Prize and a Distinguished Honorable Mention! Since submitting Changing Coral to the Contest, I have continued to add more corals – so much so that the bottom is barely visible. Participating in the Contest kick-started my newest endeavor in art and marine biology: my AP Art portfolio.
The theme of my portfolio is ocean conservation. Specifically, how we, as humans, are connected to the ocean and affect it both positively and negatively. I want my art to inform people how we’re harming the ocean and encourage them to help save it by showcasing some of my favorite things in the ocean.
I started my portfolio thinking about endangered species, specifically the vaquita. For those that don’t know, the vaquita is extremely endangered— there’s estimated to be only ten of them left in the wild. I drew ten vaquitas to represent the surviving individuals. The vaquita is threatened by an illegal fishing practice called gill netting: hence the nets surrounding them in my artwork. Gill netting is used specifically to catch the totoaba fish, whose swim bladder is highly valued in Chinese medicine. I included pencil drawings of the totoaba fish and figures of its swim bladder hanging in market with their actual price tags. The background of my piece underlies the whole reason vaquitas are so endangered: greed. The background is made up of paper from Chinese medicine pasted on the canvas, painted with watercolor waves and the Chinese yen (money) symbol. The totoaba’s swim bladder doesn’t actually offer any medicinal properties, rather it’s a placebo effect that’s reinforced by the profit it brings in. The vaquita is only dying for people to make more money.
My next AP Art piece was on shark finning. I created my sculpture with a dirtied metal base to evoke the image of an industrial ship out on the ocean. The bars in the corners that hold up the lines of shark fins look like they do when they’re hung up by finners. The hands in the middle are also meant to be the hands of finners, as they are clothed in grimy gloves and holding a bloody knife. Shark finning is really harmful for two major reasons: firstly, that it hurts the sharks themselves since they can’t survive without their fins; and secondly, because sharks are an important piece of the food chain and they help mitigate fish overpopulation, encourage biodiversity, and more.
A Polluted Meal, raises awareness of the reality that humans throw away our garbage with little regard as to where it goes, assuming it’ll just disappear. It’s a harmful out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality. All of the plastics and trash we throw out eventually make their way into the ocean, where they’re consumed by fish, who are then eaten by us. Microplastics have already been found in the human body. Our apathy towards our garbage and plastics is causing harm to us, not just sea creatures.
I am currently working on a piece called Eubalaena glacialis Whale Fall. Essentially, it is going to be a large-scale model of a North Atlantic Right Whale skeleton with corals and flowers growing and sprouting from its bones. I want to showcase whale falls—which are one of my favorite things in the ocean—and tell people that even though it is sad, the death of a whale sustains new life in an otherwise desolate deep sea environment.
Two of my pieces, Orcinus Orca and Captive Orcinus Orca go hand in hand. They discuss marine mammal captivity in the context of orcas and their close social bonds. The piece that shows the impact of captivity is finished, while the other is still in progress. I am also working on a piece focusing on dolphin captivity and their seemingly perpetual smile that belies the fact that they do actually suffer in captivity.
I have also used plastics from around my house to make mini coral reefs and created and dyed jellyfish from packing tape and saran wrap. I have five pieces left to create for my portfolio. I plan to create my next pieces on bioluminescence, nudibranchs, the manatee unusual mortality event, and Taiji, Japan’s dolphin hunt. My goal will always remain the same: to inspire people to care for the ocean like I do and to do their part in helping to save it.
Thank you for caring enough to learn more about my heart and passion for the ocean!