Artist’s nautical paintings come alive in the dark

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Staff photos by Allison Potter 

Alexandra Morse speaks to guests during the opening of her show, “Art in the Dark: Under the Surface,” on Friday, Oct. 25, at the Art Factory. L

During the opening of local artist Alexandra Morse’s “Art in the Dark: Under the Surface” at the Art Factory, the lights suddenly went out, revealing a wall of bioluminescence shining blue and green from the darkness.

The glow-in-the-dark addition to several of her paintings was in keeping with the artist’s tendency to push her ocean-themed art in new directions. In her previous work, she made use of a range of undersea artifacts, from teeth of the extinct Megalodon shark to entire lobsters carefully preserved by Morses’s taxidermy skills and glued onto the paintings.

“I thought about how I had said that diving ‘took the mystery’ out of the ocean for me,” Morse, dressed in mermaid getup, said during her Friday, Oct. 25 show. “I’ve had more time to focus more on my painting lately, and I’ve been working to kind of put it back in.”

After a summer spent holding down three jobs, Morse said she quit in order to spend more time developing new ideas, which feature a range of mixed-media elements and some darker themes compared with the lighter renderings of sea life that have characterized much of her work.

One large painting, titled “My Boy Blue,” showed a tiny sea turtle being summoned by a mermaid with a mouth constructed from a fish’s jaw, lending an eerie counterbalance to the relatively wholesome turtle.

“I was painting at my friend Francis’ house, and she has a dog named ‘Blue,’ and she said it looked just like him, so that’s how I came up with the title,” Morse explained. “For the mermaid with the trident, I actually used a Spanish mackerel’s jaw, and for the trident I used the hogfish jaw.”

Other works included glass bottle fragments run through a rock crusher, recycled light bulbs and plastic Easter basket grass, beach grasses like nutsedge and cordgrass, fish bones and oyster shells. An enthusiastic scuba diver in addition to her painting, Morse has combed the beaches and the ocean depths for inspiration. One of her most recent techniques involved using sea birds’ feathers as palm tree leaves, as seen in “Firework.”

The night also featured a costume party, notably including several mermaids and even the Greek god Poseidon mingling with the crowd.

Another clever take on her undersea theme prominently featured a 3-D Darth Vader, wearing a black-painted horseshoe crab shell for a helmet. One of the highlights of the show, it sold for $4,000.

As part of the evening, Morse also raised funds for the local charity Half United, a Wilmington-based charity that works to combat global hunger. Between donations and a raffle for a massive Megalodon tooth Morse found while diving, she was able to raise $180.

Morse’s exhibit will remain in the Art Factory in downtown Wilmington through Nov. 27.


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