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Pieces of Sea

German born artist Gabrielle Berlet explores our unusual connections with the sea, one piece at a time.

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Art and text by Gabrielle Berlet

“I’m a big fan of the Ocean. I’ve spent time in the Caribbean snorkeling and became enchanted. There’s more Ocean here than Earth. I’m concerned for her as much as all of Earth and want to help bring awareness. She’s the Pacha Mama!”

“In creating my collages, I don’t do much research or planning. I find a backdrop that attracts me as I look through magazines and cut out objects that appeal to me; a ball, a face a fish, and keep cutting until I have a good pile. Then I immerse myself into the artistic process, which involves insight, spontaneity, self-doubt, many feelings, and let the art arise. What has to happen, no matter what the changes, is that I get to the point where I say, “Yes, I love it!” I have to love it. Then I glue it all down and it is finished.”

“The desert scene? Its from 2004. I lived in the high desert and loved the changing light. It had an Ocean quality with the sands and exotic ancient plants. I decided to try my hand at collage. This piece was my first. From there my collage art took on a life of its own”

“The pieces that involve water, fish and creatures of the ocean just come to me. I cut out images that I am attracted to. For example, I found a fabulous picture of a mako shark that I sat on for years. One day it fit into a backdrop, which had something to say. The piece came at the beginning of the “Me Too” movement. I didn’t purposely set the shark against the girl, that was chance.”

“I found the blue shark and cut it out, and it just fit this bucolic scene. Then I added the woman. It was so bizarre; it should never happen, right? It was like global warming. We are at a point where anything can happen.”

“The strange, pink deep sea creature apparently had only been recently discovered. It’s called an axolotl. I thought it was quite cute. The piece came together at the beginning of the pandemic. I call it “Shelter in Place.” I love the background. I cut out the robe years before. It was on a beautiful model. It felt like the piece was missing something and so I added the pet. People were sheltering in place with their pets.”

“The piece with the blue grouper coming through the window is a photo of Mariah Carey’s living room from Architectural Digest. I worked on it for a long time. I needed something in the window space and waited months for it to come together. When I saw an article on groupers, I knew a grouper belonged in the window. It took a long time but I finally glued it down.”

“The mouth and arms? I don’t know what it says. I liked the urchins because they made a kind of cuff for the arms—I am a bit of a fashion freak. But the two arms were not enough and when I came upon the mouth it seemed like a perfect fit. The electric plug came as an after thought. It was bizarre but seemed to work. I don’t know the meaning yet. Coral bleaching?”

“What the pieces say, I don’t always know. I have one piece that feels like a vision of things to come. When I create them, I have to be in the ‘right attitude,” with my humanness and irony intact. I like those forms of expression.”


Gabrielle “Gabi” Berlet was born in Germany and raised both there and in London. She came to New York as a teenager and attended Art School there but had to switch to supporting herself when her parents returned to Europe. 
She moved to western Massachusetts after the birth of her son and created a successful retail fashion business there which thrived for 25 years. In 2020 she moved to Los Angeles, CA and from there to the high desert and finally retired to the Coachella Valley where she started to explore her latent artistic talents in the form of collage work. She currently shares her life with her partner Mikole Kaar, an accomplished Jazz artist in Palm Springs California. Her email is: Gabiberlet@gmail.com 



Art

W I L D Life

Acclaimed National Geographic marine wildlife photographer Brian Skerry proffers a guided tour of his work—it’s a labour of love.

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“When people ask me how I got started, I usually describe falling in love with the ocean as a little boy growing up in Massachusetts, wanting to be an ocean explorer. I was watching the old Cousteau shows and reading National Geographic. So, my initial desire was to just explore the ocean. To explore and swim with sharks and whales and dolphins and shipwrecks and do cool things.”

“I think of myself as a storyteller. I am always trying to find meaningful ways to engage audiences about our planet. Over the years, a lot of my work has evolved into conservation because I was seeing all these problems in the ocean that I didn’t think were evident to most people. I knew I had a unique opportunity to reach a big platform. Ultimately, I believe that people protect what they love and that we need to find new ways to get their attention, get them to care.”

“My entrée into National Geographic was as a shipwreck photographer. Geographic had actually published a couple of my photos that I had randomly submitted; one was a Doria photo, on the anniversary of the Andrea Doria’s sinking, that ran in their front matter of the magazine. The other was a rare fish that I photographed in the Bahamas.”

“I was always fascinated by wildlife and dreamed of working with animals like sharks, whales, and dolphins. In some ways I think that I believed (and still do) that natural history stories were where I could create the most meaningful stories. Using science to better understand our planet and our relationship with everything around us. I’ve come to realize that everything is connected and that our actions matter.”

“Then I looked at orca research and learned about their feeding strategies and how this varies, depending on where they are in the world. For example, the orca that live in New Zealand have a preference for stingrays. The ones in Patagonia like sea lion pups. They are identical animals, like humans, but they’re doing things differently in different parts of the world based on what they were taught by their ancestors; traditions that have been handed down through generations.”

See: Exploring Whale Culture with National Geographic Photojournalist Brian Skerry




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