by Jade Hoksbergen
🎶🎶 Pre-dive Clicklist: Sail Away by Surfaces
I paint, and really got into it during my teens—around the age of 13—it was the same time that I fell in love with scuba diving and the world it would open up for me. I called the Philippines home for many years growing up. My father was dive-obsessed, and we spent most of our weekends exploring our coastlines and the many islands the Philippines had to offer—often equipped with masks, fins, and scuba tanks.
Painting and scuba diving are two very different pastimes, but I’m glad that I was able to devote time to both during my formative years. Painting and diving not only allowed me to explore very different parts of myself, but they allowed me to fully appreciate “the human experience”. Diving reminded me of how, as a human being, I was just like every other animal—breathing, living, and relying on nature; whereas painting reminded me of how complex it is to be human. As human beings, we harbor a rich inner world, and whilst it is our biggest strength as a species, it is also our biggest downfall.
Whilst diving offered serenity and encouraged me to be in the present moment – opening my eyes, taking in the external world, and appreciating its beauty; painting allowed reflection and encouraged paying attention to the chaotic nature of our emotional world.
Indeed, both painting and diving can be seen as “outlets,” but their effect is quite different. I find that painting allows me to “shut the door to the world” as I attempt to hear only what is happening within myself. It allows me to get lost in my thoughts, and it welcomes unprocessed feelings to resurface. Diving, on the other hand, involves acute responsiveness to the present moment. For me, the appeal of diving has always been appreciation of the physical world; whereas the appeal of painting has always been appreciation of what’s within: our emotional world in all its messy glory.
I find both worlds to be incredibly colorful, and I believe it would be a shame to ignore either one of them. Both of these worlds necessitate exploration in my opinion, and around 2013 my passion for diving and painting found their way to each other. They collided, if you will. The subjects in my paintings took the form of oceanic lifeforms—undoubtedly influenced by the richness of life I witnessed when I opened my eyes underwater.
Diving. Together with the clothes I leave behind when I don a wetsuit, I also leave behind “me”—my ego, and all the anxieties that come with being a sentient human being. In the ocean, my own existence feels minute in comparison to the vastness of our blue world. And there I am breathing, I am alive, I am an animal in nature appreciating other lifeforms I live alongside. I inspect them, they inspect me. We co-exist, and life as a human being in that state of mind is pretty nice. It’s an escape, but it is also where I feel most alive and most optimistic.
Painting allows a different kind of escape, a different kind of liberation. When painting, the physical world is forgotten, and my emotional world (and ego) takes centerstage. Painting provides a license for expression, and I feel tremendous liberation when I’m expressing my individuality. With paintbrush in hand, I feel like I—and the thoughts and feelings I harbor—matter.
I don’t try to paint things as they are in reality. Mother nature is so skilled, and the natural world so beautiful, that I find very little sense in imitating her. Instead I paint in a way that is original to me—I paint my own voice.
Art can be many things, and it fulfills a different purpose for different people. Some may see art as a technical challenge, but to me it is about expressing my individuality and allowing vulnerability to exist. That’s why I think creativity requires courage, because it is not only the artist’s vision that is put out there for the world to see, but it is also the end-product of a very personal process.
An artist can’t control how people will react to their art, but of course they can’t help but hope that the artworks they create will speak to those who see them and make them feel something powerful, too.
Anglerfishes are special to me. They live in a realm that is mysterious and dark, and they carry their own light. I find the metaphor of their existence to really resonate with me, which is why they’ve become a motif in my artworks. I use them as a reminder that we all have darkness, and the world we live in can sometimes be dark and abyss-like, but we too can carry within us our own light.
I mentioned previously that painting encourages introspection and the appreciation of our internal world—one where feelings, emotions, doubts, and vulnerabilities reside. Certainly when I was younger, I had the habit of harboring my feelings and not making them known, for fear of being a burden on others. We all need an outlet though, and it would seem that art, and the ocean, is that outlet for me.
So, find something that allows you to just BE, and … breathe.
Jade Hoksbergen is a French-Taiwanese painter, underwater photographer, and writer. At just 26 years old, her images have been awarded honors in several high profile competitions and published in numerous international journals and magazines. In 2019, she co-authored Black is the New Blue Vol. II, showcasing her blackwater imagery. She is currently based in the UK, where she shares a love for the sea with her husband, Henley Spiers, and their two young daughters.
Tekkie la femme
Floridian cave diver, artist and picture maker Bori Bennett helps us celebrate the feminine side of karst culture for International Women’s Day.
Images, quotes and music selection by Bori Bennett
🎶 Pre-dive clicklist: Short Skirt /Long Jacket by Cake 🎶
I LOVE diving in the Florida caves, I could dive them every day (and I probably almost do!). I love taking photos on the surface of divers getting ready for a cave dive, getting gear prepped in the water on the surface, and taking photos in the cave. I want to showcase Florida springs more for those unable to visit.
My first camera was a GoPro. I was interested in taking photos of fish and coral and doing macrophotography. Once I got into tech, the focus of my photography changed from taking fish pictures to telling the story of divers. Now, I am interested in technical divers as the primary focus of my photography, whether it’s underwater or top side.
Diving, especially technical diving, is such a male dominated industry. It’s not often you arrive at a dive site and have more female cave divers than males. So, there’s something empowering about women tech divers that is very intriguing.
When we show up for a dive, I bring my camera, and start shooting! I am trying to showcase and highlight female cave divers doing their thing. Seeing these powerful women in their element enjoying a nice afternoon or evening cave dive together is what I aspire to share.
I don’t actively look for females to photograph, and my photos are not staged. The women I photograph are my friends. I want people to see that they are just normal tech divers, who enjoy diving.
I was diving at Ginnie Springs in High Springs, FL, and when I surfaced and took my hood off, a little girl said, “Look Dad, that diver is a girl! I want to do that when I grow up.” This was a heartwarming feeling to know that I could inspire a young female to do anything she puts her mind to.
From my time living in the UK, I was unable to dive often, and that’s when my illustrations started. It was basically my way of coping with not being able to dive! I mostly started drawing for me and then started to share it on social media.
Most of my illustrations are focused on water and environment conservation. I like to highlight the beautiful natural springs and the ocean. Anything related to water!
Some of my older illustrations highlight awareness of marine life and how to preserve and protect them. I am interested in environmental conservation and hoping my illustrations highlight this. I also like to add illustrations of my dog, Nabee, in some of my artwork from time to time.
I had the opportunity to capture a very sweet moment when my cave diving buddy, Christina Green and her wife Heather, introduced their one-month-old baby girl, Addison, to Ginnie Springs for the very first time. It was a very powerful photoshoot highlighting Christina gearing up, while also tending to her wife and daughter.
When divers gather at the surface we may see many differences, but as soon as we go underwater, we have a shared experiences that transcends culture, and gender. In my personal opinion, water is a great equalizer.
GUE : Celebrating GUE’s Scuba Diving Women | Women’s Day 2022
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Bori Bennett was born and raised in Korea. She met her husband, JD, in 2003, and they have lived and travelled around the world for his work. Bori lived in Papau New Guinea in 2013, where she received her open water certification. She has been actively diving since then. Bori is a full cave diver, with a TDI full cave certification, GUE Cave 1, GUE Cave 2, and looks forward to becoming a DPV diver in the future. After 20 years of living around the world, Bori, JD, and their
dog, Nabee, moved to their forever home near Ginnie Springs in High Springs, FL in 2021.