The deepest ocean teems with life, but not as we land-dwellers know it.
There are crabs that farm bacteria on their claws, swishing them repeatedly to expose the bacteria to nutrient-rich water; tube worms grown to massive proportions; and bioluminescent creatures that bear their own light through the darkness.
The life of the deep is foreign to the sun-soaked world above, built on chemicals — mainly hydrogen sulfide — belched from deep in the Earth. Chemosynthetic bacteria convert those chemicals to organic matter to be eaten by larger creatures, forming the base of the food chain.
The Harvard Museum of Natural History (HMNH) is casting light on this dark world through the paintings of artist Lily Simonson and the science of deep-sea biologist Peter Girguis.
“Lily Simonson: Painting the Deep,” set to run through next June, is a collection of six massive works that literally glow with Simonson’s depiction of deep-sea environments. Highlighted with luminescent paints and hung on dark walls, the canvases are accompanied by an oceanic soundscape.
“I love to paint really big,” Simonson said. “Rather than bringing these bizarre things into our world, my goal is to bring the viewer into the bizarre world. I wanted to make the viewers feel they were transported to the bottom of the ocean.”