At first glance, these intricately embroidered creations appear to depict one artist's fascination with coral, but behind Aude Bourgine's beaded work is a much bigger story: the fear of coral's disappearance altogether. In fact, the sculptures—handcrafted with colorful beads, sequins, and mixed textiles—are part of the French visual artist's latest series, Poumons des océans, or "Lungs of the Oceans." Inspired by a feeling Bourgine says she's had since childhood, one of concern for the safety of Mother Nature, the project illustrates both the beauty and fragility of our environment.
With nearly eight million tons of plastic ending up in our waterways annually—equal to a full New York City dump truck's worth every minute of every day for a year—researchers are currently estimating that oceans will soon be home to more plastic than fish. "If we do not rapidly change our relationship with our environment, oceans will be dead by 2050," writes Bourgine, according to My Modern Met. "Their disappearance will entail a disastrous imbalance on all ecological, climate, and human levels."
The series isn't Bourgine's first on the topic of ocean conservation. Just last year, she was part of a visual artist collaboration titled "2048 Dead Oceans," which exhibited the potentially grim future of the ocean (think: "bleached" coral sculptures on barren land and decaying soda cans with beaded "rust"). By showcasing both the coral's beautiful intricacies and endangered fate, Bourgine hopes that her work will "awaken the feeling of wonder for nature that surrounds us and the desire to project it."