Textile Artist Vanessa Barragao’s Coral Garden: Using Upcycled Fiber to Raise Global Awareness
The ocean landscapes of environmental activist and textile artist Vanessa Barragao use a variety of different fiber art techniques to bring attention to the desperate need to save our ocean resources. Barragao’s fiber sculptures bring the viewer up close and allow them to interact with an underwater world of beauty that is quickly disappearing due to natural and man-made forces. Vanessa’s textile sculptures are three-dimensional and life-sized, creating an immersive experience.
Environmental Activist and Artist Vanessa Barragao and Her Work
Barragao is a Portuguese artist who graduated from the Masters Program at Lisbon University. She opened her own design studio in 2014. The oceanic world that she creates was inspired by her early life living by the seaside in southern Portugal. Vanessa was exposed to many different fibers and textile arts techniques by her grandmothers. After graduation from design school, she decided to focus on artisanal techniques to create her collections.
Barragao has spent her life observing the effects that man has on the natural world. She began her academic career set on the fashion industry. Now, she uses recycled materials and wastes from the textile industry to bring her message to the world. The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world, and she uses her environmentally friendly and handmade techniques to bring awareness to the problem.
Artistic Focus of Environmental Activist Vanessa Barragao
Vanessa Barragao’s message is multifaceted, and she touches people on many different levels with her work. Her art pieces are beautiful and bring dimension to a world that many only experience as a flat screen. The world of coral reefs and our ocean resources is something that people can only experience by visiting an aquarium or by watching it on a flat screen. Barragao brings a new depth and appreciation of our ocean resources by adding texture and depth to the world of coral reefs.
Her works of art are beautiful but eerie at the same time. Her representations contrast the living reefs with those that are dying. The use of whites, browns, and other neutral tones are beautiful, but they are also an ominous representation of what man is doing to the natural world. One cannot look at the white skeletons of life in her work and not feel a sense of loss.
The artist uses recycled materials from one of the world’s biggest industrial polluters to bring awareness to the destructive nature of the fashion industry. Her focus on ocean environments stems from the effect of chemicals from textile manufacture that eventually ends up in the oceans. It is a complex problem. Not only does the marine environment have to contend with direct dumping, but nearly 90 percent of all atmospheric pollution also ends up in the ocean. This contributes to warming temperatures and threatens many species. Barragao focuses on the coral reefs because she feels that they are one of the most at risk.
Vanessa Barragao has a message to bring to the world with her work. She hopes she will make a difference in the future of life on this planet. The materials she uses come from the dead-stock of local factories. She cleans and upcycles it into her works of art.
Vanessa believes that upcycling could play an important role in turning the dire situation of our coral reefs around. Her goal is to show the level of artistry and beauty that can be achieved by using upcycled materials. Barragao uses upcycling, which is the solution to the problem of textile waste, to bring awareness to the dark consequences for our future if we continue on our current path.
As for herself, Barragao enjoys every part of the creative process and sees it as a journey of exploration. She uses techniques that include crochet, latch hooking, and other fiber techniques to create her inspiring, life-like creations. Her installations are awe-inspiring and beautiful, yet they also remind us that the situation with our oceans is quickly reaching critical mass. If you have a chance to see one of her exhibits, it will be an experience that you will not soon forget.