D e b  T o d d  W h e e l e r
  Holoplanktonika: an illustrated book of impressions  

This work was made during months spent as an artist in residence at Ningyo Editions, a Watertown, MA printmaking studio. Inspired by a 2004 exhibition curated by Catherine De Zegher at The Drawing Center in New York, this residency was spent imitating early techniques of cataloging ocean specimens. De Zegher's show, Ocean Flowers: Impressions from Nature, was a collection of 19th century prints, imprints, cyanotypes, and early photograms of vegetation from the world’s oceans. The collection of works was compiled and exhibited with a catalog that includes essays by Catherine De Zegher, Elaine Scarrey and Carol Armstrong, among others, and contains hundreds of wildly gorgeous full color plates of various oceanic botanica. The catalog is a treasure trove of forms, a compilation of artist’s and botanist’s work cataloging specimens from the sea, in multiple printing formats.

Experimenting in collaboration with David Curcio and Edward Monovic, the aim was to catalog a new form of marine life: plastic debris. A technique of multiple layered monoprintswas developed during the residency, by running thin forms of manipulated polyethylene plastic repeatedly through the press. What results is a catalog of the hypothetical modern oceanic specimens, possibly culled from the North Pacific. Pressed plastic impressions of debris that seem to have been scooped from the sea and recorded in this new book of Ocean Flowers, or Ocean Flotsam. HOLOPLANKTONICA: an illustrated book of impressions, looks at the lasting nature of plastics, and how over time churning in the chomping currents of the North Pacific Gyre, the bits and pieces of plastic debris might resemble their oceanic cohabitants of algae, copepods, salps and some jellyfish, and might even in a sense start becoming-botanical.

  The title Ocean Flowers: Impressions from Nature was inspired by Mary M. Howard’s  album of British seaweed from 1846 called Ocean Flowers and Their Teaching, which De Zegher writes, was written from…”the plant’s point of view- as strange and unconventional as such an approach might seem today. Almost as though in a reverse reverie, one wonders, Who impresses what? What impressed whom? As increasingly self-assured as we have become in imposing ourselves on the surrounding world, leaving the erroneous impression that we are in charge, it often escapes us how interdependent we are with nature, which remakes us as much as we remake it.”