From October 27 to November 4, 2017, the New York gallery Envoy Enterprises will exhibit an artwork by the 2017 Jeffrey Ahn, Jr. Fellow, Katrina Fuller. A current senior at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, Fuller created the artwork this past summer with funding from the Jeffrey Ahn, Jr. Fellowship.
In her first public exhibition, Katrina presents a large-scale, suspended sculptural representation of an anthropomorphic coral reef. Featuring meticulously crafted pieces of “coral” reminiscent of organic human structures, Katrina’s installation implies a connection between the endangered coral ecosystem and the fragility of human life. By suspending the work in the gallery space, this young artist brings a new visual prominence to the idea of the coral reef, which is usually hidden from human view under the sea.
For Katrina, as for previous Ahn Fellows, the Fellowship summer was a first experience in how to approach a project as a working artist, outside the structure of formal art education. She used her Fellowship award to buy her materials, find a space to accommodate her working process, and acquire specific skills needed to execute her vision.
"Katrina is an inspirational example of someone moving on her ideas even at a young age," says Presca Ahn, the Fellowship's Executive Director. "Her desire to spend her summer figuring out this ambitious project is aligned with the Fellowship's educational mission to empower young artists to learn by doing."
For Katrina, her Ahn Fellowship project has been not only a creative exercise, but an opportunity to create awareness about a crisis in the natural world. While making her project, she had the opportunity to interview coral expert Zack Rago and Jeff Orlowski, director of the recent Netflix documentary Chasing Coral. From them she learned that if nothing is done to halt the warming of oceans, the eradication of the coral ecosystem will terminate 25 percent of all marine life on the planet and will jeopardize the estimated one billion people dependent on this ecosystem. "Twenty-two percent of the Great Barrier Reef died in 2016, and this morbidity is exponential," says Katrina. "It is one of the most dangerous ecological catastrophes of our time. We’re not yet feeling the effects of it because this is occurring out of sight. But soon, we will.”
After the exhibition at Envoy Enterprises, Katrina intends to donate the work to benefit the Fellowship, setting a precedent for young artists “giving back” to other young artists. To honor the spirit of Katrina’s project, the Fellowship will share a percentage of charitable proceeds from Katrina’s artwork with an organization committed to protecting coral reefs.