Student Work

100 Year SS Palo Alto Centenniel Celebration, June 1, 2019

Shella Benevides

Haley Crowder

Xi Dai

Jixuan Deng

Kelse Parker Depauli-Wiltse


Andrew Friendship

Katrina Kirchhof

Tyler Kumes

Adam Lanfear

Madeline Mesa

Charlie Northrop

Sydney Repp

Malachi Ross

Nina Scherer

Sofia Shteyngolts

Ge Song

John Speka

Akira Starks

Trenton Taylor

Angelica Virrueta

Avery Welsh

Donovan C. Yuen-Goh


Art 125, Environmental Art       Spring, 2019, UCSC w/Barbara Benish


Plastics Harm Marine Lives

Ge Song

Marine Pollution is always a serious problem that we need to take concern, and up to eighty percent of marine debris is plastic. These plastics in the ocean take hundreds of years to fully decompose. Marine Organisms, such as fish, sea turtles and seabirds and marine mammals are affected because these plastics in the ocean and do not decompose. Marine lives eat microplastics break down in the ocean. What is important is that marine lives are not accidentally eating the plastics. The research found that the plastic breaks down in the water and take on an odor which is similar to food and confuses the fishes. Fishes eat plastics because they like them.

Northern anchovy is one of the fishes consumes the plastics. My project Marine Awareness uses northern anchovy as a representative fish and illustrates the reality of how the health of northern anchovy is affected while the marine environment is not being protected and how microplastic in the ocean is leading the big problem of fish. Plastics are left in the body of fish and seabirds after they ingest them and increase their risk of death, causing suffocation, starvation, and drowning. 

Malachi Ross


Poisonous Picnic

Madeline Mesa/Sydney Repp

This performance/sculpture piece is an attempt to encourage the public to be critical of the food and ocean system. The modern food industry is ripe with chemicals not only in production but in the final product as well. The audience can interact with all pieces within the project, and are encouraged to speak with the artists as well. Education is used in this project by re-creating labels for common american foods such as milk, tuna, or strawberries - to show the issues surrounding its industry such as human labor rights, animal rights, antibiotic use, pollution, runoff, or bycatch.

There is also a segment of the project that focuses on the different major pollutants of the ocean; trash, oil, sunscreen, runoff, pesticides, and spray drift. The goal is to have the audience visualize what ocean pollution actually consists of. To also encourage visitors to think about what types of ocean pollution they participate in, and how that can actually impact each individual.


Nature’s Fairies

Xi Dai

I wanted to creat a wearable item to present the relationship between man and the environment. Thus, I made a pair of wings.
On the left wing, is domestic garbage, while the right is a variety of colorful plants. When we wear these wings, we are the medium: in other words, it is to say that if we litter and cause environmental damage, the natural landscape will eventually turn into a wasteland. But on the other hand, we can still bring the land back to life through our efforts. Only when people start to protect our environment can we begin to save more species from extinction- not just butterflies, but all the species.


Wildlife of Seacliff Beach

John Speka

For my project, I wanted to detail the unique and diverse wildlife that we share the California coast with and show how Seacliff beach supports these various forms of life. From the land to the sea, the entire western coastline of the United states is teeming with animals that range in size from tiny to enormous. The squirrels and birds make their home in the lush tree lines and bushes while the marine mammals such as dolphins, seals and whales use the bay and even the ship as a temporary rest stop to take a break from their day to day activities. The SS Palo Alto has retired within the bay permanently, and now sees an entirely new purpose, providing shelter for the abundance of seals, sea lions, and seagulls that populate the bay area. It’s peaceful legacy shows that even the sturdiest of manmade structures are no match for the beautifying effects of nature.


Environmental Feelings Survey and Digital Drawing Board

Charlie Northrop


This website is a collaborative digital space designed to prompt reflection and self compassion where visitors can reflect on their thoughts and feelings around the environment, the climate crisis and their relationship(s) to it. Visitors can upload survey responses and digital drawings to the site and view others' responses. 


Scan the QR code or visit the url to add your feelings to the site and see others' responses!


Shella Benevides 


Protect Where You Play asks viewers to reconsider how they think about plastic pollution in our oceans in relation to their everyday lives. Pollution is a cycle of abuse that negatively affects the health of sea life and humans alike. 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally every year, 50% of which are for single-use purposes, but all plastics stay on the planet for at least several hundred years. Often mistaken for food by fish, micro plastics can affect the reproductive and immune systems of fish, and when ingested by humans, these particles may cause blood clots and lung problems. Coastal populations such as the Monterey Bay, can either intensify plastic pollution, or make a stand to reduce plastic use and help save our oceans and wildlife. What can you do at an individual level? Bring reusable bags when, carry a reusable straw and use a reusable water bottle, find an alternative to plastic sandwich bags, recycle (and learn about what your local recycling plant actually accepts), stay informed, MAKE ART ABOUT IT! 


Fight for the Earth

Jixuan Deng

Earth, the home of mankind and all living beings. Beautiful blue, cozy green, cool white together composed of beautiful planets. The unique ecological environment breeds everything in the world. After tens of thousands of years of evolution, the earth has reached an era of advanced technology. While people enjoy the fruits of technology, our planet is suffering tremendously.

The gases emitted by high-tech factories are integrated into the air and into the atmosphere. These gases are fused with the atmosphere and fused with water vapor to form a series of catastrophic disasters such as acid rain. Nowadays, the air cleaning index is declining, more and more people are starting to get sick, and even many people die because of this.

The ocean, the cradle of life. Today, the marine ecosystem has undergone tremendous changes due to excessive emissions and marine debris. Perhaps many people still don't know that many people on the planet in poverty-stricken areas use water from the sea. Only through a very simple filtering process, this filtering process only filters out the surface contamination, and chemical fuels, petroleum fuels, etc. cannot be filtered out by simple filtering procedures. This is a vicious circle, the ocean pollution caused by people, and the ultimate victim is humanity.

Poop ‘N Save

Akira Starks

Imagine a world where you could turn dog feces into something useful. Well, it’s essentially possible thanks to this piece. Many of dog owners I have talked to always explain the worst part of owning a dog is their poop. I for one am a dog owner is who is tired of adding to the landfill with every move I make. This includes my plastic use but also my pet’s feces. The Poop ‘N Save is a pet feces compost container that’s created out of found objects. These objects are most likely in many garages so there’s no need to buy much. Dog feces has a ton of concentrated nitrogen and the sawdust that is used is a pure form of carbon to neutralize the nitrogen. Overtime, this piece would lower the amount of greenhouse gases that are being released into the air. Global warming is a real issue and we need to think of ways to reverse the damage we’re doing. I’ve starting doing my part so, what’s your excuse?



Katrina Kirchhof

The human form presented here is clutching at its throat in the universal sign of choking, in a silent plea for help. Inside the suffering body of humanity, ocean creatures are suspended in mid-flight or mid-stroke, in a parody of the manner in which they float in the ocean or fly in sky. Instead, seals, seagulls, turtles, dolphins and whales are stilled and silent, entrapped in fishing line, ambassadors to their real-world counterparts who have fallen prey to and/or remain at risk of plastic entanglement.

Whether by intention, negligence, or negligence, plastic has accumulated in the oceans within the decades of its initial invent, and with the rise of its production and disposal, it has also left a rising body count amongst sea life. Animals entangled in loose plastics such as fishing line face immobilization, starvation, lacerations, loss of circulation to limbs, and death. The phenomenon of sea-life thoughts by long abandoned fishing gear is known as ‘ghost fishing’.

The ghostly specimens in this pieces web is a small fragment of the true number of species impacted by the presence of plastics in the oceans, just as disposed of fishing line is only one of hundreds of incarnations of plastics that have proven fatal. Plastic bags, recently banned in stores by California, are infamous as killers of turtles, who mistake them for jellyfish and ingest them.



No Justice On Stolen Land

Materials; Burlap, Maps, Embroidery thread, Acrylic 

by Avery Lavender

Our struggle with environmental sustainability is rooted in the colonization of North America. Settlers have both dismantled and sought to exterminate Indigenous people and therefore their land practices that once shaped and maintained this natural world for over twelve thousand years. We are now on land not of our own, left with capitalistic mechanisms and an even deeper disconnect to what tending our ecosystem truly needs. Support Indigenous stewardship by connecting with and volunteering for the Amah Mutsun Land trust now.                                                          

Wings of Remembrance

Donavan Y. Goh


The S.S Palo Alto, a ship that was made near the end of the first World War. During a desperate time, where materials and resources were being funneled into the war effort, when the U.S Navy was running low on steel to create more warships. They commissioned a couple dozens of these concrete warships, but none of them got to see the light of day in action. All or most of them were decommissioned or scrapped. Which is where the S.S Palo Alto is among the last of its kind. Although it had been used for different purposes before, such as a ship for parties, a fishing pier, it had stayed in-tact for a majority of its lifetime. Only up until much later had it finally deteriorated to the point that it was deemed unsafe for the public. This project is a metaphorical representation of giving the ship the wings, to serve a purpose for something it wasn’t initially intended for. As a kite.

Donavan and his Ship.jpg

The Maritime Chaparral


Filippa Erixon


This piece is a dead representation of the flora of the maritime chaparral, a rare habitat type found in low elevation stands along the Californian coast. This habitat has a high biodiversity and several local endemic species. These flowers were collected from Fort Ord Natural Reserve, a UC natural reserve which inhabits three threatened or endangered species: the sand gilia, the Monterey spineflower and the smiths blue butterfly. The flowers have then been pressed and cast in resin. Thus, a piece of this habitat has been preserved for future generations too look back on if it becomes extinct.


The Threats

The maritime chaparral habitat is threatened by human land use. It is at risk of extirpation due to human development and agricultural expansion.

Furthermore, the Maritime Chaparral habitat at Fort Ord Natural Reserve is threatened by non-native species invading the habitat and potentially outcompeting local flora. I have chosen to include non-native species in this piece in order to create a representation of the current habitat that is as accurate as possible. These invasive species are now part of the habitat, but do they really have a right to be there? Is their presence natural or unnatural? Should they be removed?


The ocean

The summer ocean fog is important to the maritime chaparral as a source of water when rain is scarce. Not only is the ocean important for the maritime chaparral, but the maritime chaparral is important for the ocean. The chaparral has an important function for filtration of water. The chaparral is therefore important for clean water and decreases eutrophication in the oceans. This is especially important in places where pollution is high.


The Future

Because of the importance of coastal fog for many habitats, the effect of climate change on the coastal fog has become a pressing question. The effects are, however, unknown, but some research shows that coast fog has decreased over the course of the 20th century. As the climate changes and the occurrence of coastal fog deceases, what will happen to the maritime chaparral and the organisms living there? What will happen to the ocean? And what can we do about it?


Haley Crowder

“Who’s Responsible?”

Andrew Friendship

Entrapment of marine life in used commercial fishing gear is a catastrophe plaguing our oceans and harming our precious marine environment. Every year over 1.28 billion pounds of fishing gear is discarded into our worlds oceans leading to the entrapment and death of hundreds of thousands of marine animals including sea turtles, seals, dolphins, whales and fish. These animals can be severely harmed and may face death as a result of starvation and inability to surface for air. As a consumer, we are the direct cause of this ocean pollution which is hurting animals, and we can make a significant impact if we chose to limit fish from our diets or make ethical choices at the grocery store and opt for sustainably caught fish.   



Tyler Kumes


This diorama is meant to display the severity of litter in our oceans.  People often see discarded trash on the side of the freeway, on the sidewalk, or in the grass, but sometimes it is difficult to visualized the impact rubbish has on the ocean.  Sailing opens your eyes to this, and it is unfortunately commonplace to see floating plastic and other debris in the open ocean, or in the middle of the bay where you wouldn't think it would end up.  My goal was to demonstrate this by making a diorama of one of the most loved boats, the Sunfish, in resin to mimic a sailing scene tainted by the floating garbage that exists.


Kelse Parker Depauli-Wiltse



Kelp Triumvirate

by Trenton Taylor

A film designed to inform viewers about our coastal kelp forest dilemma. This film also helps the viewers understand the relationship between Kelp Forests, Sea Otters, Sea Urchins.



Nina Scherer
Paper mache, aluminium foil, fiberglass, and drywall compound on chicken-wire frame.

Bygone Era is an homage to the red abalone, Haliotis rufescens.
Our relationship with abalone is ancient; archeological evidence suggests it was consumed in Southern California on Channel Island over 12,000 years ago by First Nation peoples. To harvest an abalone, one must simply pry the foot muscle off of its residing rock with a sharp object, then you cut away the tender meat from the large, domed shell.
Its defining characteristic and only practical defense is this hard and curious object. The snail never leaves the water, but their shells can live on as their own kind of marine memento mori -- maybe in a pile of discarded lawn ornaments, or as a neglected, decades-old ashtray somewhere along the California coastline.⁣
The abalone shell is a complicated vessel. Its living contents, a humble aquatic mollusc of little threat or consequence to human affairs, must be vacated before it becomes an object of aesthetic pleasure for people to enjoy. The relationship we have with them is mediated by our ability to consume them. In the 20th century, prior to comprehending the effects of climate change and overexploitation, a devoted culture of abalone diving fueled an oceanside industry founded on abundance and decadence. By the early 90s, unchecked harvesting and the introduction of abalone wasting disease decimated the number of breeding adults remaining in the wild, and conservationists have struggled to work against the clock in the face of poaching and low population densities. Commercial abalone fishing has been banned in California since 1997. The personal collection of any red abalone, the last California-native species available for recreational harvest, has recently been banned until 2021 by the California State Legislature.
This is a monument to the abalone, human naïvete, and the unseen wonders of an imagined sea.

Nina Scherer, 2019
Follow @nuheyenuh


Adam Landfear


Angelica Virrueta


The Ship’s Bow - Timothy Kopra


Scale model for student project included in the exhibition Spatial Cultivations at Porter Sesnon Gallery, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2010.  


Students from Barbara Benish's "Installation as Place" class  explored recontextualizing traditional sculptural practices by placing their works in the local environment. Looking at histories of the California and particularly Santa Cruz region, these six young artists created installations that both critique and celebrate the region's history. As a group project, students worked on Benish's proposed environmental ArtPark on a sinking cement ship moored off of Seacliff State Park in the Monterey Bay. In the conceptual phase, it is hoped that this project will continue to grow and become reality as a symbol of the renewal and regeneration of California's State Parks, and the local marine environment.  It was scheduled to be installed at the  Visitor’s Center in Aptos at the Cement Ship pier.  


Kopra comments: "This monolithic structure erupting from the wall in the Sesnon Gallery is a symbol of the intensity of the potential loss of many State Parks.  It is a re-creation of the cement ship off the coast of Aptos, California – known as the S.S. Palo Alto.  We have pieced it together from sheet metal and added our proposed additions to it. One addition is a large whale sculpture.  It will be roughly the size of a young whale – roughly 25 feet long.  A small maquette has been made from steel rod to fit the symbolic re-creation of the S.S. Palo Alto.  It represents the movement of the ocean in correlation with the marine life surrounding the ship".