Island Shop: The Art of Underwater Sculpture in the Caribbean

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By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

Divers and snorkelers swarm artist Jason De Caires Taylor’s underwater sculpture gardens off the coasts of Grenada and Cancun, Mexico with good reason: His installations of life-size cement figures anchored to the sea floor are hauntingly beautiful, making you instantly regret not buying that underwater camera.

But Taylor’s marine forms also serve a function: Treated with a pH-reducing additive to make them coral-friendly, they act as artificial reefs. Over time, their smooth chalky surfaces transform from green to brown and sprout coral polyps, offering sanctuary for small fish and other sea life while simultaneously attracting fascinated divers, snorkelers and glass-bottom boat tourists.

And now, with the release of The Underwater Museum: The Submerged Sculptures of Jason deCaires Taylor you don’t need a mask and flippers to appreciate his otherworldly work.

Released earlier this year in hardback and for Kindle by Chronicle Books, the tome features mesmerizing images of this unique collaboration between art and nature, and documents the British dive instructor and former graffiti artist’s creative process – a painstaking labor that requires patient models willing to be encased in cling wrap; tons of ph-neutral cement; and inordinate amounts of Vaseline.

So if you didn’t pull off that diving vacation to Mexico or Grenada this summer, fret not. Put this at the top of your holiday gift list and pretend you did.