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  Featured Member: Sept-Oct'09



On Land And In The Sea:
an artist-activist on a mission

Colleen Flanigan is a visual, performing, and environmental artist steeped in the organic and spontaneous unfolding of the creative process. Science and the environment, life and death, laughter and sorrow, movement and contemplation are recurring themes in her art. She carefully regards cycles, resources, regenerating beauty on Earth, and highly tactile materials.  Making art since she was a child, she moves from jewelry to steel sculptures, mixed-media interactive works to conceptual events and collaborative projects. Her recent performance work as "Miss Snail Pail" and "Amphitrite" grew from her need to draw attention to environmental topics in a fun and playful way. 


 "Liku Liku" (Zigzag); size: 8'x5'x6'; rebar, corals, electrical mineral accretion
 process; fabricated and immersed 2004; photo credit: Wolf Hilbertz (2006)

"Liku Liku" is one of 56 structures at Pemuteran, Bali's Karang Lestari, the largest coral nursery in the world. The local fishing village and eco-tourism are using Biorock® to bring fish and divers back to their paradise. In 2004, Colleen went to Bali to get certified by the Global Coral Reef Alliance in Biorock® mineral accretion process, an innovative technology used for restoring coral reefs and marine habitat in devastated regions around the world. This process is an example of synergistic life-support developed by Prof. Wolf Hilbertz and Dr. Thomas Goreau. It forges conscious ways to relate to the most sensitive and genetically diverse ecosystem on our planet and to protect shores from erosion. In the photo [above], "Liku Liku" had been accreting for 2- years. 


"On the Trail with Miss Snail Pail" is a film short [click for YouTube trailer] created by Greg Young [Golden Bear Casting] about Colleen Flanigan, aka "Miss Snail Pail"  (MSP).  The film follows Colleen as she gathers, cooks, and creates snail-based food, and in the process we gain respect for the small gastropod and the woman who puts them in her pail. (12 minutes) California Premiere at the Modesto Reel Food Film Festival Sept. 27, 2009. In November it will be shown at the 4th Annual Colorado Environmental Film Festival, Nov. 5-7, 2009 in Golden, Colorado.

"Miss Snail Pail" is a snail abatement specialist. Collecting snails and slugs as a local source of protein, she rejects pesticides or smashing the prolific garden mollusks in favor of creating an iron-rich feast.  "If you are going to kill them, why not value them as food and keep poisons out of the environment?" she asks local gardeners and the public-at-large.


 Colleen working with kids at a local Farmers' Market in California
  to help children understand the link between slow food and self-reliance

In April 2009, "Miss Snail Pail" appeared for Earth Day. People joined her at the Alberta Cooperative Grocery to watch a DVD presentation of the short film, "On the Trail with Miss Snail Pail," followed by discussion.  The next day, she participated as a "Center for Earth Leadership" agent of change at an Earth Day Festival. Miss Snail Pail has also made appearances at street fairs, Maker Faires, farmers markets, Slow Food events and ReadyMade magazine holiday parties.

Colleen received a TED2009 Fellowship to attend their Long Beach conference, where she presented both her activities with and on behalf of the Global Coral Reef Alliance's Biorock® efforts and "Miss Snail Pail" project. www.


 "Bio-rocker" with community crocheted corals and felted fish; 12'x5'x3.5';
 steel, yarn, felt; 2009. Photo credit: Anja Duering (2009)

In July 2009, Colleen made a steel rocking boat, "the Bio-rocker," for a re-enactment of coral restoration at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.  Children attached crocheted corals, sea stars, fish and jellyfish made by local artists and crafters. [] 

When Colleen goes back to Bali this December
, she hopes to sink the "Bio-rocker" [image above] to the ocean floor so that it may become a living sea sculpture thriving with fish.

A Natural Synergy: 
The Biorock® mineral accretion process shares many metallurgical, electrical and chemical properties with Colleen's sculpture work.  After years of taking plants and electroforming or casting them into metal, spinning hair into yarn, she saw the parallels and the potential to use her metalsmithing and sculptural skills to collaborate with the ocean.

Abbreviated Bio: 

Exhibiting internationally, Colleen has a BA in Design from UCLA and a post-baccalaureate Certificate in Metals from the Oregon College of Art and Craft. She is currently developing a performing, art-science action production with the San Francisco-based dance group, Capacitor, around the topic of ocean life and coral restoration inspired by the Global Coral Reef Alliance.

Recently she worked on the stop-motion animated feature, “Coraline,” a Henry Selick directed interpretation of Neil Gaiman’s book.  An armaturist for puppet fabrication, Colleen made ball-and-socket skeletons for puppets. Having taught sculpture and jewelry to all ages, as well as created exhibits at children’s museums and schools, she is known for her large 3-dimensional steel “drawings” woven with wire by children.

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