Deep Sea Diary

May 22nd, 2012

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Mud Volcanoes, 10″ x 6″, watercolor, Mary Edna Fraser

My adventurous spirit is in a state of excitement. On May 27th, my cameras and watercolors travel to Barbados to join Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover’s scientific and artistic team on the Atlantis ship exploring the deep sea. Cindy and I first met in my studio in 2001. She is the first woman to pilot the deep submersible research vessel Alvin. Listening to her tales of the struggle toward this endeavor has encouraged me to continue piloting lessons while I am on aerial photographic excursions. Now Cindy heads Duke Marine Lab. She and artist Karen Jacobsen work in a similar collaborative fashion as Orrin Pilkey and me.

Now I am joining a team of artists and scientists to the Barbados Subduction Zone to map the aquatic bottom. In the deep sea where the Atlantic plate slips under the Caribbean plate, methane-rich fluids feed mud volcanoes on the sea floor, which in turn generates high levels of hydrogen sulfide as microbes process the methane and seawater sulfate. By the way, I am just now introducing my brain to the science reading Cindy’s Deep-Ocean Journeys and The Ecology of Deep Hydrothermal Vents and scientific papers she sends to prepare for the trip. It is fascinating to ponder creatures and depths in this edge of discovery. For my art, the marine realm is a new field of study. Other than the Faulty Towers of Juan de Fuca Ridge and the Great Barrier Reef, I have little knowledge. Science is so fascinating.

I go on the first leg of the trip, June 1-8, where a tethered vehicle will allow those on board to see what is being discovered in otherwise relatively inaccessible environments. My job is to observe, document, share knowledge and make art. I hope to give both a close up and far away artistic rendition with emotion. Mineral pigments offer a new palette of watercolor. Sonar also opens color doors. Just like with my pal Orrin Pilkey, the scientists will advise on what to accentuate.

Yippee. Can’t wait to see the bottom of this sea and learn more. It will be two weeks before the world hears from me once I leave this Sunday.

Book Signing on Thursday, June 23 for Global Climate Change: A Primer, Duke University Press

June 7th, 2011

Come celebrate the publication of Global Climate Change: A Primer, co-authored by Orrin & Keith Pilkey with batik art by Mary Edna Fraser, coinciding with the opening of Our Expanding Oceans at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh.  You can buy the book directly from

Exhibit Premiere, Reception & Book Signing
Opening: Thursday, June 23, 6-9:30 pm

Exhibit dates: June 25-November 6, 2011

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 West Jones St., Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 733-7450, extension 303

Our Expanding Oceans features more than 50 hand-dyed silk batiks by Mary Edna Fraser with explanatory science by Orrin H. Pilkey.

Purchase your tickets to the opening ($10 Friends, $15 General Public) directly from the museum:

Welcome to

September 7th, 2009

Mary Edna Fraser is a master of the ancient art of batik on silk. With the largest batiks in the world, she illustrates her bird’s eye view of threatened landscapes.

Captivated by the complex patterns from the air, she’s been photographing France, Indonesia, Australia, and most of the coastal U.S. for more than a quarter century. She often illustrates the immense undeveloped coastline of her South Carolina home, where beach, marsh, and mainland entwine. She works from her creek-side studio on James Island, where she exhibits her silks and monotypes.

She has been collaborating with Dr. Orrin Pilkey since 1993 beginning with a Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum exhibition. In 2003, they published A Celebration of the World’s Barrier Islands (Columbia University Press), which included about 50 batiks. Their current book and exhibition about global warming will be put out by Duke University Press in 2010.

Exhibiting and lecturing internationally, she has been featured by Duke University, the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, and National Geographic. Private and public collectors include, most notably, the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University, the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, the New England Aquarium in Boston, the American Embassy in Thailand, and NASA. She has many commissioned works, including a collaboration with master blacksmith Phillip Simmons at the Charleston International Airport.