Cozumel Series Release

Since I’m currently between trips, I decided to focus my latest series on a special place in my heart that I scuba dived at in both 2011 and 2015: Cozumel, Mexico. The original paintings in part 1 are inspired by the infamous drift dives there, and they are all acrylic enamel on 12″ x 36″ and 18″ x 36″ canvas.

Cozumel was where I really first learned how to scuba dive. My great instructor taught me a breathing technique to conserve my air that I still use today; one four-second breath in, and one four-second exhale (on repeat). It’s a similar breathing technique that NAVY Seals use to reduce stress, minus the breath holds. In my yoga classes, the instructors constantly say to ‘focus on your breath,’ but I never do unless I’m scuba diving. It could explain why scuba diving is the most meditative experience for me because my tank will literally run out of air if I don’t focus on my breath; which, in turn reduces my stress due to my slow breaths in and out for an hour or more. It’s funny because while I’m painting in my full face mask, I catch myself employing the same breathing technique as I do when I scuba dive, and I’m not quite sure why.

Anyway, back to magical Cozumel. My absolute favorite fish that only resides there is called the Splendid Toadfish. It’s a bug-eyed, psychedelic-looking, whisker-faced fish with a lot of attitude, and I got pretty good at spotting them in their hidey-holes.

An interesting change I noticed was that in 2011, there were invasive lionfish on every single dive. Then, in 2015, I only saw one, but it’s the attitude of the lionfish that shocked me. I happened upon what I thought was a dead lionfish lying on its side in a sand patch with its eyes closed. Puzzled because it wasn’t floating like other dead things do, I inched closer to its face, which flinched. Even more curious, I reached my finger to poke it on its head when it suddenly opened its eyes and shot off under the coral. I swam over to the lionfish hiding in its cave and it looked perfectly healthy. Then, I realized it: that lionfish played dead because it had learned to associate scuba divers with spear fishing and it was trying to fool me into leaving it alone. What an impressive animal!

In only four years, the lionfish evolved from flaunting its fanned fins in full display all over the reef as its top predator, to this timid, but witty, deceiving little bottom-dweller, and I couldn’t help but revere the survivors for adapting so quickly. In attempting to destroy the species, humans instead pushed it to evolve. In 2011, the lionfish hunted during the day; in 2015, they hunted at night (when scuba divers weren’t spear fishing them). Since scuba divers are limited by depth, lionfish just keep going deeper out of their spears’ reach. Any life form that outsmarts its predator is just hilarious to me, and I wonder if we can ever really fix our mistakes.

Diving Cozumel in 2011 was the catalyst that pushed me to quit my job and move to Hawaii the following year to pursue scuba diving and art. It’s about time that I created a series that reflects the wonderful time that I spent there.

Please e-mail me at meganwillisart@gmail.com if you would like more information about a piece. I also posted the new paintings to my store at the button below:

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