Written by Caroline Browne
In 2019, Copley Artist, Sandy O’Connor was awarded a prestigious Copley Society of Art Visual Artistic Fellowship with a residency at the historic Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She spent her time documenting the beauty and ecological significance of landscapes within the Outer Cape, focusing on locations deemed the most fragile and vulnerable to climate change.
The end result was a body of work composed of a series of graphite sketches, watercolor studies, and transparent watercolor paintings that document some of the land and seascapes on the Cape Cod National Seashore affected by climate change. “A Tipping Point: An Artist’s Perspective on Climate Change on the Outer Cape” pays particular attention to the dunes and salt marshes that serve as natural protective barriers to extreme weather events. By researching, sketching, and painting the natural beauty of vulnerable landscapes, the artist hopes to engage others in their protection and support ongoing efforts by scientists, residents, and concerned organizations.
In this week’s blog, Co|So shares a special preview of a few of Sandy O’Connor’s outstanding sketches and watercolors from her upcoming solo show “A Tipping Point”.
Pictured: Sandy O’Connor, CA, Herring River at Chequessett Neck Dike, Wellfleet, MA, graphite sketch, 8x10”
This rendered landscape is a view from on top of the Chequessett Neck Road Dike on Chequessett Neck Road in Wellfleet where the Herring River flows from one side to the other, facing an area called the Gut towards Great Island and Cape Cod Bay within the bounds of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Pictured: Sandy O’Connor, CA, Herring River at Chequessett Neck Dike, Wellfleet, MA, watercolor study, 8x10”
The Herring River in Wellfleet and Truro, Massachusetts encompasses nearly 1,000 acres and over 6 miles of waterways. Historically, the river supported a vibrant coastal river ecosystem and one of the largest nurseries for commercial and recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Maine. Wellfleet Town reports from the late 1800’s indicate that more than 200,000 river herring were netted annually from the Herring River. It is currently one of the largest tidally-restricted estuaries in the northeastern United States.
Pictured: Sandy O’Connor, CA, Herring River at Chequessett Neck Dike, Wellfleet, MA, transparent watercolor, 24x28”
According to the artist, the Herring River Restoration Project is vital to addressing climate change. Replacing the existing Chequessett Neck Road dike with a modern bridge and tide controls will allow the tides to return to the degraded Herring River estuary. Tidal flow will be returned incrementally with comprehensive monitoring and adaptive management. Restoring tides to Herring River will advance resilience to climate change on several fronts. A restored salt marsh will provide a natural buffer to coastal storms.
“Sandy O’Connor: A Tipping Point” will be on exhibit at the Copley Society of Art starting on June 17th in the Back Bay Room and continues through July 18th.