As a part of her Voyages artistic residency, Nicoletta had the opportunity to connect with not only Aquarium experts, but multiple experts from other organizations. Two of those experts—Dr. Wallace J. Nichols and Bonnie Tsui—deeply influenced Nicoletta’s research.
In his book “Blue Mind,” marine biologist Dr. Wallace J. Nichols explores how being near, on or in water has positive effects on our mental health. Dr. Nichols’ research draws from neuroscience and psychology, the science behind how blue spaces cause a calm, meditative state of mind. This “blue mind theory” seamlessly complements Nicoletta’s intent of conveying the healing properties of water through her art.
Bonnie Tsui, author of “Why We Swim,” dives into the significance of swimming throughout different cultures and history. This nod to the ancestral call to water can also be seen in Nicoletta’s work and process. Ms. Tsui’s book also chronicles her interviews with scientists, such as a those in a lab researching the cardiovascular benefits of being underwater, providing Nicoletta a holistic look at humans’ relationship with water.
“As a creative, as an artist, as a very spiritual being, I feel a lot,” Nicoletta explained. “I use intuition, I am very mindful, I am present. I fuse my spiritual practice with my art practice—and I am a forever nerd. So the science just gives me more fuel and gives me more seeds to plant so that I can say, ‘I’m going to push this further.'”
Armed with inspiration from time spent in water and knowledge from collaboration with experts, Nicoletta began to create her art for Voyages: Chapter 3. During this stage of her process, she switches gears.
“I turn off my thinking brain and I turn on my feeling body and my creative energy starts to flow and I start to create,” she explained.
Nicoletta is an interdisciplinary artist, and her art for Voyages: Chapter 3 is composed of several different elements. She has created multiple experimental, non-narrative films, which she describes as ethereal and cinematic, that portray how it feels to be in water and to have water as a modality of healing. These films will be projected in spaces throughout the Aquarium during Voyages: Chapter 3 and will also be layered with sound components for a multi-sensory experience.
In addition to these videos, Nicoletta will also be performing during the event from the crest of Blacktip Reef. She describes this performance art as dance-like and resembling ritual. For this aspect of her practice, the artist is also the art.
“I sculpt space with my body as I activate the space as moving, living, breathing art,” she explained.
During this performance, Nicoletta will be in garments, a headdress and adornment that she fabricated and sculpted herself—another component of the art she’s creating for the event. Like the videos and the performance art, she’s created these garments while being guided and inspired by the healing nature of water. When fabricating garments, she also pulls from another source of inspiration: her heritage.
“I’m Panamanian, and I am very proud of my culture and being first generation in this country so I’m celebrating the women that came before me—some of them are ancestors, and some are elders—and I’m bringing their spirit into [my art],” Nicoletta said. “I’m honoring someone who’s loved on me and walked the path before me.”