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A New York–based artist trying to raise awareness about the ocean’s health is being accused of damaging it. Agata Oleksiak, the yarn artist better-known as Olek, traveled to Cancun earlier this month for an installation highlighting the ocean’s declining shark population, according to La Jornada.
Olek’s project centered around an underwater museum called Museo Subacuatico de Arte, located within an artificial reef meant to attract scuba-diving tourists away from the delicate Mexican Caribbean Coral Reef. The museum includes a series of ticking bombs created by sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor, who intended them as a metaphor for the state of the ocean.
Olek wove her famous yarn creations around Taylor’s bombs in an effort to underscore their point. But museum director Jaime Gonzalez alleges that, aside from not asking permission to do so, she destroyed vital organisms living on the sculptures in the process. La Jornada reports he is now preparing a lawsuit against the artist.
“If they want to sue me, I don’t know. I can pay them back with crocheting more underwater sculptures,” Olek told the Associated Press. “I don’t know why would they sue me but maybe they’re a little bit upset that I did it there.”
You can see the pre-yarn bombs, frosty with algae, in one photograph taken by Olek. She appears in another image donning a crochet needle in one hand and crimson yarn in the other. Her hair in pigtails, she doesn’t look like your average eco-terrorist (or tourist).
One thing is certain: Olek’s project in Mexico may be her most visually striking work yet. In addition to the yarn bombs, she outfitted scuba divers with quirky, multicolored wetsuits; photographer Tre Packard of marine conservation nonprofit Pangeaseed captured them swimming alongside sharks in Cancun’s turquoise waters. And, for what it’s worth, seeing the images does make you think a little more about the ocean. “[My] intentions were positive and that’s the most important thing about my work,” Olek said. “I really want to create a positive message.”
It will be up to Mexican authorities to decide if that’s enough.
Correction: A caption in this article previously misidentified one of the wetsuits as knitted rather than crocheted. It has been fixed.