Sites Unseen:¬

A Collaborative Environmental Sculpture Project

May 21, 2022-September 4, 2022

If we can’t see the problem, how do we understand or change it?

In fall 2021, Virginia MOCA invited students from Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth public schools to dig into the ecological issues facing Tidewater, Virginia. Taking inspiration from artist Maya Lin, students considered how they could educate visitors about these issues in a visual way. Using the design thinking model, students researched, designed, and created site-responsive, environmentally conscious, public art installations for the Museum grounds.

Thank you to all participating students and collaborators.

Interrupted Flow in Nature: Earth, Water, Air

Human activity that is not concerned with our planet often bears damaging consequences. Our earth is fragmented, making it difficult for nature to exist. Our waters suffer from excessive trash. Our air is contaminated by invisible exhaust fumes. Our sculpture addresses these issues, focusing on earth, water, and air—interrupted.

Cut slabs of clay represent EARTH. Parts are destroyed and repaired in the style of Kintsugi (Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold) symbolizing how we try to “fix” our destroyed land with beautiful parks scattered here and there; but no matter the repair, though beautiful, our land remains broken. Melted plastic sheets represent WATER. These symbolize beauty and beauty interrupted as melted plastic trash items break the flow, interrupting natural habitats and food sources. Graphite-covered cotton and ripped gray paper are contained in small bottles, representing AIR pollution. We attempt to capture and remove pollution, but we haven’t fully addressed the sources that interrupt and irritate our breathing.

Through a merging of values, color, solids, and transparencies, this sculpture invites viewers to consider how their choices can make a difference in the natural environment that surrounds us.

Allison Olivar, Cidra Roberts-Johnson, Ethan Brown, Eve Suarez, Jada Kimble, Jaden Lawrence, Kellie Maher, Madeleine Babcock, Madison Clarke, Miah Lawrence, Sarah Naab, Savana Tucker, Schuyler Truebenback, Tae Cross, Tatiana Carrero, Trixia Olaso.

Mother Earth

Mother Earth is based on the concept of conservation and preservation of our earth and its resources. The form is a feminine figure representing Mother Earth. The sculptural elements of the work point to the fragility of our world and the importance of caring for our environment.

The locally sourced shells reflect aspects of our site’s ecosystem and nearby waterways. The plants are all native to our region, including the wildflowers held in hand-built ceramic vessels which demonstrate the connection between water and earth. The sculpture acts as a visual representation of our earth and shows the importance of awareness that is needed to keep our Mother Earth clean and protected. When viewers see her delicate state, they should be inspired to participate in conservation efforts and keep our environment clean.

As the summer progresses, the meaning of this work will evolve as the grasses grow and flowers expand, making the sculpture more beautiful as they bloom. Although human action has been destructive to our natural environment, this work represents how beautifully restored it can be.

Alyssa Starks, Carrina Williams, Emily Manso, Emily Parson, Emma Eaton, Emmaleigh Saunders, Genevieve Bachman, Kai Manso, Kiersten Dominek, Kylie Juachon, Mackenzie Croft, Mia Grieco, Sarah Hall, Sarah Kustowski, Stephanie Rosati.


Distorted creates an immersive experience where guests walk beneath polluted structures, effectively “swimming” in polluted water—that uncomfortably mirrors our Chesapeake Bay. As viewers look up to the structure towering above them, they recognize a variety of trash that floats through the Bay, likely similar to what they would find in their trash cans at home. At midday, light cuts through the structure and is obscured in other areas, casting viewers in shadows that represent the polluted waters right on their skin. In this way, the installation then pollutes viewers themselves. When trash goes in the ocean it kills marine life and their habitats, limiting food sources for them and us. When trash is not disposed of properly, it ends up in the wrong place and it pollutes our environment. By using reusable products, people can limit their waste and introduce more sustainable practices for the environment. It is easy to ignore where your trash goes and forget how it affects others. We invite visitors to be more aware of the life cycle of their trash and to be mindful of their choices and actions. What can we do to ensure our trash doesn’t end up in our water?

Aamar Garner, Alaija Hines, Alaijah Smith, Alaynna Hager, Brian Layne, Briana Sanders, Brianna Butts, Cai Denton, Cali Bullis, Camryn Curry, Christion Brown-Brooks, Damonii Gray, Dasaun Macpherson, Devin Bowden, Elijah Santiago, Elise Jansen, Emarie Jones, Faith Brown, Hannah Rifenberry, Iyanah Donaway, Jack Brereton , Jadyn Villegas, Jaylen Taylor, Jerome (Connor) Whalen, Jordan Murphy, Jordan Vargas, Jordyn Herrod, Kailee Bangert, Khairi Perkins, Kyla Quinn, Laila Brahim, LaKayla Dixon, Liam Hamilton, Lyric Gregory, Madison Thurman, Mariana Argote Carranza, Mia Rora-Looper, Nathan Dewey, Olivia Allen, Oti Aigbe, Reagan Herbert, Rian Cyrus, Rose Niang, Samiyah Calhoun, Sayan Ros, Sydney Weddle, Tamia Lane, Tayla Benson, Thomas Nunes, Will Cannon.

Maladaptive Puppeteer

Maladaptive Puppeteer simulates the effects of a low pressure system causing sea level rise and storm surges. Hampton Roads falls prey to flooding, and its coastal location makes it a target for the ravaging effects of hurricanes and sea level rise, which results from climate change through the use of fossil fuels. This sculpture uses symbolism to illustrate a global concern with local impact.

The repetitive use of pennies on the water form suggests the influence of money and the prioritizing of profit over the harmful environmental repercussions that negatively affect our region. The puppet strings illustrate human manipulation of nature, where our need for convenience and the power of misguided capitalism dictates our outcome—the destiny of a doomed future. The tectonic hand is fabricated from a variety of rusted rebar and distressed scraps of metal sheeting with perforations, mesh weaves, and solid planes indicating a state of decline or deterioration to represent the consequences of our actions. This signifies the importance of being conscious of our decisions. Change starts with self-reflection and awareness which we hope this artwork imparts upon its viewers.

Avery Branum, Jack Breitberg, Jackson Stenger, Jenna Vazquez, John “Tug” Rafter Kamila Bardoun, Tonanzin Green.

Our Supporters

Sites Unseen is made possible through the generosity of Arleen Cohen and the Cohen Family. Special thanks to participating students, teachers and administrators of Green Run Collegiate, Maury High School, Great Bridge High School, and Churchland High School