Siena McKim

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Artist Statement

Growing up surrounded by ocean nature documentaries and books, fantasy and sci-fi media didn’t interest me as I saw that the life in our oceans were stranger than anyone’s imagination. One of the first memories I have is observing a giant illustration of a gulper eel with its gaping mouth big enough to threaten my small body. From then on, I have always been awe-inspired by the strange and curious bodies of the deep, including the organisms, like sponges and corals, that blend into the landscapes becoming homes for others.
Because these deep-sea landscapes and organisms are inaccessible to air breathing humans, imagery through writing and art are our bridges to this world. Both art and science explore the themes of deep-sea stories including ecological and evolutionary relationships, processes, and outcomes. Science and art are already bridged in their shared goal of exploring this strange world, but this is not always obvious. Thus, as an artist and a scientist, I feel driven to make this connection more obvious and feed people’s curiosity. The deep-sea biological sciences have revealed more about our Earth than ever before teaching us to never doubt the wealth of biodiversity that has evolved and the resilience of these organisms. Using a diverse range of mediums, I use my art to showcase this biodiversity and explore the themes of home and change.
I’m in my third year in my PhD program at UC Santa Barbara studying the evolution of silk producing amphipods (Crustacea) which use their silk to make homes and feeding devices. As I navigate graduate work, I have worked to maintain my art practice which has recently manifested into producing scientific publication figures, and fine art pieces through digital illustration, 3D modeling, and painting. If you are interested in getting help or collaborating to visualize your deep-sea research interests, models, or systems please reach out to me so we can chat more!


Deepstaria’s Dance
Deepstaria is a shape shifting jellyfish that undulates its pink sheet-like umbrella into mesmerizing shapes.
When the umbrella moves in the right way, an isopod inhabitant is revealed.
The isopod and it’s mutating Deepstaria home dance together in the deep.
Medium: Acrylic paint on wood
Year: 2021

Posts about Siena’s works soon!