Crochet Coral Reef at Lehigh University

September 12 – Dec 8, 2019
Lehigh University Art Galleries, Bethlehem, PA
Giant co=richet sculptures made of yarn and plastic bags.

Coral Forest, crocheted from yarn & plastic shopping bags. At Lehigh University Art Galleries. 2019.

Photo by Stephanie Veto for Lehigh University Art Galleries.

While parts of the Crochet Coral Reef were in the 2019 Venice Biennale, other works from the project were on show at Lehigh University Art Galleries in Bethlehem, PA.

In Venice, our two installations focused on the delicate natural history dimension of the project highlighting the bejeweled confections of our Bleached Reef, our Toxic Reef, and a selection of miniature coral Pod Worlds. At Lehigh, the show was framed around our six giant Coral Forest sculptures – three crafted from yarn and three from plastic – plus a newly updated version of our Branched Anemone Garden.

Where the yarn-based Coral Forests reference the organic beauty of living corals, the plastic Forests call attention to the post-modern present suffused with synthetics. These six timely sentinels – named after the Gorgons of Greek mythology: Medusa, Stheno, Eryali, Ea, Nin Imma and Chthulu,  – stand as a surreal undersea grove inviting visitors into a space of contemplation at once joyous and tragic.

Nestled within the Forest was a vitrine housing our Branched Anemone Garden, a crocheted diorama inspired by the Great Barrier Reef, and by the blood-orange hues and paleolithic drama of central Australia’s Hamilton Range. For the Lehigh exhibition, the work was radically updated so that here it was shown in-the-round. This expanded version allows the piece to be viewed from a “perspectival point” at each end of the vitrine, enabling viewers to see the coraline landscape reflected in the plexiglass on both vitrine sides and in its ceiling. The effect is as if one is seeing the work simultaneously in the flesh and in 3 surrounding persepectives. Thus the viewer encounters 4 reefs at once.

– Branched Anemone Garden is loaned from the collection of Lisa Yun Lee. Coral Forest: Stheno is loaned from the collection of Jorian Polis Schutz.

Also included in the exhibition were two wall-mounted works: Latvian Isola by Tija Viksna & the Latvian Satellite Reef crafters, loaned from Tija Viksna & Gallery Consiento in Riga, Latvia; and Carnation Mound, crocheted by Marianne Midelburg & Sarah Simons and curated by Christine Wertheim.

Reef sculptures in gallery

Branched Anemone Garden with Coral Forest – Stheno.

Photo @ Insitute For Figuring
Reef sculptures in gallery

Branched Anemone Garden, seen from the “perspectival point” revealing 3 plexiglass reflections.

Photo © Institute For Figuring
Reef sculpture against intense blue background

Coral Forest – Ea, crocheted from plastic bags, video tape, and plastic debris. Photographed under professional aquarium lights designed and loaned by EcoTech Marine.

Photo © Institute For Figuring


The works on display at Lehigh University Art Galleries are crocheted by Margaret and Christine Wertheim, with contributions from:

  • Shari Porter
  • Helen Bernasconi
  • Sarah Simons
  • David Orozco
  • Evelyn Hardin
  • Jill Schrier
  • Tane Clark
  • Nancy Yahrous
  • Jane Canby
  • Helen Bernasconi
  • Anitra Menning
  • Marianne Midelburg
  • Helle Jorgensen
  • Anna Mayer
  • Jemima Wyman
  • Christina Simons
  • Jing Wong
  • Clare O’Callaghan
  • Kathleen Greco
  • Matthew Adnams
  • Shari Porter
  • Heather McCarren
  • Una Morrison
  • Beverly Griffith
  • Gina Cacciolo
  • Pate Conaway
  • Barbara Wertheim
  • Katherine Wertheim

plus Tija Viksna and the Latvian Satellite Reef crafters.

Reef sculture in gallery with wall text: Reef sculptures in gallery coral sculpture with tentacles out the top Reef sculptures in gallery Green Coral Forest sculpture in gallery Reef sculptures in gallery Reef sculptures in gallery Reef sculpture in gallery crocehet coral sculpture hanging on wall Gallery signage with name of exhibition gallery signage seen with surrounding coral sculptures


Exhibition design by LUAG curator Mark Wonslider, and director William Crow.

The IFF acknowledges ongoing support for the Crochet Coral Reef project and our LUAG exhibition from the Opaline Fund of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.

Influence:  LUAG personnel were inspired to stage this exhibition of the Crochet Coral Reef after hearing Margaret Wertheim interviewed on the NPR program On Being with Krista Tippet.

Slideshow images above, by Margaret Wertheim for the Institute For Figuring, and Stephanie Veto for Lehigh University Art Galleries.