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Art: Tube Worm Colony by Artist Wendy L. Gonick

While cleaning out the dust-encrusted attic of an ancient coastal home, I came across the diary of a long-forgotten sailor tucked between the seat cushions of a lumpy Victorian sofa. The brown, salt-worn leather diary contained pages of yellowing parchment revealing the unnerving adventures of life upon The Vagabond—a whaling ship out of Gloucester, Massachusetts in the very early 1700s.

The handwriting was a bit hard to make out, but well worth the effort. There were tales of whale hunts, foreign lands, ferocious storms and everyday life aboard ship. One brief entry truly captured my imagination. Our narrator describes visiting an uncharted island after the ship was blown off course during a particularly strong storm. Here is the excerpt from the diary describing what was found upon this lonely island:

Six of us was sent by the Capt to explore the island. When our small party landed, all was dead silent, not a sight nor sound, no birds nor beasts and certainly no men. Cautiously we made our way towards the interior of this unknown land. The trees were sparse, and the land was all rolling hills. Upon reaching a high clearing, we could not believe our eyes, for there in front of us was a colony of worms the like of which we had never seen. The tallest reached seven feet into the skye, and each individual worm was rooted in the ground, unable to move from its spot. They wavered in there spots, and as some retracted into the ground others would emerge. Every now and again, one of the worms would put forth a bubble that floated above the colony from worm to worm as if they were playing a handless game of catch. It was beyond us to surmise what this ritual could mean. Upon our closer approach, all the worms stood upright, breathed in their bubbles and retreated back into the ground. We waited a bit, but as they did not come up for air, we made our way back to the ship to make our report. Giant Tube Worms the Capt informed us. Seems he had heard tell of them from other sailors, but never seen one for himself.

This print (and other works shown on my portfolio page) are inspired by real-life tube worms found deep in the ocean. These forms began making an appearance in my collages a few years back. To me they are a surreal life form, living in a surreal landscape. My worms live apart from other creatures—especially man, which they predate by at least few million years. After reading the prospectus for this show, I was excited to share my multi-colored drypoint along with the above tale.

To create this print, first I scratched my image into a zinc plate by hand with an etching needle—no acids are used in drypoint. The etching needle creates a recessed line in the plate bordered by what is called a bur (a small amount of raised metal which helps hold ink). Once the etched drawing was complete, I used a cardboard chips to coat the entire plate with two colors of Windsor & Newton Water Mixable Oil Colours (in place of oil-based intaglio inks, as I was working in a water-based environment). Next excess ink was then removed with a fresh cardboard chip, and then the remainder of the ink was wiped with a stiff cheesecloth-like material called tarletan. Once the plate was wiped to my satisfaction (this can take quite awhile), I then placed the plate on the press bed, covered it with dampened Rives Lightweight Cream colored paper, and ran it through the press.

Detail Images

Detail Image for art Tube Worm Colony

A hovering bubble

Detail Image for art Tube Worm Colony

Rooted to the ground


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