Crochet Coral Reef

EXHIBITION: Crochet Coral Reef

Twin sisters Christine and Margaret Wertheim brought the project to life through an unexpected merge of passions.

Photography by

Christa Neu

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Crochet Coral Reef, an exhibit on display in the Main Gallery of the Lehigh University Art Galleries (LUAG), brings together the work of crocheters from around the globe and aims to spark conversations about climate change. Through a blend of art, mathematics and science, the artists hope their colorful coral figures draw attention to the impact of global warming, rising sea temperatures and pollution on the world.

Twin sisters Christine and Margaret Wertheim, who brought the project to life through an unexpected merge of passions, grew up in Australia and witnessed the impact of climate change on the fragile Great Barrier Reef. After moving to Los Angeles, Calif. Christine, a visual artist, and Margaret, who preferred science, combined their talent to create a platform for change. The Wertheims cofounded the Institute for Figuring, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science and mathematics.”

The Wertheims’ art project uses hyperbolic crochet, a technique that explores geometry,  to mimic the three-dimensional structure of coral. Items such as plastic bottle tops and grocery bags are scattered throughout the crocheted pieces to bring awareness to the dangers of pollution. 

The project’s interactive aspect helps in LUAG’s mission to “advance critical thinking, cultural understanding, and well-being for campus and community through transformative experiences with art.” It also allows for people to be active participants in the creation of knowledge.

During “Raise the Reef Tuesdays,” one of several events connected with the exhibit, Lehigh students and members of the Bethlehem community can learn about climate change while crocheting their own pieces to create the Lehigh University Satellite Reef. In the above photo, participants crochet works in hues of bright red and deep blue as they help create the satellite reef, which will become an accessioned artwork when completed. 

Crochet Coral Reef will be on display in the LUAG Main Gallery until Dec. 7.

Story by Kelley Barrett ’20

Photography by

Christa Neu

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