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Head detail of angler fish sculpture consisting of a fish skeleton and fishing gear.

Angler Fish

31"h x 52"l x 6"w; 2011
Photos by Kendrick Moholt

It is probably a good bet that fish don't look at things exactly like I do, but at some point our world views must collide.  I don't have to deal with gill parasites, and a fish doesn't get in trouble for mud on his boots.  But an angler fish fishes for actual fish to eat, as do I, and he uses whatever tools he has to catch them, as do I.  In creating "Angler Fish", I tried to share with the creation, the tools that a fisherman might have at his disposal, to see if any advantage might appear to be gained over his fellow angler fish.


Of course I let my angler take whatever direction it seemed to be headed regarding the use of the man-

made gear, and I think the result is a fairly resoundingly stupid construction that would be utterly useless in any environment, but I liked the overall image.  Angler fish already have little bobbing head lights,  fake bait and buoyancy stabilizing, as well as a swift and agile trap-like mouth.  I realized while making this piece that I can't out-weird this fish.  Nature has seen fit to do fine without my ideas.  But I’ve been intrigued by fishing boats all my life, with all the rigging, the booms, the hoists, ropes and cables, and the little cabin, so I just couldn't help myself.   


The fact that almost none of the equipment on a fishing boat makes much sense to a land-lubber like myself didn't discourage me, as I don't think that it would make much sense to a fish either.  At the bottom of the ocean, where a fish can go and peruse at his leisure, there are untold millions of tons of man-made objects for virtually any function imaginable;  A veritable smorgasbord of wealth available for free, right there in a fish's easy reach. If a man could be a fish for a few weeks, he could acquire wealth beyond anything he could achieve on land.  But in a fish's world gold is a rock; the finest sunken vessel, with all 

Bronze angler fish sculpture comprised of fishing gear.
Angler Fish skeleton sculpture interwoven with fishing gear.

the latest everything, is just a place to hide, or to look for something that is hiding. In the end, with all that human wealth at their very fin tips, fish are still best off just going about their business being a fish.


What I am pointing to is the fact that we humans are masters at nothing if not complexity.  We are so far removed from a simple life that we begin to resemble my Angler Fish.  With all the bells and whistles of modernity, we keep creeping away from what worked so well to get us here.  Maybe Mother Nature had it right before humans came along.  Maybe we should slow down and take a look at ourselves. Perhaps as a species, while we get more interesting, we get less functional. 


I don't really want to go back to starving to death in a dark cave every winter. That can get tiring, so I’m not petitioning for devolution. But it seems we accelerate the complexity of our environment more each generation, and to what end? We know not where we are headed, nor if it is a better place when we get there. But I guess we can take some comfort in knowing we have the gear.

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