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Joe Griffith: Mercury Switch

January 15 - February 12, 2015

Artlab Gallery - Part of the Crossroads of Art and Science Artist Residency series - Curated by John Loscuito and Anica Sturdivant


Joe Griffith art
Joe Griffith piece


Joe Griffith’s Dental Amalgam Project is an open call to artists to capture images of the inside of people’s mouths who have dental amalgam fillings.

Joe Griffith’s exhibition combines his interest in art and science, inspired by the research being conducted at FGCU’s Vester Marine Field Station. Through conversations with FGCU faculty and staff, Griffith maps out the movement of elemental mercury (Hg) from human use to the environment. A story in three parts, the exhibition presents the origins, chemical changes and bioaccumulation of mercury.

Griffith traces the accumulation of mercury in marine life, showing how mercury accumulates as it works its way up the food chain. Although the consumption of contaminated fish has been widely discussed, there is less awareness about how we live with mercury in our daily lives. The title Mercury Switch refers to a number of common commercial products that use mercury in their mechanisms, for example a household thermostat and fluorescent light bulbs. Unfortunately these are not always disposed of properly.

A sculptural element in this body of work brings to light another use of mercury as a component of amalgam dental fillings. Silver and mercury amalgam fillings are a pre-Civil War product that is still being used in dentistry today. When these fillings are removed or incinerated in the cremation process, the mercury finds its way back into our environment where we absorb it into our bodies. Joe Griffith’s sculptures of oversized teeth place the marine environment within the tooth structure linking the two together.

Before the residency began, Griffith introduced an interactive facet to his exhibition. The community was asked to contribute photographs of mouths that held amalgam fillings. Entries were emailed to the gallery and printed for inclusion in this exhibition. Through his artwork and public participation, Griffith hopes to bring attention to the micro and macro issues surrounding our bodies and the environment.