The cement sculptures serve a dual function: they provide a surface on which coral, sponges, tunicates and other marine organisms can make a home and they attract divers, drawing them away from some of the more sensitive and fragile underwater habitats. But why do corals need cement statues — why can’t they just find a place to set up shop on the ocean floor? The problem is, most of the ocean floor is soft and sandy; according to NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich, only about 10 to 15 percent of the bottom is naturally solid enough to host a coral reef.
While de Caires Taylor’s medium is cement sculpture, the coral serves as his paint, adding vibrant colors and interesting textures to the otherwise plain sculptures. As Krulwich notes in his NPR report, water is a magnifier, and it also refracts light, so the coral-covered sculptures will look different when approached from different directions.
At the sculpture park in Granada, the long-term impact and beauty of de Caires Taylor’s work is apparent. There, divers can see small clusters of human forms located about 5 meters below the surface that are completely covered in brightly-colored corals, sponges and sea urchins. Some of the sculptures look like psychedelic abstractions, while others have become so overgrown that they scarcely look like people anymore.