Unlocking earth’s timeless secrets: Art, technology and Anticosti Island

Left: created art piece exhibited at the Jardins de Métis (August 20 to October 18th 2023). Right: open exhibition of the art piece.
Deep Time exhibited at the Jardins de Métis in 2023.
Imagine bringing together art, science and technology to breathe life into a fossil that’s over 400 million years old. That’s what Deep Time, a groundbreaking artwork, does, taking us on a journey through the Earth’s history, weaving together geological time, modern engineering and the rich fossil records of Anticosti Island.

A bold collaboration

Visual artist Christine Fitzgerald envisioned a three-dimensional metal artwork created from a photograph of a fossil using modern technology. Her quest led her to uOttawa, where she found a receptive partner in Dr. Bertrand Jodoin, a professor at the Faculty of Engineering. In just hours, he brought his collaborators on board. In synergy, Fitzgerald, Jodoin, Dr. Aleksandra Nastic (a uOttawa alumna and postdoctoral fellow at uToronto) and the PolyCSAM facility of PolyControls and the team embarked on a journey to marry art, science and technology and understand the planet’s past.

Christine Fitzgerald

“This  project is an example of how creative collaborations between arts and sciences can have an impact in facilitating learning and knowledge exchange to audiences through the emotive power of art.”

Christine Fitzgerald

— Ottawa photo-based artist

Deep Time is the result of a multidisciplinary collaboration more typical of the aerospace, biomedical, and automotive fields. The team used Cold Gas Dynamic Spray (CGDS) technology and computer programming to transform a two-dimensional fossil photograph into a stunning three-dimensional metal artwork.

A spectrum of metals, including aluminum, zinc, nickel, titanium, steel and alumina powders, came together to render the final art piece, symbolizing the myriad elements that have shaped our planet’s history.

From left to right: Original crinoid fossil photograph, CAD mask and powder palette planning and final CGDSed art piece.
From left to right: Original crinoid fossil photograph, CAD mask and powder palette planning and final CGDSed art piece.

Anticosti Island: A time capsule

Anticosti Island is more than just the backdrop to this project — it holds the key to understanding a crucial moment in the Earth’s history. The island’s limestone rocks contain countless well-preserved fossils spanning 15 million years of the Earth’s history, from the Upper Ordovician to the Lower Silurian periods, nearly 450 million years ago. With UNESCO recognition as a World Protected site, Anticosti Island provides scientists with a window into the first mass extinction of life on earth.

Bertrand Jodoin

“A lot of dedication and passion was involved in creating this artwork, and it is likely to inspire us to improve the technology for aerospace applications.”

Bertrand Jodoin

— Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Cold Spray Laboratory

Significance of the work

Deep Time is not just an artwork. It’s a bridge over millions of years of the Earth’s history, as we seek to understand the impact of humans on the planet and grapple with the effects of climate change,  a visual representation of the grand narrative of our planet.

This unique project demonstrates the potential of creative, multidisciplinary collaborations. It invites us to learn from our past, to appreciate Anticosti Island’s importance to science and to use the power of art to convey complex scientific ideas to a broader audience.

Deep Time will be on exhibit at the Karsh-Masson Gallery at City Hall in Ottawa from May 9, 2024, for 11 weeks.