The black gold of the golden state, who are you made of?

Honorable Mention
Dani Kwan


The Monterey Formation is a geologic formation that holds around 11 million years of history. Visual signs of deep ocean currents and life on earth are embedded within its layers of sandstone, shale, and limestone. And from that life, a resource instrumental to the economic development of California–oil. While in residency at UC Santa Barbara, I was surrounded by the Monterey every time I walked Ellwood Beach. Ellwood Beach was once an underwater home to foraminifera and diatoms, tiny single-cell organisms with and without shells, respectively. Over millions of years, those organisms fossilized into rock and became the source material for some of the largest oil pools in California.
This microscopic assemblage contains foraminifera carefully picked out of a small sample of mud and sand from the Santa Barbara Basin in 2008. I had the privilege of learning about and receiving the sample from Dorothy Pak, Ph.D. in UC Santa Barbara’s Materials Research Laboratory. Pak's research focuses on identifying changes in past ocean temperature, salinity and circulation on time scales of hundreds to millions of years; and how those changes indicate climate change.
This photograph is one part of a larger body of work in response to the Monterey Formation, which includes textile art, sound art, and ceramic sculpture. The complete project will be on view at the Art, Design & Architecture Museum on campus during the MFA Thesis Exhibition from May 19th through June 4th, 2023.

Thank you to Dorothy Pak, Greg Wahlert and CCBER, and Evan Monroe in Geology for your help in the creation and documentation of this project.