Austrian artist Andreas Franke has just launched a ground-breaking underwater art installation off the coast of Sanibel Island in Florida entitled Mohawk Project: The Life Above Refined Below. Using sunken World War II battleship the USS Mohawk, magnets attach the twelve photo exhibition to the iron hull. Exploring themes of love, loss, and youth at a time when the world was at war, Franke has evoked a sense of life and love transcending death, a defiance of the devastation and suffering experienced during that period. Most importantly, it reminds us of just how young and optimistic those sailors and their sweethearts were all those years ago, and how quickly lives were changed and loves were lost.
The USS Mohawk, or “Mighty Mo,” was sunk last year to act as an artificial reef. The ship that helped carry off the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France also survived 14 Nazi attacks and rescued more than 300 sailors from torpedoed ships during WWII. Franke first photographed the ghostly ship swarming with fish while diving in August. He then shot a second series of photographs featuring contemporary models in 1940s styling that were then superimposed over the original shots. Franke says, “I imagined these sailors waiting in the North Atlantic for a German sub to attack them, so in these images I tried to make their lives a little bit nicer with the girls on board. If I was there, what would I want? It’s a dream, a fantasy land for sailors.”
This Mohawk Project is another exhibition in a series of underwater exhibitions by Andreas Franke. He also displayed retro images on the WWII ship USNS General Hoty S. Vandenberg and photos of Renaissance aristocracy frolicking on sunken freighter ship SS Stavronikita. The Mohawk Project underwater exhibition will be attached to the ship until September, where it will then be exhibited in more conventional, land-bound galleries. For more information, please visit the artist’s website here.