Artist’s intricate paper sculptures connect humans to corals


American artist Rogan Brown creates stunning paper art of the microscopic organisms living inside our bodies that, when scaled up, resemble coral reefs. The art highlights the harmonies between our outer and inner worlds.

Coral bleaching is one of the most conspicuous and widespread effects of climate change we see today. It occurs when coral polyps expel algae that live inside their tissues, which happens when oceans overheat. The corals lose their colour or ‘bleach’ as they starve, and ultimately die.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, between 2014 and 2016 the longest recorded global bleaching events killed coral on an unprecedented scale. In 2016, bleaching of coral on the Great Barrier Reef killed between 29 and 50 per cent of the reef’s coral—a devastating loss.


Brown’s paper sculptures illustrate the connections inherent in humans and corals. For example: Both microbiomes and coral reefs consist of biodiverse colonies of organisms that exist alongside each other.

By drawing these connections, his work relegates humans back to one of many natural species, thereby diminishing perceptions of humans as an entitled group based on of anthropocentric dominance (some believe this to be the attitude that motivates the environmental exploitation that results in climate change).

In short, reminding humans they’re a part of nature could help them realise that polluting is fundamentally a self-destructive act.

Brown first cuts the paper pieces with precision, either by-hand with a scalpel or with a laser, then layers them over one another, breathing life into the piece with dimensionality.

His series, Magical Circle Variations, uses a pastel colour palette that can also be found in a coral habitat.

Learn more about Brown’s work via this video:

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