Tiny apple blossom seashells, each the size of a baby’s fingernail, started out on this planet in pairs. Each pair served as the wee apartment of a living clam in the sea. Over time, tides pulled them apart. The singleton shells were spit onto the sand. Miniscule as they were, they caught the notice of artist Dario Robleto as he walked along the beaches of Florida, Texas and other warm coastlines.
He liked the way they blushed pink.
For years, he collected these shells by the hundreds. Then he got the idea of putting them back together, painstakingly, pair by pair.
Dozens of the seashell couples reunited by Dario hung out for a time in his Houston studio. He carefully arranged them into two groups, these apple blossom seashell pairs, and serenaded them for hours with vinyl records. One group listened to the entire discography of Dusty Springfield. They experienced each Dusty song for 48 hours straight.
Another group of seashells soaked in every record made by Muddy Waters, one song at a time, each for 48 hours straight.
Most folks probably think of the two deceased musicians as polar opposites. One was a blonde pop star. The other was an African-American blues giant. But Dario knew that Dusty and Muddy were each singing about the same things.
Satisfied with the seashells’ education in his own personal school of rock, Dario carefully separated the pairs again. He returned the partner of each shell to the sea.
“The idea is,” Dario says, “could I change the sound of the ocean, one shell at a time?”
With the remaining halves, and you can be sure he kept very close track of which were which, he spelled out “Dusty” and “Muddy” in big, beautiful script about four feet wide.
The two works, “I Wish the Ocean Sounded More Like Dusty Springfield” and “I Wish the Ocean Sounded More Like Muddy Waters” are hanging side by side in bright white frames at D’Amelio Terras gallery in New York. The artist’s solo exhibition, “The Minor Chords Are Ours,” is on view through April 16. His work is also part of the exhibition “Building the Contemporary Collection: Five Years of Acquisitions,” on view now at the Nasher Museum.
I Wish The Ocean Sounded More Like Dusty Springfield 1996, 2010
32 x 49 x 1 3/4 inches
81.3 x 124.5 x 4.4 cm
Apple blossom seashells, altered sound of shells, glue
A collection of seashells were grouped into a series of pairs. Each couple was then serenaded with a different Dusty Springfield song for 48 hours at a time. Each seashell’s partner was then returned to the shore