This is part of a series where I explore interesting pieces of environmental art.
This cool 6-7 foot fish fossil, titled “Still Waters” by Gary Sutphin, is displayed outside an entrance to the Colorado Mills Mall in Lakewood, CO. It is not a museum. It is clearly displayed as art. Does it fit within the category of “environmental art”? If I ask myself this questions then it probably does. It’s science, a fossilized prehistoric fish, displayed like a painting or sculpture. Therefore, yes it is very much environmental art. If this piece gets you thinking about fossils, dinosaurs, prehistory, or big fish, then the artist has done his part to create environmental art.
The impression it made on me and my family was immediate. We were walking past it into the mall and my young son was scared and wanted to get past it as fast as possible. He’s into dinosaurs and has been to natural history museums. I think that gave him an understanding of what this giant scary fish might be, which was enough to scare him.
It made me think about fossils and wonder if my geology education could figure out the age of this prehistoric fish. It’s been a long time since I’ve studied any marine paleontology. So unless it’s some kind of ichthyosaur, I have no idea what it actually is.
Here’s my geologic breakdown. It’s in a siltstone from the Green River Lake system that is located at the intersection of Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. Those fossils are from 53.5-48.5 million years ago. The problem is that I don’t think the fish from that time and place grew to be that big. If I’m wrong, which I probably am, then I don’t have a second guess without doing research.
There is the chance that this is purely a work of art. That it is not a real fossil and lacks any scientific merit. If that’s true, I will feel a little duped and sad that this cool fish didn’t really exist. But I will accept it. I like it and it did get me thinking.
I have a much smaller fish fossil at home that I found in the Green River region. I’ve always thought of displaying it somehow. This will inspire me to do that.
The fossils and dioramas in natural history museums are art displaying science. You don’t need to pay an admission fee to see this one. You can find it on your way to buy new running shorts at Sports Authority.