It might not have taken as long as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, but Cathy Church’s mural-size underwater-photograph installation at Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport is a stunningly ambitious project — and a bigger-than- life reminder of why divers flock to this western Caribbean island.
Church’s installation — which is 9 feet high and commands the entire 122-foot length of two main walls in the airport’s baggage-claim lobby — is a single continuous image that showcases the eye-popping biodiversity and saturated colors of Grand Cayman’s reefs. As passengers scan the carousel for their luggage and gear, they’re presided over by an array of the life forms waiting just offshore: bright-orange, red and purple sponges; a spotted eagle ray; a school of silversides; goliath and Nassau grouper; hawksbill turtles; and the signature inhabitants of Stingray City. All have been proportioned to colossal size and reproduced so crisply that you can count individual fish scales.
The creator of this opus is Cathy Church, whose Photo Centre at diver-dedicated Sunset House resort on the west end is a Cayman landmark. Church has been a leader in aquatic imaging for more than 40 years, as well as a dedicated conservationist and one of the world’s leading educators in underwater photography. Her lavish, imaginative body of work was the natural choice for Interspace Airport Advertising, the firm that conceived and donated the mural.
The project has received rave reviews from visitors since its unveiling. That should be no surprise: Divers generate more than a third of local tourism revenue on these islands.
HOW THEY DID IT
Working with graphic artist Charles Viggers, her longtime collaborator, Church selected 60 separate images from her library of photos. Viggers composited these into a 16-gigabyte file that was enlarged onto 40 panels of vinyl laminate that comprise the finished piece.