- British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor co-founded the Museo Subacuatico de Arte in Cancun, Mexico, in 2009.
- Over the years he has installed more than 450 works of art in the underwater museum
- Some sculptures are barely recognisable after coral, sea urchins and other marine life have made them their homes
Transformation: Jason deCaires Taylor's sculpture of Brian, the owner of a Harley Davidson showroom in Canada, has been taken over by marine life in the Museum of Subaquatic Art in Cancun, Mexico
While most artists would be distraught at their work being vandalised, one sculptor believes the erosion of his underwater pieces by marine life has only made them better.
More than 450 figurative sculptures have been installed in the underwater museum, the Museo Subacuatico de Arte, since British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor co-founded it back in 2009 off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.
But many of the artworks, all part of 'The Silent Evolution' project', are unrecognisable today after coral, sea urchins and other marine life have taken them over as their new home.
Underwater artwork: A sculpture based on a local school teacher called Veronica, pictured left, is now encrusted with coral and covered in sea urchins.
Pictured above is another piece from 'The Silent Evolution' project which has been transformed by sea-life over the years
New home: This work by deCaires Taylor is based on Paz, a local fisherman from Acapulco.
It is located 10 metres below the sea surface in the Museum of Subaquatic Art in Cancun, Mexico, and is now home to a vast array of sea-life
The 39-year-old said: 'When I place them underwater it is the beginning of their lifecycle. For me they only come alive when they have their underwater patina.
'They are made from inert cement but when you see the skin of capillaries and tubular networks of the marine life and sponges colonising them, it makes them feel immortal.'
The sculptures are all based on real-life people including Brian, the owner of a Harley Davidson showroom in Canada; Paz, a fisherman from Acapulco, Mexico; and Veronica, a local school teacher.
Over time the works have become encrusted with hundreds of luridly-coloured sea sponges, spiny sea urchins and marine plants called hydroids, capable of delivering a nasty sting when touched.
Coming to life: Jason deCaires Taylor believes the sculptures only come alive when they are covered in marine life
Life below the surface: 'The Anchors', a sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor, sits in a bed of sea grass
The spiny sea urchins crawl across the faces of the sculptures, 10 metres below the surface, and provide a useful service to deCaires Taylor by eating the algae that can prevent coral from forming.
Asked if he has any plans to prune back the growth on his works to ensure they do not become obscured, the artist is resolute.
'No, the plan is leave them as they are,' deCaires Taylor said.
'The human figure is so embedded in our psyche that even a small reference to our anatomy helps us comprehend the artwork.'
Despite their foreboding appearance of the sculptures, deCaires Taylor says that to him they feel 'almost feel like family', although he admits that visitors to the museum are occasionally spooked.
'Some times people get a little scared, it depends on the conditions of the day,' deCaires Taylor said. 'If the water is clear with bright sun the figures have a slightly euphoric feel, other days when it is cloudy or the water murky the encounter can be quite startling.
'Each character has a unique story and it is very exciting for me watching nature take over.'
Under the sea: Jason deCaires Taylor's underwater sculpture 'Vein Man' at the Museo Subacu·tico de Arte.
Over time bright yellow fire coral will travel along the stainless steel lattice and look like blood through veins
Living art: An underwater sculpture by artist Jason deCaires Taylor, entitled 'Resurrection'.
The work uses live purple Gorgonian fan coral (Gorgonia flabellum), which had been displaced from the reef system in a storm
Man on fire: The artist's sculpture 'Self-Immolation', is made from black pH neutral marine cement, and depicts a solitary burning figure.
Over time it will be overrun with fast-growing, bright yellow live fire coral.
The artist is happy to abandon his works to the waves, but does acknowledge that there can be downsides to working in an underwater environment.
He said: 'Sometimes when diving at night my dive lights attract thousands of tiny swimming sea worms.
Recently one crawled inside my ear canal and felt like it had entered my brain.
'I was on my own at the time and found it quite disturbing, although fortunately after 20 minutes it found its way out!'
DeCaires Taylor has previously created a real life city of Atlantis, sunk a life-size sculpture of a Volkswagen Beetle and even a house.
He also unveiled a series of new sculptures last month including one called No Turning Back, a cement cast of a hunched-over woman, which alludes to the loss of Caribbean coral reefs, while another, Self-Immolation, depicts a solitary burning figure - a reference to the practice of setting yourself on fire as a form of political protest.
A real-life Atlantis: Stunning sculpture city under the sea off...
Talking art: 'The Speaker' stands in a bed of sea grass. The sculpture is planted with more than 200 cuttings of rare Acropora Prolifera coral
Stunning: The sculpture is planted with more than 200 cuttings of the rare Acropora Prolifera coral, in Cancun, Mexico
Prolific: DeCaires Taylor now has 510 sculptural works permanently on display at the site, many of which feature live coral
Latest additions: The 39-year-old unveiled a new series of works last month in the Museo Subacuatico de Arte, the subaquatic museum he co-founded back in 2009 off the coast of Cancun, Mexico
Made from black pH neutral marine cement, the work is augmented with stainless steel spines, and over time it will be overrun with fast-growing, bright yellow live fire coral which will mimic flames.
DeCaires Taylor said: 'I try to use the work to highlight the huge losses we're having and how our blue planet is changing quite dramatically.
'Future generations aren't going to see the same number of species and fantastic pristine reefs.
'But I want to balance that sadness - in order to inspire people, you have to offer them hope as well.'
Another of deCaires Taylor's sculptures is Resurrection, a winged angelic-looking figure, which uses live purple Gorgonian fan coral and had to be rescued after being displaced from the reef system and damaged during a recent storm.
Art with a message: A number of the new works deal with the devastation of the natural marine habitat
Natural subject: 'No Turning Back' in the Museo Subacuatico de Arte in Cancun, Mexico, a cement cast of a hunched-over woman, alludes to the tragic loss of Caribbean coral reefs
Artistic installation: One of the artist's latest sculptures is pictured being lowered down into the water at the submarine park
Last light: The sculpture gets one last glimpse of daylight before being completely submerged by the water
Getting wet: No turning back is carefully winched into the water and placed on a rock at the bottom of the ocean
Strong currents around the museum meant that the sculptures had to be craned from a bridge into a nearby canal and then toed out to the site.
The Dover, Kent, born artist said: 'Some of these were much more delicate than pieces I've made before, so it was difficult working in tough conditions.
'I had to box some of them up in crates and then sink them underwater in their crates. Believe me, taking a crate apart underwater is difficult.'
DeCaires Taylor now has 510 sculptural works permanently on display at the site, although these are his final additions for the time being as he prepares to relocate back to Europe.
However, the museum has been a huge success, receiving 250,000 visitors each year, and deCaires Taylor is trying to secure funding to eventually expand it to include 8,000 figures - more than the famous Terracotta Army.
He said: 'I'm leaving Mexico, but I've got this legacy here, that my daughter can come back in twenty years time and it will still be there.'
Some of his more creative works include a life-size version of a Volkswagen Beetle and an underwater 'city' of homes.
Hands on: Vein Man sticks out of the top of the water as it is lowered down by a crane hook, left, while artist Jason deCaires Taylor gets into the water himself to help lower one of his sculptures into place, right
Preparation work: Jason deCaires Taylor works on his sculpture 'Self-Immolation' in his studio in Cancun
Expanding: The museum has been a huge success, receiving 250,000 visitors each year, and deCaires Taylor is trying to secure funding to eventually expand the site to 8,000 figures
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