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Where art & science mix
Jen Blatty's fossil-themed photos are among many offerings at Telfair Art Fair

Each year the Telfair Art Fair brings a rich variety of artists from all pursuits for a weekend of al fresco fun in Telfair Square, displaying (and hopefully selling!) their work to enthusiastic crowds.

This year, among many other artists participating in the Art Fair, photographer JT Blatty will offer some ambitious fine art photography. Blatty, who splits her time between Savannah and New Orleans, brings a particular Lowcountry point of view to her work: Specifically, a long–running interest in the prehistoric fossils commonly found in this area.

The entire coastal plain of which Savannah is a part was underwater for millions of years. Likewise, millions of now–extinct marine creatures roamed the waters, including the massive Megalodon, or giant shark.

The thing about sharks is, they grow lots and lots of teeth during their lives, and at some point most all of them fall out. Fast forward to modern times, and this means local boaters and divers frequently find them.

Blatty was, um, bitten by shark teeth a few years ago.

“I’ve been searching for them since about 2004 when I moved to Wilmington Island,” she says. “I had heard stories about these huge Megalodon teeth, so I started talking to locals about it. For awhile I was going over the bridge into South Carolina to find them, to that place they don’t let you go to anymore (laughs).”

Eventually, Blatty bought a boat. “I got some people to show me where to go, and soon I realized there were other fossils I didn’t know much about. I even got my mom out there with me on the water — she has a master’s in anthropology — to help me identify the fossils.”

In addition to a large collection of various–sized teeth and fossils, Blatty’s passion led to some interesting photography, which she’s bringing to the Art Fair this weekend. She offers excerpts from her show “Parallel,” which was first on display in New Orleans earlier this year and was Blatty’s first gallery show.

As the name indicates, “Parallel” draws on the synergistic aesthetics of the fossils and the human form itself.

“When I looked at all the grooves and lines in the teeth, I was struck by the similarity to the human body, and how all life is perfectly orchestrated. The similarities can also apply to things like trees and shells,” she says.

“I was just struck by the symphony of it all, and decided the best way to explain it is to show it.”

Also on display will be the actual fossils used in the photographs — “but those aren’t for sale,” laughs Blatty.

Finding the fossils is part science, part art, and a lot of luck.

“I have done a little blackwater diving to look for them, and that was really scary. You can’t see anything, you have to feel around,” she says. “I find a lot of them in eroding cliffs and banks from dredging, or along the beach. You have to know how to recognize one when you see it half–buried there.”

Initially each fossil “just looks like muddy rock,” Blatty says. “Then you wash it off, and the details of the fossil become so beautiful, and each one so different from the other. It’s so fascinating — here this thing has been under the river for millions of years, then you touch it.”

While “Parallel” was a success in New Orleans, Blatty says the photos are likely to be even more appreciated here.

“I wanted to spread this work to the Lowcountry, where I think people are a little more in tune to things like this,” she says.

“Plus, this is where I was originally inspired to do this, after years of treasure hunting here. Fossil hunting and photography combine my two passions.” 

Telfair Art Fair

When: Saturday, 10 am-5 pm, Sunday, noon-4 pm. Children’s activities in Telfair Square on Saturday.

Where: Telfair Square

Cost: Free and open to the public, art available for purchase