Creature Feature: Whale

Whale (Basque Work Table), 2016
16” x 15” x 26”
Stainless steel

J 003

Whale is an interesting piece for me because it was a bit of a departure from my usual methodology as far as texture is concerned. It is the first artwork where the texture was not derived directly from nature. It actually came from a work table at my foundry in Spain. The table has all of this lovely wear and tear; imperfect from being worked on and holes from using a wood burner on its surface. I just noticed it one day and became completely distracted by it. It’s funny how you can use something all the time, then one day, you see it in a totally different light.


So the table texture was in the back of my head, but I was working on other pieces at the time. Sometimes in the studio or foundry when I get stuck my go-to for inspiration or maybe just further distraction are David Attenborough videos. I’m an avid fan and like to watch and sketch in my book. There was a segment about whale sharks and I instantly made a connection with the work table texture. From there, my Whale was born. (Please note that the actual size of Whale is approximately the same size as a baby whale shark!)


The literal process of creating Whale is very similar to my other artworks. I start with sketches that I translate into paper molds. In order to replicate the movement and body curvature of a whale shark, I printed out various photos.


To get the texture, I used a silicone mold this time. It is liquid and I can get a faster, more detailed translation. Silicone is great for flat surfaces, but not so great for upright trees found in forests on top of mountains that take four miles of hiking to reach!


Whale’s dark patina is unusual for stainless steel and the contrast on the highly polished truncated head was very important to me for this sculpture.


Why did I choose to “cut off” the head? For me this was a multi-faceted decision. It was partly because I wanted to get that same unexpected sheen as I did with Elefantito. An abrupt end also makes the piece easier to polish without ruining the texturized area. But honestly, it was a gut feeling. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the unexpected. I have disrupted the “whaleness” on my Whale. It is clear from the rest of the sculpture that I am capable of giving you what you would expect to see, but this changes the game. As humans, we are thrown off by and question visual disruption. We want the eyes and head as we relate to those parts. But in Whale, they are not there and THAT is the power  I lure you in with the realness but then I abrupt the realism with abstraction.

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