Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quick Note About Some Art: Thar She Blows!

Please note: This is not a small room.

In the 19th century no whale was more famous than Mocha Dick. It is said that Mocha Dick, a 70ft white sperm whale, survived more than 100 attacks near and around the island of Mocha off the coast of Chile. This great white bull was tough, mean, and when he finally succumbed whilst aiding a distraught cow whose calf had just been killed by whalers, it was reported that he had old harpoons protruding from his weathered scar and barnacle covered flesh. He was a legend. Melville sure found him interesting as it is commonly thought that Mocha was the inspiration for Moby.

Philadelphia artist, Tristin Lowe, mixes art with a little science with a 52 foot long likeness of Mocha Dick constructed of thick felt around an inflated membrane, on view at the Fabric Workshop and Museum now. Scars are meticulously stitched all around the great beast and groups of barnacles, also constructed of felt plague the head and nose. But, Lowe's construction is not hidden in any way. Great seams barely conceal zippers and it is obviously that this whale is easily deconstructed.

Yes, I want to stick my fingers in these barnacles.

What's really nice about Lowe's Mocha Dick is that sure you can draw all sorts of conclusions about man vs. nature and man vs. himself - we've all read the text, but it's its size and construction. The choice of material and technique suggests that human hands have touched every inch of this massive form elevating it from a state of tongue in cheek reproduction to something else. Something more and farther reaching. It's awesome. Philly folks, if you haven't seen it yet - go now.

*Also up right now (until June 13) at Fleischer/Ollman: Mocha Dick in the Invisible World - Paul Swenbeck and Tristin Lowe's tag team show filled with all things felt (bottles, pirates, barrels and the original sketches of Mocha Dick by Lowe), along with ceramic works the likes of which you have never seen and other delights (by Swenbeck).

Photos by Adam Blumberg.