With the support of the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium and the collaboration of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association, I am creating a series of paintings that depict the subsistence whaling culture of the Inupiat Eskimo people of Barrow, Alaska.
Inupiat tradition says that the whale chooses you. She gives herself to you. She chooses the whaler and the crew that is most respectful, that has the whitest umiaq, that doesn't quarrel on the ice, that is patient, organized, quiet and clean. If she decides that you are not ready to receive her, she may go to a different crew or community, or pass by altogether and continue her migration. This gift is the ultimate sacrifice. This quiet, otherwordly giant appears out of the depths of a frozen ocean so that you and your community can continue to survive in one of the harshest climates on the planet.
During my seven month stay in Barrow, Alaska, I created several small and large-scale studies of various stages of the whale hunt. I have chosen, for the final series, to depict only that moment when the community comes together to receive the whale. It is this exchange, the absorption of one life into another, that I find the most striking. This scene will ultimately be depicted in two large-scale triptychs of the spring and fall hunt.
"The Whale as a Dish", Spring Hunt
triptych, oil on canvas, 180"x88", 2014
scale reference for "The Whale as a Dish", Spring Hunt