Whale Ascending, 2007-2008 Oil on linen 46 × 34 inches
Whale Ascending, 2007-2008
Oil on linen 46 × 34 inches

I created this work as part of my "Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea" series—during the time for the national elections I thought we needed Good Leaders, because they were like Endangered Species in a world that was like a Ship at Sea. I think everyone can hopefully agree that we need endangered species not to be so endangered in our world, and if we can all agree that these animals, in general, are beautiful, sentient creatures that deserve to live in an unsoiled environment, that can be a common meeting ground that we can all converge to figure out ways that we can help to sustain the world and all the flora and faun upon it for us and future generations of the world. I love whales, and the idea of whales being these incredibly intelligent, conversing entities that are living in the world with us almost like underwater intelligent alien beings of their own watery kingdom. I went to grad school at UC Irvine in Orange County, and lived in Laguna Beach, which was beautiful, but also becoming polluted, and the art scene they were very proud of, becoming a little—while I don’t want to be hierarchal about art and taste—cheesy. One of the kings of populist art in Southern California is Robert Wyland, who has famously painted whales on murals, canvas, and other surfaces, and has his own series of galleries, t-shirts, and more. Not to say anything bad about Wyland—I think he has his own true mission in art, and I really believe in "art for the people," and while being perhaps truly about acknowledging animals within our marine worlds in order to save them, I felt my mission in creating art with animals was to NOT make cheesy art. How could I bring something intrinsically artful to a whale image? I chose one from the NY Picture Library that seemed unusual and to really strike me—something personal about it (as I grew up in Colorado, far from the ocean and Alaska, but the mountains in the background reminded me of this), and the incredible gesture of this Humpback Whale brought out his sentient agency, while creating a surrealism in the water and his wondrous body. I wanted to create a feeling of movement in how I micromanaged the aesthetic movements, and love painting water, as it becomes so abstract, my "left brain" can’t synthesize what it "should" look like, and becomes a complicated microcosmic map to project my feelings and inner mind upon, hoping it will break into otherworldly worlds. I grew up with National Geographic’s WORLD magazine for kids, and will always remember listening to a floppy record that came in the magazine one month, of Robert Redford narrating whale songs, and I would listen to its otherworldly voices and be transported, like I did while painting this image that I hope pays homage to their sublime mystery.