Recent News and Journal Entry, Oct. 6, 2012 Diving Up from the Deep
•A new solo show regarding Cuba, The Island Draws Me, opens at the Newport Art Museum, Nov 9- Jan 6. more info
•My Hale House / Matunuck residency and the goals for the 2012 season are now completed. A new brand for the historic house, gallery and programming were launched in June and was sucessful in diversifying and expanding the public visitation. The gallery features artists working with environmental themes. Two exciting shows punctuated the season: Seeing the Sea/Selections from Visual Artist Sea Grant Recipients, and AIR/Works of Kathy Hodge from Artist Residencies in our National Park and Forests. A catalog is available for Seeing the Sea from Hale House/Matunuck.
and some thoughts gleaned from observations in Nova Scotia, Diving Up from the Deep.
I never tire of watching my summer neighbors. From our porch I observe their surface movements, hear their exhalations, know their feeding habits and can decipher their social patterns. I don’t think they see me if they do I don’t think they’d much care. These neighbors are cetaceans: pilot, sei, and minke whales who also travel long distances to summer in the same stretch of sea in Nova Scotia that I do. Our cabin on top of the hill- built with hand tools because getting electricity that far up was prohibitive– overlooks what the locals call the “ Mackerel hole” on the Northumberland Strait. To the Northwest Prince Edward Island barely breaks the horizon and to the East Cape Breton Island Highlands frame out view. When we first began to summer here these waters were busy with local fishermen trawling for Hake. But two decades ago that all stopped because of depleted fish stocks and now it’s the whales and gannets we see most noticeably feeding here.
In late August at the end of our stay we were out on the porch for what my husband likes to call “the evening show”. As the melted orb of sun slides closer and closer to the cold hard line of the sea, the sky painting changes from second to second. No painter could match the subtleties and drama with colors that embrace the full spectrum and so much more. Evening wind and tide patterns ripple across the steely blue water and the dorsal fins of whales stitch across the textured mantle. I imagine the whales swallowing half the ocean in order to sieve their dinner.
Suddenly there was a great explosion, a splintering of air and sea as a minke whale propelled its massive body and extraordinary tonnage totally out of the water, diving up from the deep sea. The finned gymnast repeated this herculean acrobatics four times as we watched spellbound. Then it disappeared into its underwater realm and our show ended when the sun was swallowed by the sea for yet another day. Having whale exhalations as a part of my daily soundscape during the summer has always felt like a divine gift now I have this act of exuberance, of remarkable gymnastics to ponder. During the long ride home back to the States and as antidote to the drone of the 2012 campaign news dominating the radio I found myself relishing the wonder and mystery of Minke whale’s pirouette, sensing there was a deeper message there.
I did my reading on Minkes and discovered they are the most lithe and “acrobatic” of the baleen whales. Whales brains are also extremely large for body ratio and we keep doing experiments to probe whether these massive ancients creatures that moved from land back to sea could possibly be smarter than us. One researcher I read says its impossible considering they haven’t produced works of art. And why couldn’t their breaching be considered a form of dance I ask? It is our own limited brain capacity that reduces their choreagraphy to the scientist suggestions that breaching is used to get rid of pests, or to stun prey– possibly play. Until we can talk whale we will never know. But in the meantime I continue to hold the Minkes’ graceful ability to defy gravity as an inspiration and metaphor. To breathe or to breach–to dive solo into deep waters and resurface with great energy and in doing so reach new heights– that is the question.