Listen, Listen: A Whale Ceremonial
In 2000, curator Dr. Peter London challenged me to create an installation for the exhibition “Concerning the Spiritual in the Arts.” Having visited New Bedford, Massachusetts twice to familiarize myself with the old whaling port, its history, and issues, I encountered the contemporary challenges of the relationship of land and sea as the latter's resources dwindle. Land and sea were represented by a spiral made of dark earth and sand bordered by blue/green handmade paper and crystal beads for the foaming ocean.
On this journeying path, figurines of animals and humans walk along with figurines of archetypal beings. The figurines together reflect my dream that people, from many different lands and cultures, will see each other as one. And that humans, the sentient beings that we are, may work toward the awakening of the consciousness that will save our planet. In this installation, all of us together walk to the center where the 'Monarch of the Sea', the blue whale, reigns. Since the blue whale may be nearing extinction the installation raises the specter that her reign may be ending.
The large installation, subsequently recreated for the opening of the Blue Whale Building of the New Bedford Whaling Museum*, was such an extreme art/life connection that I feel compelled to say something about the process. Dr. London had assigned the topic of whale having no idea that a few years earlier, upon becoming an American citizen, I had changed my middle name to Whale! Replacing Ghislaine, my mother's name with Whale was no light thing, but the whale had become a kind of inner mother who was teaching me about lightness of being at a very difficult time in my life. Delving into a topic of the endangered blue whale was heartwrenching as well as exhilarating, with much synchronicity and grace spurring me on. It's only now that I realize this 'assignment' coincided with the time when I thought of dealing with a severe depression by facing death, and live as if I had only One Year To Live, such as it was suggested in a book of the same title by Stephen Levine.
* The Museum invites the New Bedford community to Moby-Dick/The Marathon/The non-stop reading of the Herman classic! Now in its 12th year, it is an example of community ritual to emulate.