The Whiteness of the Whale

The Whiteness of the Whale, a painting By Jacinto Rivera

The Whiteness of the Whale
Oil on canvas
76″ X 66″

Click for a larger image


I am currently re-painting this work.

“The Whiteness of the Whale” was meant as a departure from how I usually work. I wanted to explore using the pigment white and I wanted to make a painting that I could use bigger gestural movements other than what I was used to. Coming upon the idea of using Moby Dick as the subject matter seemed to fit in to my original intent. I really did not want to make a depiction of the complete whale but I needed to make the canvas big so I could use sweeping brush strokes without getting too constrained by the image. After some research I determined the life size dimensions of a whale eyeball and started from there. I think the image is a true to life size; although I have never seen a sperm whale in my life and my imagination has tried to create one here. I worked on this painting for over a year being interrupted by the responsibilities of life and health issues. But as with time passing as it usually does, I was given a deeper meaning for what I was doing. I had read Moby Dick by Herman Melville when I was younger. But now that I am older, and maybe wiser, I see in his writing of the story during a time when the United States of America was so divided about the question of slavery and race over a hundred years ago are still echoing today. Chapter 42, “The Whiteness of the whale”, to me is a time when Ishmael steps back from the story and discusses the idea of white and what it means and has meant to civilization. To him it is both the purity and goodness and the horror and oncoming death that white represents. But in the end, apart from what our symbols say; it is mans will that determines what actions take place and what history would tell us where we are today.