Tristin Lowe: Mocha Dick features a 52-foot-long, ghostly white sperm whale made out of industrial wool felt. Mocha Dick was inspired by the whale that once harassed sailing ships near Mocha Island in the South Pacific Ocean. Described as having flesh as “white as wool,” that same whale was also the basis for Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby-Dick.
Sprawled across the museum’s largest gallery, Mocha Dick has the size and feel of an actual whale. Lowe achieves this effect through his use of industrial wool felt, which mimics the appearance of flesh. The wool is carefully stitched, pieced, and threaded together so that these constructed seams and zippers appear as harpoon-scars and squid-besieged gashes. The wool covers an armature and inflatable device that creates the look of muscular form. Lowe also hand-attaches wool-crafted barnacles to the whale’s side, which, in addition to the scars and gashes, give the whale an older, embattled aura. Viewers are invited to consider the magnificence of the whale, the legacy of whaling, the care of our environment, and how the epic leviathan continues to capture the imagination.
“The body and flesh of Mocha Dick remind us of an actual, physical landscape; the wool is almost like a topographical map,” explains Class of 1956 Director Lisa Corrin. “Herman Melville worked on Moby-Dick while living in Pittsfield in the shadow of Mount Greylock, which reminded him of the whale. This sculpture will remind our students and all of our visitors of the extraordinary literary and artistic legacy that has made our region so culturally significant. We are looking forward to the multidisciplinary programs, from the English Department to Environmental Studies and the Williams-Mystic Program, which will explore the many issues that this artwork inspires us to consider.”