The Whiteness of the Whale. Acrylic Paint & Shellac

The Whiteness of the Whale. Acrylic Paint & Shellac

The Whiteness of the Whale. Acrylic Paint & Shellac

The Whiteness of the Whale. Acrylic Paint & Shellac

Matt Kish

Beavercreek, OH


2006  MS  Kent State University
1993   BS   Bowling Green State University

Solo Exhibitions

2011   Moby-Dick in Pictures, Basil Hallward Art Gallery

Group Exhibitions

2016   Chasing the Whale and Other Endless Pursuits,
    Contemporary Arts Center (Cincinnati, OH)
2015   The Art of the Leviathan, Wild Goose Creative (Columbus)
2014   Cape Whale, Sea Space Gallery (Providencetown, MA)
2013    Little Big Show, MacRostie Arts Ctr (Grand Rapids, MN)
 2013   Wildlife Refuge, Current Space (Baltimore, MD)

Selected Collections

New Bedford Whaling Museum
Melville Society Archives


2015   The Revelator, Unnamed Press
2015   Encantado, Red Bird Chapbooks
2013   The Desert Places, Curbside Splendor
2013   Heart of Darkness, Tin House Books
2011    Moby Dick in Pictures, Tin House Books
2011    The Alligators of Abraham, Mud Luscious Press

Artist Statement

Sailors and whalers frequently spent their idle hours at sea in the carving of scrimshaw designs on the teeth and bones of whales. These carvings frequently depicted scenes in the life of a seaman, from portraits of sailors and islanders to images of ships at sea to scenes of fierce battles with mighty whales. When presented with the opportunity to create an image on such an unusual and non-traditional surface as an ostrich egg, and given my personal obsession with the novel Moby-Dick, my first thought was to follow in the footsteps of those historical scrimshanders and, using the media and the materials common and familiar to me, create a similar scene as a memento of many daydreamed afternoons spent between the pages of Melville's novel.

While it was a great challenge to adapt a two-dimensional image for painting on a three-dimensional object, I found that the curvature of the egg quite powerfully suggested both the watery, sea-covered globe itself as well as the rounded curves of the White Whale's body. Selecting a scene from near the end of Moby-Dick in which the White Whale bodily attacks the hapless Pequod, I recreated this on the egg itself, creating a terrifying image of death on the rounded surface of a universal symbol of life.

When creating Moby-Dick in Pictures (which contains 552 illustrations - each page of the novel inspired its own drawing), I gradually developed a personal visual vocabulary of symbols that I carried through the entire project.  It was crucial for me to make Moby-Dick my own, and to show it in a way that it had never been seen before.  Many more images and memories from my childhood informed the art, and, since you can't do a whole lot with a whale (which essentially is a moving tube of flesh with a tail at one end) I started pushing my own depictions into more fantastic and surreal forms.  There are so many the White Whale a natural beast, a divine creature, or the instrument of God?  Eyes bean appearing all over my White Whale to hint at that mythic, omnipotent and potentially divine nature. 

Herman Melville would have been proud of the paradox.