Christopher Volpe, Any Human Thing 2017. Tar and oil paint on canvas, 48in x 36in.

New Bedford Whaling Museum Announces ‘Loomings’ Exhibition with Christopher Volpe

The New Bedford Whaling Museum today announced an upcoming exhibition featuring the work of painter Christopher Volpe that examines humanity’s relationship with nature and draws comparisons between our current oil-driven society and Herman Melville’s dark depictions of the 19th century. Loomings: Christopher Volpe opens on December 11, 2021 and runs through May 8, 2022.

Named for the first chapter of Moby-DickLoomings is a series of paintings combining tar, oil paint, and gold leaf to create enigmatic, thought-provoking marine images. The artworks recall that whale oil was the precursor to petroleum, and their titles, which quote or allude to Moby-Dick, invoke Melville’s apocalyptic vision of the destructive, never-ending pursuit of wealth as a cautionary tale for our own age of accelerating climate disruption and social unrest. 

Liquid tar, a byproduct of the production of petroleum, serves as the primary medium, inviting comparisons between the industrial dominance that began with the Quaker whaling ships of Cape Cod and New Bedford, and our own oil-driven modern age.

“At the Whaling Museum, we are committed to creating exhibitions that confront the impact humankind has on the world and creatures around us,” said Naomi Slipp, Douglas and Cynthia Crocker Endowed Chair for the Chief Curator. “This is one in a series of contemporary art exhibitions planned at the museum that will encourage people to assess our obligations to the environment and provide important commentary on our relationship to nature in the 21st century.”

Visitors will be asked to consider humanity’s continued exploitation of nature and the disquieting parallels between the doomed commercial whaling voyage of Captain Ahab and the Pequod, and the environmental impacts of resource extraction and use of fossil fuels in the 21st century. 

Loomings: Christopher Volpe will be exhibited in the Braitmayer Family Gallery at the New Bedford Whaling Museum beginning December 11, 2021. There will be a public artist talk and reception on January 20, 2022. Visit the New Bedford Whaling Museum website for more information.


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