"I find myself dancing in the shop to get the poetic movement of these animals."
Beginning art instruction at age 8, Wick Ahrens had a traditional education, studying at Vesper George School of Art, San Francisco Art Institute, and in the studio of his mentor, Clark Voorhees of Weston, Vermont.
The artist had been sculpting whales for years, working at cabinetry to support his obsession with sea-going mammals. In Mexico's Baja Peninsula, Ahrens studied gray whales during their annual retreat from Alaska for mating and calving. In San Ignacio Lagoon, a 40-foot whale allowed the artist to stroke its throat -- an encounter which transformed Ahrens's life and, of course, his work. Not long thereafter, he was commissioned to sculpt an 18-foot whale for permanent display in the Coyote Point Museum -- the world's largest wooden cetacean, completed in 1985.
During a pilgrimage to Maui, Ahrens swam with humpback whales, observing at awesome close range their behavior, their power and grace, even their personalities. In his studio overlooking Tomales Bay, he began hand-painting a series of the massive carved portraits, applying barnacles and scars realistic enough to match the vitality he was now able to capture in their forms. But Ahrens was raised on the butterfat of a Vermont dairy farm, and could not stay at sea.
Relocating from California, the artist now sculpts full-time in his Peru, Vermont studio. He continues to study his subject by film and photo, with marine biologists and holy men. Devoted to the essential whale, he makes his own life a bridge between sugar pine timbers and those mysterious creatures who left the land 50 million years ago.
Like the national treasure artists of Japan, Ahrens produces only a few pieces each year. Completely original yet authentic interpretations of various species result. His work is represented in NMNA America bank, in other private collections at Newport RI, Aiken SC, Pt. Reyes CA, Berkeley and Los Angeles, as well as public museums and galleries. He is a member of the Copley Society of Boston, and the Society of Animal Artists.
Oakland Museum, Oakland CA
© 2012 J.
Russell Jinishian - jrusselljinishiangallery.com
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