Fiber and Paper

Tristin Lowe’s Fabric Mocha Dick

mochadick4Tristin Lowe’s colossal Mocha Dick (52 feet) is a marvel – a vinyl under structure covered in white industrial felt.  It’s a replica of a real albino sperm whale that went after whaling vessels near Mocha Island the South Pacific in the early 19th century.  This is the creature that is supposed to have inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851).


Lowe collaborated with the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia to make the sculpture, which is on exhibit  at The West Collection in Pennsylvania.


“Vividly chronicled by a New England seafarer and published in the monthly Knickerbocker magazine (1839), the creature was said to have attacked as many as twenty whaling vessels.” according to exhibition notes from a previous show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. “The graphic account describes the elusive behemoth, known as Mocha Dick, as a ghostly presence: ‘As white as wool . . . as white as a snow drift . . . white as the surf around him.’ This notorious creature was especially striking because sperm whales are commonly dark gray, brown, or black.”


Many more images on the website of Tristin Lowe, here.

Tristin Lowe’s C.V., here.

Note: The particulars of the sculpture are: Industrial wool felt, inflatable armature, vinyl-coated fabric, and internal fan.

17 replies »

  1. What a great story and awesome – in size and otherwise – sculpture. I’d like to read more of the process of getting felt to do that. And where in the wide world to they keep something this large if it’s not on permanent display – LOL! (but seriously!)


    • Great question about where do they keep it. The artist’s website shows large studio space, so presumably there’s room. But it’s also on travelling exhibit a lot, which must also pose logistical issues.


  2. Last summer my wife and I with our Grandson visited “Burton Constable Hall” East Yorkshire, and guess what the skeleton of the afore mentioned whale can be seen there.
    An unusual feature in the park during the 19th century was the skeleton of an 18 m long Sperm Whale erected on ironwork. The bull whale had been stranded in 1825 on the shore at nearby Tunstall and was carefully dissected and studied by James Alderson, a celebrated Hull surgeon. The whale skeleton was brought to Burton Constable, since as Lord Paramount of the Seigniory of Holderness, Sir Clifford was entitled to anything of interest that washed up on the foreshore. This famous whale also came to the attention of Herman Melville, who published his masterpiece Moby-Dick in 1851: “at a place in Yorkshire, England, Burton Constable by name, a certain Sir Clifford Constable has in his possession the skeleton of a Sperm Whale … Sir Clifford’s whale has been articulated throughout; so that like a great chest of drawers, you can open and shut him, in all his long cavities—spread out his ribs like a gigantic fan—and swing all day upon his lower jaw. Locks are to be put upon some of his trap doors and shutters; and a footman will show round future visitors with a bunch of keys at his side. Sir Clifford thinks of charging twopence for a peep at the whispering gallery in the spinal column; threepence to hear the echo in the hollow of his cerebellum; and sixpence for the unrivalled view from his forehead.
    I will post an image of the skeleton on my blog page for you to see.


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