The Whaling Wall

by Guest Blogger

June 15, 2011

Rendering of “The Whaling Wall” by Knox Martin at 334 Grand St NYC
© Knox Martin/VAGA New York NY 

The Whaling Wall is to be premiered as a public mural at 334 Grand Street, New York, NY scheduled to be completed Summer 2011.

In 1971, I was scuba diving in the Bay of Cortez with a group of Mexican fishermen, picking up a large scallop called hatcha, when a primordial terror engulfed; I thought I was sinking or that the ocean floor was rising. It was a whale rising up and I was at the eye level of the whale, the great eye was viewing me and for a moment we seemed to bond and I was certain I was viewing an intelligence. When I moved to the surface the whale had vanished—the impression indelible. I still see this at point: the great eye regarding me. After this encounter I wrote letters to the Japanese fisheries, to Russia, to Scandinavia, to Iceland, and they were truly and highly intelligent letters protesting the slaughtering of the whales. There was never a response, no acknowledgement whatsoever.

In 1972, as an aftermath of the recognition I had in doing the wall painting in New York called Venus on 19th Street over the West Side Highway, I thought with the coming of all the press and the art world and the world in general, that I would have the strength and the connections to do the painting of the whales on some great wall. I based it on a certain Islamic meander and of course all of the current exchanges with the positions of the avant-garde art and I finished the maquette and tried to get it done. Greenpeace was in its infancy at that point, so I went to the precursors of Greenpeace, went to some 40 places in the city—no one would touch it. A few years ago, a student spotted the maquette for the Whaling Wall Painting and said to me this has got to be put up. A prime way of living, which is to promote this painting the slaughter of the whales, a search and exploration of where best to put this message so that it would reach the world. One child who saw the maquette, unsolicited the child said: Mr. Painter thank you your painting will save the whales. The painting depicts in a narrative manner men setting out with harpoons to harpoon the whales. There is a great screaming whale in the upper left as he is struck by the harpoon, blood in the water from the whales, the mother whale suckling its young as she is being harpooned, one whale at the lower left is a dead whale and is painted white, in a transition from life to death and whatever is beyond, and at the very bottom, like great blood clots themselves, the figures chopping up the dead whale with the blood of being expelled from its mouth. I feel that the range of understanding this is remarkable. With very little thought about who it would affect, my prime concern was the plight of the whales, from the littlest child to all levels have responded with deep feeling for the painting of the slaughter of the whales.

Thank you!

Knox Martin
New York painter and Greenpeace friend

It is Knox Martin’s intention to provide his mural at other specifically selected sites throughout the world to raise international attention to the plight of the whales. We appreciate the support of Greenpeace in our shared vision of protecting whales worldwide.

For information on how to be a part of the Whaling Wall please visit:

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.