In keeping with his signature brand of subversive natural history, Gibbens’ recent body of work utilizes marine mammals, or cetaceans as a central subject. Both ubiquitous in their distribution and seemingly elusive, whales, porpoises and dolphins face a multitude of threats ranging from accidental trapping, to intentional hunting, marine pollution, and the siege of ongoing climate change. Despite their colossal size, these creatures are by and large defenseless, having ironically evolved to primarily feast on plankton, the smallest inhabitants of the seas.
Cetaceans are known to teach, learn, cooperate, scheme and grieve, so they serve as useful metaphors for our own human experience. Either as harbinger or as vulnerable underdog, Gibbens uses the conventions of natural science illustration to imagine these creatures in a new and unexpected light.
Justin Gibbens, Razzle Dazzle, 2020, watercolor, ink, acrylic on paper, 15 x 22, $1800.