Mahogany whale tail one of several new exhibits at Peace Arch Park

Published on Thu, Apr 9, 2009 by Marisa Willis

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Thomas Givens says his life is far from boring.


Last week, the Charlottesville, Va., resident chose to endure the 3,000 mile trek from Charlottesville, Va. to Blaine in cramped quarters, with a 17-foot-long wooden whale tail in tow and his wife and two children packed in the family minivan.


Givens is making the trip to deliver one of more than a dozen sculptures to be featured in the 12th Annual Peace Arch Park International Sculpture Exhibition beginning May 1.


Givens, his family and Humpback Whale Tail II journeyed to the region to participate in the outdoor art exhibition that runs until April 1, 2010, the first year art will be featured year-round.


Givens, along with 13 other artists from all across the globe, will begin installing their work this Saturday.


Givens, whose piece won several accolades among the artwork selection committee, said he was thrilled the larger-than-life Honduras mahogany sculpture would be part of this year’s exhibition. After applying the finishing coats of varnish, Givens said he and his family hit the road.


This will be the first time one of Givens’ whale tail pieces will be shown on the West Coast, all of which are created through a process similar to boat making.


After the success of his whale sculptures in other parts of the country, Givens said it was only fitting he bring his art to the Pacific Northwest, a region far more accustomed to whale sightings.


“I’m excited about the potential of having somebody say, ‘That’s fantastic. Build me one,’” Givens said. “I don’t think I’ve worn the subject out yet – these whale tails.”


Givens said his obsession with whales started in 2006 after seeing a photo of a sperm whale and took off from there. Since then, he has created four whale tail sculptures out of scrap wood, each of which takes several months to a year to complete.


Givens said his career as an artist was established through his creative mother and hardworking father, as well as his background in mill work and carpentry.


“Doing what I love is a better way to go, even though I make less money than when I was punching a time card,” Givens said. “I can be here when my kids get off the bus.”


Though the weather in Virginia is far dryer than the climate Humpback Whale Tail II will endure for the next year, Givens ensures his art can withstand the elements, hence the endless coats of UV-resistant polyurethane boat varnish. He said he began to incorporate boat-building techniques into his art for the efficiency and durability it promised.


Founder of the United States Canada Peace Anniversary Association Christina Alexander said submissions for the exhibition came from all over the world and was proud to represent such a large range of artists and styles.


Artists like Micajah Bienvenu of the San Juan Islands, Leo Osborne of Anacortes, David Eisenhour of Port Hadlock and Moriyuki Kono of Abbotsford, B.C. are just some of the hometown heroes that will be installing their sculptures at the park in the upcoming days.