BREACH: Logbook 24 | Scrimshaw - New Bedford Whaling Museum


BREACH #2 (part of a limited series, started in 2015, marking the death of one whale), Ceramic sperm whale teeth and wooden pallet. Courtesy of the artist.




Photo credit: Drew Furtado


New Bedford Whaling Museum

Center Street Gallery

June 14, 2024 - November 3, 2024


Exhibition Opening Reception

Friday, June 14, 2024 | 5:00-7:00 pm

Members and invitees only (Become a member today!)

RSVP required


Friday, October 4, 2024, 5:00-7:00pm
“Wider World” First Friday Public Program
Conversation with artist Courtney M. Leonard

Learn more

Courtney M. Leonard (Shinnecock, b.1980) is a multi-media installation artist, ceramicist, and filmmaker, who has contributed to the Offshore Art movement. In collaboration with museums, cultural institutions, and indigenous communities in North America, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, and the United States Embassies, Leonard’s practice investigates narratives of Indigenous food sovereignty, marine life, and human environmental impact.

Leonard’s largest body of work to date, titled BREACH, is an ongoing exploration of the historical and contemporary ties between place, community, whales, and the maritime environment. The various iterations of the project, created for individual institutions and settings, investigate the multiple definitions of the term “breach.” A “breach” is a break, a gap in a wall, a river overflowing to breach its banks. Legally, breach means the failure to abide by the law or observe an agreement; it is a violation or infraction, a breach of trust. Breach also describes the act of a whale breaking the surface to rise above the open water. To “step into the breach” implies moving into the unknown. BREACH is an ongoing artistic exploration of these multiple meanings, engaging environmental vulnerabilities and the settler state’s failure to uphold relations and treaties with coastal Indigenous nations.

Leonard’s works conjure the remains of whales, waterfront industrial infrastructure, and oyster shells, evoking community ties to water, Shinnecock scientific knowledge, and current practices for mitigating coastal erosion and water contamination. Such works enact healing and celebrate resiliency and joy on unceded lands and waters. Leonard will produce an entirely new body of work for the installation at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which continues her interest in coastal communities and historical whaling, while engaging the museum’s history, collections, and community partnerships with culture bearers from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, also known as the People of the First Light.

BREACH: Logbook 24 | SCRIMSHAW will be opening with the twined exhibition “The Wider World & Scrimshaw,” which takes the Museum’s scrimshaw collection (objects carved by whalers on the byproducts of marine mammals) and places it in conversation with carved decorative arts and material culture made by Indigenous community members from across the Pacific and Arctic.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.