Or, The Whale by Jos Sances: An Ark That Includes Us All - New Bedford Whaling Museum


Or, The Whale by Jos Sances: An ark that includes us all

Friday, January 5, 2024

Kick off this year’s Moby-Dick Marathon with a delicious dinner followed by a captivating lecture featuring artist Jos Sances and Melville Scholar Jeffrey Peterson, Ph.D.

In this lecture, master printer Jos Sances will tell the artist’s tale of making Or, The Whale (2019-20), a 14-by-51 foot scratchboard mural detailing the history and cost of American capitalism. Sances will trace the mural’s origins from his transformative encounters with whales in the waters off Todos Santos in Baja California to the catalyzing experience of rereading Moby-Dick after visiting the New Bedford Whaling Museum and the Nantucket Whaling Museum in 2018.

Jeffrey Peterson will discuss the mural’s compositional development and cultural-historical sweep, describing the ways Sances’s adaptations of Moby-Dick shift as he moves from illustrating standalone scenes in the novel to taking the whale itself as a life-size canvas for a “mighty mural” that evokes Moby-Dick’s “mighty themes”: the politics of cultural difference, the dignity of labor, the dynamics of industrial capitalism, the fragility of democracy, and the fate of human and animalkind.

The buffet dinner and lecture will be followed by a Q&A session with coffee and dessert.

Jos Sances, co-founder of Mission Gráfica at the Mission Cultural Center and founder of Alliance Graphics, a union-proud print shop in Berkeley, has made a living as a printmaker and muralist in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 40 years. Sances’s work has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Library of Congress has acquired 495 serigraphs that represent four decades of his socially engaged printmaking.

Jeffrey Peterson holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and is currently in his twenty-first year of teaching at the secondary level. Peterson served as a Master Teacher for the 2022 NEH Cultural Landmarks Workshop, Sailing to Freedom: New Bedford and the Underground Railroad, and in 2021 participated the Melville Society Cultural Project’s NEH Summer Institute, “Moby-Dick and the World of Whaling in the Digital Age,” where he introduced Sances to a diverse crew of U.S. high school educators who teach Moby-Dick.

Sances and Peterson were co-presenters at the 13th Annual International Melville Society Conference in Paris, “Melville’s Energies: Aesthetics, Politics, Ecologies,” and have collaborated closely since, giving several joint presentations in Sebastopol, San Francisco, and Berkeley, California.

The Moby-Dick Marathon is made possible with the support of the following sponsors:

AHAB Sponsor

Melville Sponsor

Allan Smith & Company, CPAs PC

Bank Five

BayCoast Bank

Deme Offshore US, LLC 

Fiber Optic Center

Sylvia Group
An Alera Group Company

Taunton Federal Credit Union

Whaler’s Crew

Clean Uniforms and More

Empire Loan Charitable Foundation 

Littoral Power Systems, Inc. 


Jose S. Castelo Real Estate, Inc.