Picture the Leviathan

Jason HoustonHal Clifford
James Prosek
By the time he reached his mid-thirties, James Prosek was world-famous as a painter. Known for his meticulous renderings of trout, salmon and other fish, he had been called "the Audubon of the 21st century." He had become fascinated with our human role as predators, and it began to infuse his work. On a visit to Cape Cod he was captivated by the spectacle of a tuna fisherman harpooning an 800-pound bluefin tuna, and by the extraordinary beauty of the animal itself. As the fish was pursued, speared, and hauled aboard, its colors flickered and flashed, almost as if illuminated from within. James realized that here was one of the ocean?s most significant and familiar species, yet few people knew what they truly looked like in the wild. Without understanding that beauty 'without, as he says, loving the thing we kill' how would we learn to conserve and protect them, or any creature? This realization launched an epic quest that sent James from the Caribbean to Africa to Nova Scotia as he tried to see, live in the wild, the 35 most significant (to humans) fish species of the North Atlantic Ocean. From his experience witnessing and documenting their hunt and capture, James painted life-sized watercolors of each fish?some as long as 14 feet. PICTURE THE LEVIATHAN follows James along parts of that journey, through his philosophy and into his art. The art is beautiful and revelatory. But its beauty masks a violent relationship we have with the creatures of the sea.
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