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Mixed-Media 'Moby-Dick' Book Sculpture Hits the Ocean Floor

Sculptor Lawrence LaBianca encased 'Moby-Dick' in water housing and sentenced it to a watery grave.
All photos are ©Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

Of all the English language ambitious works of literature, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick stands at the apex of genius, right alongside James Joyce’s Ulysses and Thomas Pynchon’s novels Gravity’s Rainbow and Mason & Dixon. Like these novels, Moby-Dick is known for the immensity of its ideas, vivid humor and conflict, kaleidoscopic explosions of language, and the sweeping measure of history it takes within its pages. Moby-Dick is arguably the first of its kind—sui generis. Which is why it seems wholly appropriate that artist, Lawrence LaBianca, encased a copy of Moby-Dick in water housing, then submerged it in the ocean for his mixed media sculpture, What Lies Beneath.


By tethering the sculpture to a rock, LaBianca took a photograph, which shows Moby-Dick opened to Chapter 36, "The Quarter-Deck." In this chapter, Captain Ahab has assembled the shipmates on deck, and seems to be giving them a pep talk about finding and killing whales. But it is in these pages that Ahab, publicly declaring his monomaniacal plan for vengeance against the white whale, slates his crew for watery doom.

LaBianca, a sculptor, likes to take his studio work into nature. His often machine-like sculptures are meant to “harness natural phenomena to generate the art.” What Lies Beneath is an example of this is part of a larger body of work that “engages aquatic environments.”

“The tools we apply to nature—to contain it, shape it, understand it and categorize it also have a profound affect upon it,” LaBianca says. “It is this impetus to measure, understand, contain and manipulate nature that I enact through my work.”

Last week, What Lies Beneath was exhibited at browngrotta arts’ booth at Art on Paper, alongside some of his other work. The work is now available via browngrotta arts.

Click here to see more work by Lawrence LaBianca.


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