Wednesday, April 06, 2011
God bless New London, Conn.
Why am I posting this picture this morning? Because I can; because I am. I am Whalehead King. Yippee the Whale is my totem, my guiding spirit. While I am not him, I am of him. We are kindred spirits. He is New London, Conn. I carry a kernel of Connecticut's Whaling City in me every day in every way. It informs my sensibility. It makes waking up worth doing.
I first painted Yippee's portrait many years ago in a fever dream. When I was finished, I called an acquaintance and said, "You have to come over to see this. I've cracked New London's code." I had. We both agreed as we gazed at this masterpiece, awestruck at its majesty, of all it said and all that it implied, that I had summed up the New London State of Mind.
The image above is not that original oil painting. That resides in a safe place. I see it very infrequently. When I do, I am struck by how crude it is compared to how streamlined and cheerful depictions of Yippee became. I can draw him without sketching a single line. Put a magic marker in my hand and, without thinking, I can give you Yippee's portrait in any pose. That original is powerful beyond words. New London: an ample parking city where the sun always shines even when it's raining.
He originally didn't have a name. I just referred to him as "The New London Whale." During one of the many festivals that take place in Connecticut's Whaling City, someone had a large piece of cardboard and a can of paint. "You're the guy who paints the Whale?" he asked. "Can you do one for me? I want it for the backdrop of play we're putting on. I always call him Yippee because he seems so happy. What would a whale jumping out of the water like that say? He'd say, 'Yippee!'" I agreed. I painted the picture on the spot and since then The New London Whale had a name to go along with his face and his spirit.
I am not a cartoonist. I am an artiste. It was never my intent to make a joke unless it was a serious joke. If Yippee is a cartoon, it is because he distills what living in New London is like, stripped of details, full of joy.
What does someone say when he or she moves to New London, Conn. and finds themselves home? They say, "Yippeeeeee!" I know I did. I still say it, no matter where I happen to find myself. Though I bear a serious demeanor, I am happy to be alive, flashing my flukes in the sun. New London taught me that.
God has blessed New Londoners, every one.