In the 1980’s, Ron Wyland started to paint large (life-size) whales on the sides of buildings. His love for marine life and his quest to educate the world on the importance of environmental and marine conservation was, well..BIG.
Just like his paintings.
Now, more than 30 years later after the first of those painting was dedicated, Ron Wyland has achieved something that only a few in history have been able to accomplish; being known as a single name. Wyland.
USA Today called him a “Marine Michelangelo” after another famous painter who today can be identified by only a single name. (The Renaissance artist’s full name is Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni.)
My current job actually has me working every day in a building in Honolulu where one of Wyland’s enormous murals is located. I guess that’s what got me poking around the internet and asking questions from locals about this amazing work and the man behind it.
It has been noted before that growing up in Detroit, Michigan was an odd place to develop a passion and love for marine life and art. In response, Wyland has pointed out that he was actually surrounded by water. The Great Lakes are what Wyland considers to be"his ocean"as he grew, matured and studied art at the Center for Creative Studies on a painting and sculpture scholarship in Detroit.
When asked about his largest influence in art and love of marine life the artist has never hesitated and never changed his answer in all the times and all the years that he has been asked, that being Jacques Cousteau.
You can tell in interviews that Wyland respected Cousteau’s love of the ocean, all marine life, its conservation and brilliance. Wyland refers to Cousteau as a “poet” and says that watching his work made Wyland want to “further the cause of conservation” with his own talents and passion.
The “Whaling Walls”
The Whaling Walls was Wyland’s passion quest, much like Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail. Unlike Arthur, though, who sought the holy chalice for selfish reasons of power, Wyland sought to expand the knowledge and appreciation of marine life of people around the world.
The Wyland Foundation refers to this project as the “Wyland Walls” but so many still refer to them as the “Whaling Walls”.
The Wyland Walls number 100 in all, with paintings spanning 5 continents, 13 countries and
The most amazing thing about these beautiful creations is that they were each painted in actual dimensions of the creatures and beauty that they depict. At most, each creation is one that has the ability to stop traffic when seen in the right light, get people asking questions and become more aware of the marine life that they depict which is exactly Wyland’s intent. At the least, they are photo ops, landmarks and man-made, seascapes in middle of busy metro areas.
The Wyland Walls deliver on so many levels and appeal to artists, art lovers, tourists, locals, marine lovers and those new to the vast expanse of oceans and the life that resides in them.
Current Work and the Legacy
Today, Wyland is more involved and responsible for the marine conservation and awareness than he ever was.
The Wyland Foundation is a non-profit that is dedicated to “promoting, protecting, and preserving the world’s ocean, waterways and marine life.” The foundation uses its strengths to accomplish this with a large concentration on public art projects as one way of reaching the masses and educating them.