A Mixture of Modernist Design with Primitive design

Feb 07, 2010

I had the luck to find a piece that mixed two eras in one piece. One is the old tradition of scrimshawing made famous by the Nantucket whalers of the 1800's. The other side to this piece is the great design of the abstract figure.

This is an authentic sperm whale tooth that was scrimshawed by someone with training in Western thought of abstraction and also a love of the "primitive" cultural arts of the Eskimos / North West Coast of North American or another culture of similar aesthetics of design. My first impression and what drew me to this piece was the work and precision of the abstraction of the figure. My immediate thought was that this was a copy of a Paul Klee or a Joan Miro work that was transferred onto a whales tooth. Looking closely I saw the lines incised into the tooth and figured this was an original work. There are no signatures except for the base, which is signed by the woodworker. There is no listing for a woodworker named Alan Shapiro on the Internet.

The scrimshaw has another side that is unique and puts it more into the mid 20th century of design, the way the piece continues onto the back. Most antique scrimshaw pieces that I have seen are done on either side or with another piece on the other side of the tooth, but this piece continues around to the side and back. The art uses the shape and roundness of the tooth to complete the subject.

If you have any information on this piece or want to share your thoughts, please email me. I would like to hear what you have to say. This section, which this is the first piece I have wrote about is meant to be used as a kind of Show and Tell part of my website. I want to have pieces that are unique in my eyes or pieces that would need further time and research.

 Thank you