Art: Samuel Joensen-Mikines, Faroese Whale Killing, 1956

By |June 20th, 2018|Country: |


Samuel Joensen-Mikines was the first recognized painter of the Faroe Islands, so he’s a big thing there, with his painting featured on stamps, etc. He’s best known for his portraits and scenic landscapes of the sea and sunsets. But I really like his series on Faroese whale killing: the essential part of the islands’ history and survival. It’s a gruesome process that still exists, with regulation, even though the Faroese do not have to rely on it as their lifeline anymore. If you google photographs, there’s a lot of gore: guys in woolen sweaters staggering knee deep in water red with blood around shiny black whale corpses, and kids riding decapitated cadavers. I have my views on animal cruelty but I think that imposing one’s western views on an indigenous practice is in bad taste. They’ll figure it out. Meanwhile, I think that it’s important to cherish old works that depict the brutality of indigenous existence in full color. Also, as much as I admire the natural beauty of the Faroe islands, it’s the whaling that had fed families for centuries. And, hey, the same applies to many places in New England, btw. Whaling is cruel, yes, but more noble than factory farms. And this painting with all the blood and foam, the men’s stone resolve, is breathtaking.