Whaling Walls

When Robert Wyland was 14 years old, he and his Mom traveled to Laguna Beach, California from their home in Michigan. A few years later, Wyland moved to Laguna Beach and was commissioned to paint a mural on the side of a hotel which he titled Gray Whale and Calf. The mural was inspired by his prior visit there when he saw a gray whale and her calf migrating towards Mexico.

From that point on, Wyland had a life-long interest in whales and a decades-long public art project, the Wyland Whaling Walls, was born. The mural that he painted in Laguna Beach was dedicated in 1981. I actually saw the mural shortly after it was dedicated while I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law who were living there at the time. Memories of that trip popped into my mind the other day which prompted me to research if the mural still exists in Laguna Beach.

What I learned was Wyland actually repainted the mural in 2019—five decades after his first encounter with a gray whale and her calf. That year he also restored murals he had created in Detroit and Seattle. But, the mural in Laguna Beach was the original piece. After Wyland painted it, he dedicated himself to do 99 more murals to raise awareness of marine life and the environment. The canvases for his murals were the walls of apartment buildings, power plants, schools, and airports. The largest mural encircled the Long Beach Arena at 1,280 feet long and 105 feet high. Unfortunately, about a third of the murals are now gone or blocked from view. His final Whaling Wall was created for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

Top image and the two detail shots, above, of the Gray Whale and Calf in Laguna, CA by Mary Ellen, 1981

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