Threnody for the Bluefin
51 x 97 inches (130 x 246 cm)
It is a property of oil paint that, as it ages, it becomes more transparent. When that happens, it is possible to see in some paintings the original lines, or the previous version. A hand that has, beneath it, the ghost of the same hand slightly shifted. Or Winslow Homer's ship on the horizon with, to one side of it, a ghost of the same ship. This is called pentimento, from the Italian, because the painter "repented," or changed their mind. The old master looked at the first hand, and decided to do things differently. Homer saw his composition another way - he decided to paint sky over the first ship, and paint another ship to the left. Years later, the first ship faded into view through the sky.
The Bluefin tuna will be extinct by 2050, according to the latest study, thanks to the popularity of the sushi named toro and maguro. Bluefin tuna can bring great profit to those who kill them. The wholesale price runs up to $3000 per pound, depending on the market. The company Mitsubishi has a huge business project geared toward making the bluefin extinct, purchasing thousands of tons in excess of market demand, then stockpiling them in giant deep-freeze warehouses at -60º C (at which point cellular degradation stops). Their investment prospectus says that they plan for the price to skyrocket the day the last bluefin is killed. Last March, at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Japan orchestrated the veto of a measure to give Bluefin stronger protections.
The painting Threnody for the Bluefin has faint traces of a nautical chart that shows the popular places for killing bluefin. Grafted into it is text from Carl Safina's book, Song for the Blue Ocean, in which he makes the bluefin clearly understood as one of the great marvels of the world, another essential element in the balance of our ecology that's at risk. The use of pentimento here refers to the nautical chart as another way to look at the same subject, the ocean, and it also refers to the idea of repentance, of changing your mind.
From the Wind River Series