The Boy and the Whale: An Overture For Where We Are Now

July 1, 2021September 2, 2021


“It is my hope that in telling stories through my paintings and touching on some of the highs and lows and happy and sad moments in my life that others can find some human connection to their lives, even though our experiences might be very different.”

-Benjamin Cabral

Benjamin Cabral in his richly beaded paintings and sculptures employs the inherently unreliable nature of autobiography to examine the intersections between trauma and nostalgia, joy and sorrow, attraction and repulsion, the digital and the analogue. The works often include the artist’s likeness with an open-ended narrative that is based on memory and invention. The use of orca whales as subjects arose out of his interest in examining the ways in which trauma and joy overlap in reflection upon one's adolescence. Cabral's childhood home is just across the bay from Sea World San Diego which is the site of many childhood memories with his parents watching the famous orca show. Overshadowing these happy memories of family togetherness is his mother's illness with stage four lymphoma. The orcas themselves, noted in the animal kingdom for their strong maternal bonds and the intense trauma they experience when removed from their mothers, are sufferers in kind, taken from their family and forced to perform for the enjoyment of the audience. Through his richly ornamented surfaces and swirling, densely layered paintings, Cabral invites the viewers to consider the ways in which we are all the captive orca, performing through our trauma for both our own protection and the comfort, and sometimes enjoyment, of others.

Benjamin Cabral (b. 1993) is a multidisciplinary artist living and working in Chicago. He completed his MFA at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and is the winner of the 2019 Carrie Ellen Tuttle Fellowship. His work has been shown internationally and throughout the United States.