KAPAA — Wyland, an internationally renowned artist, has always felt a connection with the great blue sea.
“I grew up in Michigan, which is far away from the ocean but surrounded by water,” he said. “I was inspired by Jacques Cousteau, who inspired our generation.”
Cousteau was a French naval officer, explorer, conservationist and author who studied the ocean and marine life. Around the same time Cousteau was gaining notoriety, Greenpeace was making waves.
Both had a major impact on Wyland.
“I was an artist who was in the right place at the right time,” he said.
In the 1980s, Wyland started painting life-size whales on the sides of buildings. The goal was to paint 100 Whaling Walls.
“I saw my first whale when I was 14. Me and my mom went on a road trip to Laguna Beach, and we saw a mother and baby gray whale,” he said. “Seeing these two living dinosaurs was really inspiring.”
Since then, Wyland has dedicated his art to spreading the message of ocean conservation.
The Whaling Walls draw visitors worldwide. It is one of the largest art in public places projects ever completed, spanning five continents, 17 countries and 79 cities around the globe.
“If we don’t have a healthy environment, we don’t have anything,” he said. “Whether you live on an island or Rocky Mountains, every drop of water counts.”
Two of Wyland’s murals are at the Kauai Village Shopping Center.
In January, Wyland returned to Kauai to refurbish the Whaling Wall facing Kuhio Highway.
“The community was there. It was crazy, that kind of support,” he said.
The wall, called “Humpbacks off the Pali Coast,” is 26 years old.
“We are proud to be part of Wyland’s legacy, with Kauai Village Shopping Center’s Whaling Walls. His artistry not only adds beauty to our community, but also reminds us to respect ocean life,” said Cliff Ogata of ValueRock Realty Partners, the owners of Kauai Village Shopping Center. “As one of the most popular destinations in Kapaa, we are fortunate to share this message with countless visitors.”
Another Wyland mural, “A Time for Conservation,” is on the clock tower at the Kauai Village Shopping Center. Wyland began that project in 1991.
“It fits what’s happening right now,” he said.
On Friday, his restoration work will be unveiled to the public. The celebration will include live music and remarks by Wyland. Festivities start at 3 p.m.
“I’ve been swimming with whales for 40 years. I take everything I see in ocean and it reflects in my paintings, sculptures, music and films,” he said. “I’ve been very lucky. I’m grateful I have opportunity to make a difference.”
Wyland strategically picks the walls he paints on, in places that get a lot of foot and car traffic.
“If people see the beauty of nature, they’re going to work to conserve it. No one is going to get a chance to swim with a gray whale, but if they see it in art, it impacts their subconscious,” he said. “And if you do 100 of them, it reaches a lot of people.”