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Where you or I might see a tree stump, Tom Givens sees a tortoise or a whale. He has the uncanny ability to take natural forms from the small scale to larger than life. The Whale Tail, completed in 2007, is one and one half times the size of a sperm whale tail.

The Whale Tail has been a journey of discovery for Tom - inspired by a photo he saw, he created a clay model and from there envisioned its creation in wood. An osage orange tree stump became the base, the long limb of a cherry tree the frame, and mill scraps of Spanish cedar and mahogany the sinew, bone and skin. The original structure was assembled in the backyard of his home. The tail was then lifted by crane and trucked over to its new location - the Route 250 bypass in Charlottesville Virginia. The next months of construction were an odyssey of fickle winter weather and interactions with many fans. The community watched as the tail took more and more form - the rough wood smoothed further and further. And we talked... Have you seen the whale tail? What’s happening with it now? Is he almost done?

And some of us got closer still. People dropped by to ask questions, request smaller versions on their own land, produce photo essays, and suggest other communities that need their own whale tail. One woman aptly pointed out that the name of Tom’s home street - Essex - has quite a whaling connection. Coincidence or fate?


Thomas Givens
 
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