The White Whale fuels artistic expression

“Moby-Dick” has been interpreted in many ways over the years. Depending on the reader, the story can be about adventure, obsession, revenge or a commentary on humanity. For Claire Illouz it was a meditation on the symbolism of the color white. Illouz, a French print maker and book artist, was inspired to create an artist book based chapter 42 of “Moby-Dick,” “The Whiteness of the Whale.”

Illouz visited Northern Kentucky University Feb. 1 to talk about her most recent project, artist book, “The Whiteness,” which focuses on the idea of color or the absence of color in relation to “Moby-Dick.” NKU owns one of only 25 copies of “The Whiteness.”

“I let the blank paper speak,” Illouz said. “This mediation about whiteness is uneasy and extremely anguished.”

An artist book is an artwork in book form with special attention given to the typeset used, the binding and quality of paper materials. Many of Illouz’s projects are inspired by historical events, literature, the use of type and imagery. By combining these elements, she creates a visual story in book form.

“Moby-Dick Art in Northern Kentucky,” an exhibition of nationally and internationally created artworks inspired by “Moby-Dick” is on display at the Schlachter Archives in W. Frank Steely Library. Many of the works were created by NKU students.

“Moby-Dick Art in Northern Kentucky” will be on display from 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays through May 1 at the Schlachter Archives of the W. Frank Steely Library For more information about Illouz and her body of works, you can visit her website at

Story by Shawn Buckenmeyer