A whale of a public art exhibit; artist pays tribute to last year's giant St. Lawrence mammal

For a brief period, a wayward whale in the St. Lawrence River captured the hearts of Montrealers. While the aquatic mammal's journey ended tragically, a piece of art by sculptor Geraldine Laurendeau pays tribute to the beloved creature.

The work isn't just an ode, however; it's a reminder of humanity's responsibilities to the environment.

“I'm on a project with the umbrella species, which is an ecological term for a species where, if we protect its habitat, we will protect a bunch of other species living in the same ecosystem,” said Laurendeau. “I took the opportunity of that humpback whale that came in the St. Lawrence last summer.”

Previously located in Lasalle, the piece of public art has now moved upstream to the Lachine waterfront.

The whale isn't the only animal she's featured in her work. Caribou, which are classified as threatened, have also attracted Laurendeau's attention. A sculpture of a woodland caribou is also on display.

“Mountain caribou and forest caribou are declining very fast. The Val d'Or caribou, they wanted to put in a zoo. Charlevoix caribou are being reintroduced but are still declining. Gaspesie has an isolated population that's still very fragile,” she said.

The artwork is displayed in a public, heavily trafficked space because Laurendeau said she wants people to be able to touch them.

“It's a way to sensitize them. Then, people feel empathy and have an interest and they go search a little more,” she said.

The sculptures will be on display at the Lachine waterfront at 32nd Ave. until September.