ATTLEBORO — The theme of “Enormity,” pertaining to the Big Read’s “In The Heart Of The Sea,” literally explored new heights at the Attleboro Arts Museum during the Big Read kickoff on Saturday, where nine Wheaton College students’ artwork was exhibited.

The students are taking Sculpture II at Wheaton under the tutelage of associate professor and co-chair of the Department of Visual Art and History of Art Kelly Goff.

Three of the students recently graduated, although their work was included in the exhibit.

All the students — Madi Cook-Comey, Josephine Coppinger, Nathan Domingos, Lilly Etlinger, Blaithin Haddad, Martin Hanley, Sophia Hatzikos, Sasha Kasem-Beg and Kelley Montoya — read “In The Heart Of The Sea” book club-style in two months.

“I’m always impressed by my students. They did a great job,” Goff said. “It’s a fantastic and insightful interpretation of the theme they were given.”

The novel, published in 2000, tells the story of the Nantucket fishing vessel, the “Essex,” which was attacked by an angry 85-foot sperm whale in 1819. Subsequently, the 20 crewman of the “Essex” became part of what is known as one of the most horrifying maritime disasters in American history; their ordeal was the inspiration for Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick.”

Museum Executive Director Mim Fawcett, who had given the students the prompt of “enormity” to guide their work, said she appreciated the directions in which the young artists took their art with that prompt.

“I think it’s great how seriously and thoughtfully they read the book, and the results are, they used their voices and the important concepts came to life,” Fawcett said.

Many materials used for the sculpture pieces were “found” objects, such as an orange life preserver imprinted with old-fashioned sampler stitching, created by Madi Cook-Comey and titled “Devoted Daughter.”

Another display, an intricate arrangement of over 140 pounds of old anchor rope, hung from a bar near the ceiling in such a way that reflected the narration of the plot, as its creator Sophia Hatzikos said.

“It was so entangled — it had so many struggles on the way,” the student artist said of the story of the novel.

Nathan Domingos’ piece, “Scrimshaw,” featured pieces of wood on a metal frame in the shape of an antique jar. Worked into the frame were pieces of distressed wood representing the sailors who perished in the ordeal, with the spaces in between the wood signifying the sailors who were able to escape and make it back home.

Part of Domingos’ artwork included an adjacent table with a few other pieces of wood which were neatly shaped, representing the teeth of the whale. The metal part of Domingos’ work reached approximately 13 feet high.

“I was inspired by the fact the whale is more powerful than the sailors,” Domingos said. “This (exhibit) is called enormity, so why not make it big?”

The kickoff reception even featured a delectable cake made by Kerry St. Pierre, who crafted the treat into a display of a whale on a platform, with two large whale teeth included. Almost all of the museum’s patrons crowded around the cake for photos before St. Pierre served the dessert.

For more information on upcoming Big Read events, visit attleboros1abc.org.

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