SPOTLIGHT: August 1, 2023


Kitty Wales, 1997
Recycled metals, 40 x 90 x 60 in.

The months of August and September typically represent the peak of Atlantic White Shark activity in the New England waters. Once a protected species, this shark population has rebounded and begun to flourish in some areas of the Atlantic. Although you won’t find this sculpture of a Caribbean Reef Shark using the Sharktivity app, visitors will notice it hanging high above the entrance to the Art Complex Museum.

New England-based sculptor Kitty Wales created Requiem in 1997 from recycled metals including steel and tin. Requiem is modeled after the Caribbean Reef Shark, which the artist studied from the water, and demonstrates her interest in the streamlined shape and graceful lines of a shark’s body. Its rusty patina is a result of being situated on the museum grounds near the ocean. The shark—perhaps unintentionally—has become a symbol of the plight of marine animals around the globe. Found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Brazil and the Caribbean waters, the number of sharks has declined rapidly since the sculpture was made.

Formerly situated in the pine boughs at the entrance to the Art Complex Museum for more than twenty years, Requiem was moved indoors in the spring of 2021 after renovations to the museum and its surrounding grounds. During the summer of 2022, the sculpture underwent a facelift that included repairs and conservation work at the artist’s studio in Belfast, Maine. For this sculpture, she originally used oversized tin cans collected from the MCI-Cedar Junction incarceration facility in Walpole, Massachusetts. Wales replaced its compromised, rusted elements with patches made from the metal from a fifty-five-gallon drum.

Wales’ work examines the anatomy and movement of animals like sharks as well as the impact of human beings on the environment. She observes them in the wild before creating her sculptures and uses found objects such as washing machine parts, wood, tools, and old, mismatched silverware to construct them. Other animal sculptures that the artist has created include feral dogs and wild pigs.

The Sharktivity phone app was created by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy with input from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and the Cape Cod National Seashore to raise awareness of the presence of sharks off the coast of New England. This safety tool effectively crowdsources critical data from researchers, safety officials, and public users who report shark sightings, which are then verified by the New England Aquarium.

Requiem hangs from the museum ceiling, inside the main entrance.