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Best Exploding Whale 

Jack Ryan, "Blue Skies: Thar She Blows," Tennessee Arts Commission

Like a cargo container washing up to isolated people on a Pacific Island, the YouTube video of an ill-fated 1970s attempt to move a whale carcass off an Oregon beach came as a gift from the gods to Jack Ryan. The authorities decided to use explosives to push it out to sea, but they inadvertently blew the beast sky high, and whale bits rained down on onlookers and the local TV news crew. It's perfect material for Ryan, playing into his interest in human encounters with nature's power and strangeness. The video provided the starting point for a series of works that considered the whale from different perspectives and media. Don't tell PETA. —DAVID MADDOX

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