Now and Soon and Somehow Forever - New Bedford Whaling Museum
A still life oil painting of a small vase, a decorative plate, and a scrimshaw whale tooth depicting a ship.

Now and Soon and Somehow Forever

Now and Soon and Somehow Forever

New Bedford Whaling Museum

Center Street Gallery

Opening: June 15, 2023

Closing: November 26, 2023

CAPTION: (above) Co-painted by William Pettit and Candice Smith Corby in Plymouth, MA, Far and Away, 1/2021. Oil on linen, 14 x 18 inches

Now and Soon and Somehow Forever, co-created by artists William Pettit and Candice Smith Corby, represents a significant creative endeavor and a transatlantic creative process of exchange, adaptation, and generation. The project gestures to the past, while also being firmly rooted in attempts to understand our present condition and experiences.

Steeped in the histories of global whaling and deeply tied to the objects in the Museum collection, Pettit and Corby poetically engage with Museum artworks, objects, and archives. The two forge tangible connections between past and present through processes of making and adaptation, in order to underscore the global interconnectedness of people and things. Intermingling truth and fiction with romantic nostalgia of a time gone by and at once still present, the works include messages in bottles, handmade artist materials replicating historic traditions, love knots, and paintings of sea-related themes – including painted replicas of Museum works.
The exhibition transports visitors across vast distances and spans epochs – both short in duration and centuries in scope. Ultimately, the project connects the desires and longing of nineteenth-century maritime travel, letter writing, and ship-board voyaging with the kinds of translocations and physical separations created by the COVID-19 pandemic and concomitant global shut-down. What domestic intimacies were created, exchanged, lost, or disrupted by the 3-5 year long whaling voyages? How did objects and letters materially telegraph desire, longing, and memory? In the most apt way, how did scrimshaw, shell wreaths, and other shipboard and domestic handicrafts operate as literal souvenirs (French for “to remember”) during their creation and, later, reception?

In what ways, might these experiences and objects – made 200 years ago – parallel or stand-in for the kinds of distances, missed connections, and melancholy of the current pandemic?

Joining this impactful installation are cases of objects and select paintings from the Museum’s collection, which provided inspiration for the two artists, including shell wreaths, scrimshaw, marine scenes, sailor’s knots, and other domestic and maritime handicrafts. These works operate as companions to their contemporary parallels; a sort of call and response or echo between old and new; original and artful facsimile.

About the Artists: Candice Smith Corby is an artist, and Professor and the Director of the Carol Calo Gallery in the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Stonehill College near Boston, MA. She is interested in connecting contemporary image-making with historical methods and materials. She is a Massachusetts Cultural Council 2008 Fellow and 2014 Finalist in painting, a 2011 Dave Bown Project Grantee, and received a 2013 Awesome Foundation grant. She was the invited 2018-19 Guest Artist at Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, MA which included an artist book and solo exhibition “Inhabiting Folk Portraits.” William A. Pettit III is an artist and professor at John Cabot University and Temple University in Rome, Italy. He works with ancient and contemporary painting media, as well as video and sound. Resident in the Sabina area since 1997, he has exhibited in Philadelphia, Paris, Rome, Assisi, Spoleto, Tuscania, and Gubbio.