In the Unequal Cross-Lights
OUTDOOR SCULPTURE at the NEW BEDFORD WHALING MUSEUM
Contemporary Sculptors Respond to the Whaling Museum Collections
In this collaborative art project between the College of Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and the New Bedford Whaling Museum, eight original works were installed throughout the Museum campus. The Exhibition’s title, In the Unequal Cross-Lights was taken from Moby-Dick where Ishmael, after he arrives in New Bedford, enters the Spouter Inn and in the “unequal cross-lights” encounters a marvelous painting he is unable to make sense of. He realizes he is confronted with a work of art that requires “careful inquiry,” “earnest contemplation, and “repeated ponderings.”
All the artists spent the summer and early fall studying the Whaling Museum’s collections, inspiring the new works which are made from a variety of materials, but which relate and interpret whaling and maritime themes. The exhibition was funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and a grant from the Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations (ECHO), administered by the United States Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement.
1. Steve Whittlesey
Steve Whittlesey was born in Norwood, Massachusetts, working on farms there until he went off to college. In 1961 he interrupted his studies with a year in Puerto Rico, working on the San Juan Star as a copy editor. He later studied at the Provincetown Workshop, formerly the Hans Hoffman School, and then went on to Columbia University for his MFA in painting 1964-66. He taught at Parsons School of Design and at Rutgers University Newark in 1966-67, then went off to Spain with a Fulbright grant for a year of intensive painting. Shifting from painting to sculptural furniture, Steve began a woodworking studio workshop from his home in 1970, making and selling all kinds of furniture out of old wood. His first gallery exposure was at the Boris Mirski Gallery in Boston and the Brockton Art Center, now the Fuller Art Museum. His first major exhibition was in 1984 at the Workbench Gallery in New York City. Since then his work has been shown in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Kentucky, Seattle, and in Boston galleries. Steve’s work was included in the “The Maker’s Hand – Studio Furniture from 1940-1990” exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. He was a member of the Artisanry faculty at UMASS Dartmouth from 1992 until May, 2010.
DREAMBOAT The main element in my piece is the oak keel and bow stem from a seventy-five year-old fishing boat. The fisherman who ran this boat was getting on in years, but continued to go out in the boat, and his girlfriend, about his age, always went with him. Sad to say, he was washed overboard one day in very rough seas, and disappeared under the dark waves. His distraught companion managed to bring the boat home. Grieving, speaking to no one, she lived on the boat year in and year out for most of the rest of her life, almost never leaving the craft except for buying a few groceries. To keep warm in the winter, she wrapped the inside of the cabin of the boat with insulation covered with plastic, unfortunately causing massive amounts of condensation inside the hull. The boat proceeded to rot at an amazing rate, eventually sinking, as she watched in despair. She moved into low income, elderly housing, but stopped eating except for a smidgeon of bread and coffee each morning, which is how her lover of many years had always started his trips to sea. She died a few months later. The man who raised the boat from the mud and took her to his salvage yard let me extricate the stem and keel. He eventually burned the rest of the boat.
Some of the rest of the wood in my piece, and all of the wood in the platform, comes from the Candle House, built in Woods Hole in 1836 during the height of the New England whaling industry. The stone building served as a whaling supply house and spermaceti candle factory. Thus the pine floorboards were soaked in salt water and the waxy oils obtained from the head of the sperm whale. When the building was turned into a Marine Biological Laboratory office space, all the floorboards were extricated. I bought them all.
2. Eric Lintala
Eric Lintala received his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees in Sculpture from Kent State University. He is a Professor in the Fine Arts Department, in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Lintala’s most recent exhibitions include: Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition, Mill Brook Gallery and Sculpture Garden, Concord, New Hampshire, Multisensory: Visual Responses to Memory and Synesthesia, Hera Gallery, Wakefield, Rhode Island, What Artists Collect, The New Bedford Art Museum, New Bedford, Massachusetts, Sculpture Path, Forest Hills Cemetery, Boston, Massachusetts, Site specific work in public collections: A Healing Place, Row Conference Center, Row, Massachusetts, Marks of Remembrance, Town of Carlisle, Carlisle, Massachusetts Inscription Rock, The Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, Massachusetts.
He has received numerous awards, grants, and commissions including the Holocaust Memorial for Buttonwood Park in New Bedford, the Silver Medal for Sculpture at the International Art Competition-L.A. Summer Olympics, a Sculpture Fellowship from the Artists Foundation in Boston, Certificate of Excellence International Art Competition in New York City, and several research grants from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Lintala has traveled extensively throughout the United States recording and researching pre-historic Rock Art, petroglyphs and pictographs, which has had a profound influence on his work. Concentrating his research in the southwest, he made a major discovery in 1994 of a rock art panel not yet recorded, located in Salt Creek Canyon, south central Utah.
3. Rick Creighton
Rick Creighton received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of New Hampshire and his Master of Fine Arts degree from Penn State University. He is a Professor in the Fine Arts Department in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Highlights of his numerous exhibitions include: the Berkshire Arts Festival in Pittsfield, MA., the George Marble Festival in Pickens County, GA, the University of Maine National Sculpture Competition, Presque Isle, ME, the 43rd Annual Audubon National Art Exhibition, New York; Art of the ’90’s Judi Rotenberg Gallery, Boston; Lamporama 90 Artists Foundation, Boston; and the Springfield National, Springfield, MA, where he received the Graumbacher Gold Medallion Award. Creighton has received several commissions and has work in the permanent collection at Penn State University, and also in private collections in New York, California, New England, Florida and New Jersey.
THE SAILOR BOY WITH PADDLE ARMS The tradition of late 19th and early 20th century Whirligigs have inspired “The Sailor Boy with Paddle Arms”. Whirligigs are wonderful folk art creations that reached a high point in terms of popularity and artistic form from 1880 to 1920. Their creation represents a parallel development in popular entertainment to Vaudeville theater and the silent movies. Whirligigs often depicted individuals involved in whimsical, almost slapstick comedy situations. The theme of “the sailor boy” in particular often portrayed the young sailor in a state of humorous calamity and at odds with the natural elements.
Like other forms of folk art, the reason for the whirligigs is somewhat vague. Although it is natural to assume that humor and entertainment were at the core of the artists’ intention, sailing directly affected the lives of real men, women and children, who often risked their lives. The whirligig, with harmless intention, lightens this often tragic reality with fun, entertainment and fantasy. The life size scale of my sculpture hopefully engages the viewer in a manner that references the history of whirligigs, yet removes the toy-like quality from the work, while engaging in reflection, and possibly an understanding of a past historical reality still resonating today.
4. Erik Durant
Erik Durant was born in New Haven, Ct. He studied History and Sculpture at Southern Connecticut State University. In 2001 he moved to New Bedford to attend the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He completed an MFA in Sculpture in 2004. In 2006 he began teaching at Bristol Community College and is currently the Coordinator of the Fine Arts program. Durant regularly shows his work between Providence and New Bedford. He has also recently shown in New York and Texas.
5. Stacy Latt Savage
Stacy is an Associate Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Wells College and her Master of Fine Arts from Cornell University. Stacy has exhibited her work in the Northeast at such venues as the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, MA; the Emerson Umbrella, Concord, MA; The Chesterwood Museum, Stockbridge, MA and the Alternative Museum, New York, NY. She also exhibits her sculpture nationally and has been a visiting artist at the Kohler Artist Residency, IL; Franconia Sculpture Park, MN; Yew Tree Farm, England.
6. Lasse Antonsen
Lasse Antonsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. He studied art and creative writing at the Experimental Art School and at Hoelbaek Kunsthoejskole, and later art history at Copenhagen University. He settled permanently in the US in 1978, and received an MA in art history from Tufts University in 1986. Antonsen has taught art history and graduate studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Mass College of Art, and Rhode Island School of Design. He has been curator of the University Art Gallery at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth since 1988. After initial explorations in art, and a career as curator, art historian, and critic, Antonsen returned to the practice of art six years ago. Last year he created the installation “The Continuous Translation” at the Artists Foundation in Boston, participated with the installation “Koenigsberg/Kaliningrad” in “De/Construct II” in Providence, and had a major one person exhibition “Theatrum Naturae et Artis” at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River. In October/November he will be featured in the four person exhibition “Uncanny” at the Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina, and his installation “Describing the Shadows” will be at the Providence Museum of Natural History for a year, starting November 4, as part of the installation project “Curiouser.”
PAGES FROM THE BOOK OF WATER-GAZERS The title of the project is from Moby-Dick, chapter one, where Melville describes the “insular city of the Manhattoes” and its “water-gazers” all “fixed in ocean reveries,” some “looking over the bulwarks of ships from China.” Melville sets the stage for Moby-Dick by exploring the “magnetic” pull of our “deepest reveries.”
The sculptural installation transforms the windows of the first building occupied by the Old Dartmouth Historical Society — the National Bank of Commerce building — into large decorated “pages.” The building was constructed in 1883-84, and was recently re-established as exhibition galleries after serving as storage and office space. Historical museums at the time the building was acquired in 1903, held a mixture of objects. In New Bedford, of course, especially objects brought back by whalers from foreign countries. The installation creates a scenario similar to how prints in the 16th through the 19th century would often have borders, or illusionistic frames decorated with a mixture of scientific objects and foreign or imaginary birds, plants, coins, insects, scientific instruments, seeds and fruit.
The installation references the long history of our desire to explore foreign countries and collect strange objects. All the objects on display — painted black, decoratively placed around the window frames and on the sills — have been collected recently. Some are taxidermy specimens, some are plastic replicas of animals, but most are decorative objects that tie the project into the history of Chinese objects brought back, or imported, in the 18th century; objects often manufactured by the Chinese to suit European taste and imagination. Almost all of the objects on display in this installation were made in China quite recently, and in a similar way were produced to cater to the early 21st century American taste for the exotic. These objects represent the continuation of the longing for the other, the imaginary fulfillment of the exotic.
7. Elizabeth Dooher
TETHER Two objects in the Whaling Museum’s collection inspired my piece: the mother whale skeleton with the in utero baby skeleton, and a bola. I found the skeletons moving. The poignancy of the loss of this great creature is heightened by the additional loss of the baby. I was drawn to the skeletons primarily for their emotional weight. I was initially drawn to the bola for its formal properties: the grace of the pod-like forms made from fossilized walrus ivory, the contrast in weight of the hemp twine and the ivory, and the delicacy of the feather shafts. I had no idea that a bola was an instrument of war. I found it utterly beautiful as a sculptural form. In both the whale skeletons and the bola, tethers play an important role. While the bola is literally constructed by tying, the tether between the mother and baby skeleton is made palpable by their placement and ultimate fate.
The sculpture, Tether, consists of a large pod-like form, and three smaller ones. All the forms are organic and aquatic looking without referring to any specific object or animal. The smaller pieces are attached to the lager pieces and to one another by a chord or tail. The surfaces of the forms are scarred. In making this sculpture I wanted to utilize tethering and apply ambiguity, in order to explore the shifting experiences of intimate human relationships. The forms in the sculpture remind me of what I feel when I look at flowing water and am unable to determine its direction. Is the water flowing toward me or away from me? The movement is ambiguous and mesmerizing. The vagueness and indecision of the movement adds a new dimension to the water, and these seemingly shifting directions resonate within me. The sensing of the forms in my sculpture similarly shift, reminding us that reality is constantly changing, based on our point of view. Something that at one time burdens us can, in the next moment, be what grounds us.