There is a tradition on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.
At the end of the day, any given night of the year, the place to be is Menemsha.
People stop at one of the fish mongers’ shacks to pick up some chowder, a lobster,
and maybe some freshly steamed steamers…
and then make their way down to the end of the road,
and on to the sandy beach.
It is a terrific place to sit and watch the sun set,
over the hills of Aquinnah,
with the steady comforting twist of light from the Gay Head Lighthouse,
and the clink of metal and swish of rope, from the riggings on the big boats, anchored along the basin.
On particularly fine evenings, there are ripples of applause as the last of the daylight sinks behind the horizon.
In the autumn of 2012, I ventured to the other side of the inlet, to the tiny mooring at Lobsterville beach,
where I spent almost every early evening, climbing the dunes and exploring the view.
I thought I was there, like all those other folks, to ogle at the western sky…
But when I turned around,
those sunset hues were streaming across the boats and shacks of the tiny fishing village, bringing it to life.
Refracting in the clouds and reflecting off the water, the depth of color was stunning.
I’ve taken that lesson to heart.
Point yourself if a different direction.
And now, I pause each night,
and take just a bit more time…
There are two more passages, of note, to mention about this painting.
As is often the case, some of the hardest decisions, when working on a final composition, involve what to leave in…and more importantly…what to take out. In keeping with the romantic palette of light, I wanted to speak to a more vintage Vineyard landscape.
It’s common for me to take out telephone poles, and almost always people, and most of the modern detritus. But this time I went further and streamlined the docks, removed most of the motor boats and some of the engines, and even hid some of the more contemporary houses behind the autumn foliage.
What is left are my favorite boats and an honest respect for the fishermen who work them. So, when I saw one that was new, to me, on the horizon, I did some research. I found an article in the MV Gazette, written by Ivy Ashe,
reliving a record catch by Tim Walsh, the captain of the Helen L, (that spiffy looking blue boat on the far left in the painting). Ivy retold the story of Tim
landing an 1,100 pound Atlantic bluefin tuna, the old fashioned way, with a rod and reel. Something pretty rare in any waters now a days, and something special for the Menemsha Fisherman to brag about.
After reading, I noticed the date of that catch, October 9, 2012 which was the very day that I had caught the boat tied up along the early evening dock…all safe and snug with one heck of a story to tell.
The other end of that history is the passage…into history…of the Strider.
I had painted it in surrender several years ago, but early in May of this year, the Mayhews took it for one final spin, out of the port of Menemsha, before its final sale. Olivia Hull wrote a nice piece in the Gazette,
to mark the occasion and I’m sure there were many lovers of that boat,
fishermen and artists alike, who were saddened to see it go.
We get the paper a week or two late, so it was jarring to take a break from painting, to open the paper and read that article, about the boat having already left the dock, as I was bringing it to life on the canvas. An artist, unlike a photographer, has license to cheat a little. While Alison won’t have the chance to take anymore shots of the sun setting on her wheelhouse windows…I can pretend. And I suspect that the rusty blue hull of the Quitsa Strider will forever leave a whisper of its reflection in the waters of her safest harbor.