The Cooper’s View

There are a couple threads of themes which run through the 14 paintings for this year’s show. This painting weaves two of them together. Mystic and Me.

When I was a young girl living in Swarthmore, PA, our family would escape the dangers of Mischief Nights around Halloween and drive up to New England. I have vivid memories of exploring Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. My father loved boats and was building a wooden model of the Cuttysark around that time, and some of those interests filtered down to me…but I didn’t appreciate it back then.

What drew me in was the Cooperage. The Mystic Seaport Museum is a magical collection of all things maritime and wooden boat building and seafaring lore. A historic seaport village, along the banks of the Mystic River, brings maritime life in the 1800’s… alive.

From their website…”The buildings you see aren’t replications–they’re trade shops and businesses from the 1800s that were transported to Mystic Seaport from locations around New England. The village is made up of many bustling maritime trades, from shipsmiths and coopers to woodcarvers and riggers.”

So picture a 10 year old girl, whose three younger brothers are running off the energy from the long car ride, while she walks into the dark and dusty cave of the Cooperage.

( I have added a link here to the museum’s website where you can watch a nice little video and see inside the place for yourself.)

I was fascinated.

A small shack full of wooden barrels, and piles of wood shavings, and a shaving horse…

Fast forward about 20 years or so and look where that little girl was sitting…

I wielded my own drawknife for a decade making chairs and spoons and baskets and such. Then I put down the woodworking tools and picked up the brushes.

Fast forward another 20 years and that little girls has just turned 60.

And, on one of her now regular trips to New England, she returned to Mystic and once again stood inside the dark wooden den of the Cooperage…and turned around.

The Cooper’s View is just that. On this crisp fall day the sunlight bounces off of the t’gallant sails being raised on The Morgan which is docked just outside of the shop.

The Charles W. Morgan is the last of the American whaling fleet and was painstakingly restored at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

(here’s a link to the museum’s website with a complete history and chronicle of her restoration…Click Here.)

We will go on board that ship in tomorrow’s blog post, but linger here a while and soak in the salty air and take a closer look at that rigging…

enjoy the playful pastel diagrams drawn inside…

and study the roman numerals carved on the barrel stays…

The artiste has taken license, in an autobiographical way, and added her own hatchet and well worn drawknife to authenticate the pastiche.

It was deeply moving for my 60 year old self to stand in that shop again and realize that I’ve come full circle, and back around yet another one, to complete a creative cycle that my 10 year old self didn’t even know how to dream of.