The Mystery Unravels…

Well, tomorrow at this time we will be pulling into Mystic for our first stop on the way to the island. And so it is fitting to use this last blog post before the show to catch you up on the investigation into that carving on the spinning wheel at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

THIS JUST IN…

Remember this painting…

The Spinning Loft

And do you remember the detail shot of the carving on this large wheel in the foreground

Well, Follansbee and Co have uncovered some information that brings us closer to solving the riddle of who might have carved it and what building would it have been.

I want to introduce you to Paula Marcoux…her delicious website is here…click.

PAULA

Marcoux

Writer
Speaker
Consultant
teacher

I’m a food historian who consults with museums, film producers, publishers, and individuals.

My training is in archaeology and cooking, and I enjoy applying the knowledge of past cooks and artisans to today’s food experience.

My work is exploring bygone pathways of food history and culture, through building, experimenting, playing, and eating. 

I’ve known of her through Peter, and following her on social media, but we haven’t yet met.

So Peter reaches out to his Plymouth pals and they do what they do best…research stuff.
I’m going to copy the thread of their discoveries here, with permission of the author, and then the caveat that she made me promise to include will be there at the end. Clearly these people are driven by brilliant minds, and their super powers are curiosity.

From Peter then Paula,

PF -So the question is:
Is the graffiti scratched into this equipment at Mystic, originally from Cordage park, real? Is that a building somewhere around Cordage?

Who would know?

PM -I will want to read her blog later carefully—but yes what mystic exhibits is one third of Plymouth Cordage’s rope walk.

PM -The builidng in the graffiti (which IS fascinating) looks to be a wharfside structure, right? The ell to the right is on pilings over the water. Plymouth Cordage was situated to take advantage of Plymouth’s best natural channel—a piece of relatively navigable water called the Town Guzzle. Certainly long gone by the time of this image around 1900:\https://digital.hagley.org/AVD_1982_231_016

If you look at this map, you can see how the walk was situated….(here’s a clip) I would guess that the building pictured would be between the place it was carved in the ropewalk building and the harbor.

There are other 19th c images I’ll poke around for later

Then Peter assumes he has satisfied my tasking him to get the skinny…

PF – (satisfied) my debt to Heather that is…god knows what I owe PM now…

Then…

PM – Also January 25, 1867 — the storehouse at the Cordage Works was “blown down” in a gale and a lot of damage was done to wharves…. that could have been the end of that building (WT Davis, Memories, p 221) 

And again a day later…

PM – In its earliest iteration the Cordage consisted of a rope-walk, wharf, storehouse and other buildings (incorporated August 1824). 

Huge expansions came  by the late 30s, with the adoption of steam power, but the walk itself might function the same regardless of power source.
I can see from the same source that two Carrs (Andrew and Patrick) had been working for the Cordage for decades by 1900 —then both around middleaged and having started working there young — Patrick at 9). 
My money that a little more research will suggest their father, Belfast emigrant William Thomas Carr, produced these graffiti after lunch on August 4th, 1851, while his foreman was out sick with “a summer complaint, brought on by eating blackberries and cream”. Okay, we probably won’t get to that satisfying a level of detail. But the first two paragraphs are documented at least.
And quickly after I asked if I could share this here…

PM –

Sure, Heather, with the proviso that it is very “tossed-off” and incomplete—I should be working on my own problems, but I get so sucked into these kinds of questions (in case that’s not apparent) but I’m always surprised when others are interested. And although I was joking about the elder Mr. Carr from Belfast, I would not be shocked if I could get a little further with his identity—the Cordage was great at record-keeping. In it’s first fifty years at least it was the very model of a paternalistic enterprise — its founder had very high ideals and took a distinct interest in the welfare of the workers and their families. 

Here’s the bibliography so far. (There are lots more cordage publications, too, that I haven’t looked into yet.):

The Plymouth Cordage Company; Proceedings at Its Seventy-fifth Anniversary

By Plymouth Cordage Company (1900)

 

Plymouth Memories of an Octogenarian

By William Thomas Davis

 

History of the Town of Plymouth

By James Thacher

Now wasn’t that cool to learn about ?
I know, me too, I love the library at our fingertips time we live in.

And I love that all these people are making their livings today by dabbling in centuries old traditions and crafts.

If you want to learn more about such endeavors,
I encourage you to start by doing some of you own research,
and I’ll make it really easy for you…
Visit their website Plymouth Craft…by clicking here.

Good people
doing meaningful work

and teaching others
and passing it on.
It takes a village and I’m grateful to Paula for taking the time to provide us with some answers. When I get home, I’m going to follow the breadcrumbs she’s left.
Thanks to all of you for tuning in.
And thanks to  Liquid Web 
for making this blog work like lightening.
Now that this thing can keep up with me I will be posting more regularly.
Stay frosty out there and I’ll let you know when the brushes are once again…flying.

Wakeful and Onward

Good morning readers,

We here in the studio are sorting and packing and tweaking and altering as we get ready to roll northward for the Granary Gallery Show Opening on Sunday.

Humble appreciations for your patience as the website is being updated, our tech guru uses the word migrated which just sounds lovely. He has been our hero this week, rock solid and unflappable, as there are always some bumps in the road to progress and he is still answering my emails, even as the early bird catches her worms. ( I’m playing with the “migration” thing there…says the bleary eyed artiste…) Blessings upon you Ross.

Another HUGE, absolutely HUGE shout out of gratitude to pals Matt and Paul for not only offering, but actually showing up within minutes of my request for help. They came toting kayaks, as I had interrupted a float on the nearby lake, and swiftly and oh so carefully loaded the paintings into the trailer for us.

That is always a tricky part of this process, as the work of an entire year gets packed in a tiny aluminum box that needs to transport them safely over land and sea for their big reveal. It was shear bliss, in the hot and humid afternoon, to have two strong young men take on the hardest bits of that job. Their kindness and grace has cemented our friendship.

I’ve been instructed to scroll throughout the website and look for problems. Talk about asking for trouble. There are some glitches which we are addressing, again about the patience, but some unexpected feelings are popping up as well.

When sorting through 18 years of paintings, you are also reviewing the last 18 years of your life. Wasn’t expecting that, so I find myself swirling in emotional detours. Mostly pleasant, often happy, but with some pop-up grieving and twinges of longing mixed in.

Among many of the “missing” links we are scrambling to fix, I found a few golden oldies that tie in with some of this year’s paintings…

Lighthouse Wake – which shows the channel between Chappy and the Lighthouse.

In this year’s painting, Anchored in Autumn, I tweaked that a bit and moved the lighthouse just a few hundred yards to the left so I could get it in the composition. On the actual panel it was inches.

Then there was the year of the birds…
And one of my personal favorites,

The Gutting –

This is a working dockside view of the Edgartown Yacht Club. The Vose Boathouse sits out of this frame but off to the right.

And this…

Onward  –

Where we are looking directly at it sitting there all happy to be in the water  on a bright sunny day.

To be completely honest, there were many paintings
upon my wild reviewing this morning
that I had totally forgotten I had ever painted.

I’m sure it’s the stresses over the last few days…
as I am equally certain it is the slippage of my aging gears.

But it is interesting to take some measure
along the journey
from there to here
of my life behind the brushes.

Stay frosty out there my friends,
our little family is all the better for you being in the world.


Anchored in Autumn

Anchored in Autumn  –  74 x 48

Step out with me
onto this majestic wooden porch
and into the glorious autumn air
on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

What stretches out before you
is Edgartown Harbor
on a morning when only the stalwart
working fisherman are plowing the waters
sending out gently lapping waves in their wake.

I’ve been trying to find a way in
to paint this harbor’s horizon line for years.
When Anne Vose invited me to this boathouse
last October, and I stepped out onto this porch
I had found it.

In order to get the widest view of this historic waterfront,
the perspective is a huge component in the composition.
Long expanse of two and three story buildings
means a wide panel with a thin line of tiny houses
and a whole lot of sea and sky.

So to have the boathouse act as a frame
and the boats in harbor to help provide a swing of direction for the eye
it was possible for me to tell a richer story.
One that connects the generations of an island family
with the vibrant history and culture of an active island town.

I’ve given you an idea of some of the cobblestones
on the road that lead me here.

Now I want to let you zoom in and see
some of the brushstrokes that occupied
the 80 days and 80 nights I spent at the easel
to complete the journey…

 

 

…and I leave you with my personally favorite part of this painting…


The Boathouse

The Boathouse  –  34 x 28

After climbing down those long steep steps from the bluff
and peeking around inside the room below
we have climbed up again
to the top floor of the boathouse.

Last fall I was invited by Anne Vose to join her on the porch
and take an artistic measure of the historic structure.

While she and Pat sat in rockers outside
solving all the problems of the world
I explored the world of wonders within.

I talked, in The Changing Room painters notes,
about the way the water reflects the sunlight back up
into the room and bounces off the differing surfaces.

Up here, another level above the ocean,
the angles are longer and sharper
so they jut straight up into the corners
of the veridian stained rafters
and then ease down to those luscious wooden walls
to nestle softly on the antique weavings of carpet and chintz.

And that light engages with every one
of the deep rich colors inhabiting this chamber.

Those stairs rippling through the old glass in the back window
are echoed in the black and white photo framed alongside.
The robin’s egg blue that was once the only color
on the glider’s frame repeats on the inside window frames
then fades into a pale sage green on the mouldings’ exteriors.

The deep red of the oriental carpet
is straight out of my Barok Red tube of Old Holland Paint,
and the hunter green might as well have a fox running out ahead.

And then there are the faces…
the teasing visages of the man carved in the table
and the pastel of the flirtatious flapper.

Like the shiny dots of sunlight
around the edges of the porcelain
there was a glisten in the corner of her eye
when Anne recounted the day the pilings were
being repaired and one whole side of the boathouse
collapsed into the harbor.

Not only can you trace the depth of the family’s roots
through the objects in this room
but you can understand the core feelings
of love for this vintage island treasure
in the emotional telling of that tale…

right up until she gets to the part
where she chuckles and says…

not…
one…
single…
plate…
nor cream pitcher…
or teacup…

was so much as nicked by the calamity.

That’s what I call a
prevailingly powerful karma.


The Changing Room

The Changing Room  —  20 x 24

Come along with me
as we go back in time

to a boathouse in a harbor
in what they call the shoulder season,
those weeks between the chaos of summer
with traffic and tourists and hot muggy sunburns,
and the first frosts of the winter to come.

You arrive at the top of a very high bluff
with a vast harbor spread out before you.
Then you climb down
and down
and down
two very long flights of white washed steps
then across the wooden planked dock …

To he Vose Boathouse
an historic architectural wonder
built directly in the Edgartown Harbor.
The family received a letter of approval from the war department
in 1899 (it hangs on the wall today) for it to be built there
and nothing says Vintage Vineyard like this space.

We will begin our painterly tour
with a peak into that first door you come to
just through the dock gate
on the bottom floor
into what I have called
the changing room

The lovingly maintained wooden doors,
with their inlayed repairs for repurposed hardware,
line two walls with small locker rooms
that each have windows framing
expansive views of the harbor
and out across to the tiny island of Chappaquiddick.

The light bounces softly across the water
and lays like a butterfly on the kid glove surfaces
of that weathered wood
then sparkles off of the lacquered canoes
and the worn ochre of an oar.

But my favorite part
is that there are spaces in between each floorboard
through which you can see the iridescent sea beneath.

As the sun slants in the October morning light
the colors below are breathtaking.

From the classic canoe
to the sweeping parsons bench
there is something solidly New England here.

It was so quiet when I was working there
that the only sounds were the gulls cawing overhead
and the gentle lapping of the wakes as the working fisherman
motored their way out past the boathouse out to sea.

I can picture it now…
in a family filled summer
with the noises of
children wriggling into swimsuits
and parents toting wicker baskets
which the grandparents have stuffed
with picnics and rainhats…

and through the years
and all of that chaos
and glee
I can feel the boathouse
enfolding them all
like a great big
cedar wrapped hug.


Study for Nightwatch

Study for Nightwatch  –  12″ x 24″

ow that first warm sunny day
when you understand that winter has
at least one more round in her
but damnation you are going
to clean out a garden bed…any bed.

On just such a day last March
we both huddled in our warmest fleece,
Herself putting her boots up in the sky chair
and myself blowing the cobwebs off of my weeding bench,
we passed a lovely hour or two
warming old bones in the afternoon sun.

I was hoeing away happily
when I saw something odd.

Just under the drying stalks
of last year’s hyssop
was a layer of what looked like fur.

I often throw the leavings of Finn’s coat
after her weekly brushings
out into the garden
or on top of the nearest snowbank
during the coldest months

So that was my first guess.

Then the fur moved.

Ok yes,
I screamed.

Woke Herself up actually…
and then she screamed.

Not ten minutes before
while I had been weeding the adjoining bed
I had said to Pat…
Now I’m going to be really careful because this is where
those bunnies were nesting last year.

So…the synapses fired up…
and collided.

Approaching cautiously
and much calmer now
I moved aside the covering layer of dry grasses
and peeked under the grey and white blanket of fur…

and sure enough
tiny baby bunnies
nestled in a hollow
the size of a teacup.

Oh the tenders
and gawd…
I had been hacking away
had I nicked one before the discovery ?

I tried my best to restore order to the nest
but I had removed almost all of the weedy
canopy that had made this new spot seem promising.

So, I added some leaves to the top
and found a wide wicker basket
and laid it over the nest
and offered up a prayer to mother nature for their souls

For the next two mornings I stood over the nest
and looked for signs of life.
Both times I saw the slightest rise and fall of the leaves
and the next day Kory came.

He’s helping me with the yard work and
as far as I can tell…so far
he has no fears.
Ok a slight shimmy in his step when he happens upon
a large spider…
but otherwise he’s a rock solid go to guy for wild animal taming.

Kory lifted the basket
and the leaves
and the fur
and sure enough
there were three living breathing bunnies
curled up in their teacup.

As anyone who knows me well
will tell you
they all got names.

Seeing as they were born in my herb bed
I dubbed them, Hyssop and Thyme and Vincent.
The last just in the case I had, accidentally mind you,
nicked one with the ancient Japanese weeding tool.

A few days later they were gone.

A week after that two of them jumped out of the way
of the string trimmer I was just about to swing along
the stone edging of the hydrangea bed.

Then, every afternoon for a month,
all three showed up at my new bird feeders,
which I have moved right outside of my easel window.

One of them kept lingering
later and later into the dusk
after siblings and squirrels
finches and doves
had long since gotten into their jammies
and been tucked into their beds.

On this night
as I was waiting for him
the sunset sent extra long low rays
through the bottom of the fence
and shooting across the tops of the grass.

And like that
the bunny hopped into that shaft of light
and stood completely still
for hours
keeping me company
as if he were on guard.

Then one of his ears twitched
and caught the fading light
and I saw the notch.

Now I am waiting for my sunflowers
to grow tall enough to pose
as the source of those angling rays
in the big portrait I want to paint…

of Vincent.


The Carrot Whisperer

The Carrot Whisperer  –  24 x 32

“…I believe that everyone has imagination, that no matter how mature and adult and
sophisticated a person might seem, that person is still essentially an ex-baby. And as
children, we all lived in an imaginal world…you know, when you’d be told, “Don’t cross
that wall, because there’s monsters over there,” my God, the world you would create on
the other side of the wall. And when you’d ask questions like “Why is the sky blue?”
or “Where does God live?” or all this kind of stuff…like one of the first times I was coming to
America, I said to my little niece, who was seven, I said, “What will I bring you from America?”
She said, “Uh…” and her father said, “No, ask him, or you won’t get anything.”
And Katy turned to me and said, “What’s in it?” – (laughs) – which I thought was a great
question about America.”

An excerpt from the On Being conversation between Krista Tippet and the Irish Poet John O’Donohue

Our little carrot whisperer would have asked that same question at 7.
Now she is 8 and when we see her soon
I will ask her
but mostly I like to listen.

Zoe is one of the most richly vibrant souls
it has been my pleasure to share the planet with.

Her curiosity is fueled by a Tigger-like enthusiasm.

Stealthy observation informs her empathy.

And story telling is her super power.

So, last summer,
when I asked her seven year old self
to pose with the freshly picked carrot
and she examined it for a long while
deciding it made her think of
the snowman Olaf’s nose…

I waited

Then she thought the long green
fronds looked like hair
and she curled them in an arc over her head…

and I waited

And she started a story about how that
made her feel like a queen
and she was going to take the carrot
to visit her castle…

and I waited

until the queen decided she was in a carriage
and the carrot would, therein, accompany her
and she rested it regally on her shoulder
closed her eyes
and beckoned the footman to ride on.

An artist can’t choose her Muses.

We can only sharpen our brushes everyday
in the hopes that when they are ready to appear
we can catch them on …
the whisper.


Alex

Alex  –  18 x 18

“When you look at some faces, you can see the turbulence of the infinite
beginning to gather to the surface. This moment can open in a gaze from a stranger,
or in a conversation with someone you know well. Suddenly, without their intending it
or being conscious of it, their gaze lasts for only a second. In that slightest interim,
something more than the person looks out.”
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

 

My pal Alex, the philosopher fisherman, is a muse of the most mysterious kind.

He arrives unannounced, on silent feet, and rings the bell
hanging ourtside my studio door…once.
One clear ring.
And never when I am listening for it, so it’s always a gift.

He is never empty handed.
Most often a fishing pole is leaned against the porch,
with a bit of tackle,
or a turtle
or a golf ball
or the bottom shard of an old bottle…
and then we talk.

Picking up right where we left off,
even if it was a year ago,
the conversation flits about according to where his curious eyes land
or where my wandering mind does.

It can bounce around all day,
or sit solidly on something heavy for a while.
All topics are worthy of our examination
and his curiosity is contagious.

One day
during the summer he was 14
he came bearing a turtle.
“I thought you would like to paint this”
I wasn’t entirely sure,
but brought my camera out,
rather than the turtle in,
and he held it in the sunshine for me to see.

It was a beautiful creature
with patterns and colors that we studied
under the tutelage of his vast knowledge of local nature.
He and his subject were reverential
of each other and I was just there to record.

It was a while before I saw him again,
and in the interim I sorted through those photos
to see if anything connected with the brushes.

What snapped my heartstrings was his face.
The presence and the peace that was a young boy
just beginning to tip into adolescence.

I made some notes and put it aside.

The next time I saw Alex,
was a hot summer afternoon.
He had been fishing after a morning of chores
and was shirtless and sunburned with the creek
dripping off of his sneaks.

The muses struck…
What wasn’t working from that first photo shoot
was that he had been wearing very dark eyeglasses.
I asked him to pose again as now I could
clearly see all of his face.

So we found a turtle sized rock
and tried to recreate the scene.

And then another year went by.

I found myself reviewing the two sets of photos,
knowing it was time to work on this painting.
But what I had before me was a dramatic contrast.

Alex holding the turtle was clearly a young boy.
Alex holding the turtle stone was absolutely a young man.

I really labored over this one.
In the end I decided to do both,
eventually the turtle will surface.

But I had been reading the poetry of John O’Donohue,
the brilliant poet from Ireland,
and came across his writings On Beauty.
Just slayed me.

And centered me squarely on this gentle face.
The landscape of this young man
written across that brow
brimming with confidence
pale cheeked innocence fading
into those widening sunwashed shoulders.

Here is my handsome Muse
only last week
taming another wild creature
on my studio porch.

Drum on kind Sir.

 


Anna’s Woodshed

Anna’s Woodshed  –  18 x 21

Anna Kuerner and her husband Karl immigrated from their home in Germany
to Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania.

Together with their growing family, they farmed a hillside
which now is filled with buttercups in the spring.

I stood amongst those buttery yellow harbingers
on a warm afternoon in May
studying the wide stuccoed front porch
of their 19th century farmhouse
and noticed a break in the solid rectangular lines
of the main house.

Around back
when you first step into the kitchen
this doorway is to your left.

Through it you can see a passageway
from the kitchen
and then the window
and on into the room.

Karl built this woodshed
attached to the house
so that Anna,
who insisted on cooking with a wood fired oven,
would not have to go out in inclement weather
to fetch her fuel.

On this stormy
creek flooding
weather heavy day…

I’d say there’s a special kind of love
in that gesture.

PS- Pat requested a second blog post today. It’s been a tad stressful here and she says that these posts make her happy. So, here ya go Babe. Love, me.