Wednesday, August 17, 2011

an artist's vision

I should have been focusing on my work but I could not keep my eyes off of the beautiful artwork that lined the hallways of the corporate offices I was visiting earlier this week.  Finally my host, the president of the company, said "You've got to take a look at our artwork!"
These were the beautiful paintings of maritime artist John Barber.  I had seen his work before, a poster here and maybe a print there.  Never had I seen so many pieces together.  I was overwhelmed by the work - each painting was a detailed history of life on the Bay.  The painting above is one of his recent works called "Offloading the Catch at Tilghman Island." I love the richness of the scene, the golden glow of the lights, the moonlight on the water and the classic Chesapeake Bay workboats.  It is a portrait of the golden age of Chesapeake Bay.

I was so touched by John's images that I visited his website that evening, then found myself emailing him the next morning asking permission to show some of the paintings here.  He gave me his consent in a friendly reply and at the same time complimented the look of Spartina.  (A maritime artist complimenting Spartina - I think I smiled the rest of the day.)

I spend a lot of time thinking about the classic days of the Bay when I am out there on the water.  There are hints of an earlier, more prosperous time along the shoreline.  Abandoned pilings and broken down piers, skiffs in the marsh and workboats rotting along the shore are remnants of the fishing industry that thrived in small towns all over Chesapeake Bay.  The photo just above, shot on day six of our spring trip, is from Tilghman Island, not too for from the site of "Offloading the Catch."  The old boats remind me of bushel baskets packed full of blue crabs, buckets of fish and piles of oysters hauled in by tongs.  Sometimes I can picture skipjacks painted bright white sailing under a burning sun and the buy boats, loaded down with the catch, headed for the port.

Looking through John's work I tried to find places we had visited that matched his artwork.  "Seen better Days" is a painting of a skipjack in the marshes of Deal Island.

Above is a photo Bruce made in the harbor at Deal Island, the skipjack City of Crisfield in the background.  I remember Bruce and I both looked in amazement as this working sailboat, a beautiful reminder of days gone by.

 In "Tangier Afternoon" a waterman works on his deadrise with the steeple of the old Methodist Church off in the background.

There is Spartina at Milton Park's marina, just a couple of hundred yards from where the deadrises are hauled out of the water at Tangier Island.

Back at Tilghman Island the beautiful "Tilghman Island Sunset", above, shows the drawbridge over Knapp Narrows.

Bruce photographed that same bridge when we sailed through the narrows in May.

Where you have water, you have weather.  The painting "Squall on the Chesapeake" capture the fast moving clouds over the bay.

 It reminded me of our trip on Pamlico Sound a few years ago when we were surrounded by squalls for much of an afternoon.  Squalls can be frightening, they can also be beautiful.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge can be seen in the distance beyond the Cherubini 56 Schooner Adventurer, above.   Sailing beneath the bridge on our way from Tilghman Island to the Magothy River was one of the thrills of our last sailing trip on the Bay, below.

The harbor in "Homeward Bound" has got to be St. Michaels.  I remember the shapes of the buildings on shore including a Hooper Strait Lighthouse just to the left of center.  I enjoyed sailing off that shore in 2009 at the small craft festival.  That is Bruce's photo of Spartina (one of my favorite photos) in the harbor, below.

John's paintings really touched my heart.  On this next trip, just about a month away, I will be seeing the bay through the eyes of an artist.  Thank you, John, for sharing your paintings and for sharing your vision.



EyeInHand said...

Nice post, Steve. How you found photos connecting your travels with the paintings is a nice touch.

I had seen his prints before, too, but sadly neither those nor photos do the paintings justice at all. I was shocked when I saw one in person for the first time. The richness of light is really stunning in the originals, really makes you stop an go "wow", and somehow that gets lost in translation.

Wish I could see them all, too.

Kevin B said...

The old buy boat "Crow Brothers" at Knapps Narrows has been waiting to sink at the dock for years and only went down earlier this summer. About a month ago I watched a backhoe finish her off.