In Spring 2023, first-year students at Maine College of Art & Design (MECA&D) participated in a seminar titled, Boundless Deep: Maritime Inspired Making. Co-taught by museum staff and MECA&D faculty, this course introduced academic research into students’ creative studio practice. As part of this process, each student chose an artifact from Maine Maritime Museum’s collection to research and serve as creative inspiration for a body of studio work.
This exhibit showcases the work of six students who excelled in connecting ideas, themes, and stories drawn from Maritime Maine to the broader human experiences of family, acceptance, fear of the unknown, and the passage of time.
The Wickey and the Wyrm, 2023
Ink and Watercolor on Watercolor Paper
The Wickey and the Wyrm is a twenty page comic story. The cover along with all of the pages were rendered traditionally in bold, expressive ink and saturated, unpredictable watercolor. All flow together into a story about a Lighthouse Keeper and the trials and tribulations he faces as a secluded protector of Costco Bay.
These mediums contribute to the featured characters’ essence. The unpredictability and permanence of traditional mediums of ink and watercolor contributes to the wacky and fun style. The Wickey and the Wyrm’s audience consists of young teens, adults and older who enjoy a lighthearted yet adventurous story that’s tied to the ocean around Maine.
Much research went into the setting, characters, and process of this project. Casco Bay and Portland during the 1930s served as the setting and jumping off point. I also looked into what it takes to be a lighthouse keeper then and some of the legends from the area. In addition, it ties to the 2nd order fresnel lens I studied this semester and the lighthouse it once inhabited. May it be sea monsters to black cats, secluded islands to old man hermits, don’t attack what you don’t understand. You may miss a job opportunity.
Mac Craig’s piece took inspiration from:
Cape Elizabeth Two Lights – Lighthouse Lens On Loan from US Coast Guard, the object ID# LI2014.02.3
Quimby Danger DelSignore
In Honor of the Tattoo Revolution, 2023
Cardboard, Burlap, Reed, Rope, Hot Glue
A human scrapbook, many sailors sail the seas covered in tattoos, but why is that? In the naval, and greater maritime community, tattoos hold much symbolic significance. Whether it be patriotism, symbols of good luck, or a memento for a loved one, tattoos of these personal moments always meant something to the individual.
In my maritime inspired making, I am honoring the importance and significance of tattooing within this community. Studying tattoo flashes (samples of a tattoo artist’s repertoire) from Maritime Museum’s collection, I had personal access to historic examples of naval tattooing. In my low relief sculpture, made of cardboard, hot glue, and acrylic paint, I am depicting the first ever electric tattoo gun model. The tattooing industry had gone through much needed development that led to the creation of the modern tattoo gun providing more sanitary and long-lasting results.
The hanging sculpture was inspired by a single tattoo from the historic tattoo flash. I took artistic liberties to translate the two-dimensional image into a fully fleshed-out sculpture made of reed wood strips, burlap, and twine rope. The tattoo symbol of a winged heart within maritime communities possibly represents a lost loved one. Creating a three dimensional sculpture confronts viewers by putting the symbol in their physical space, similar to the individuals who confronted their grief by getting a permanent reminder of their love and loss.
Quimby’s hanging sculpture is evocative of the human toll of seafaring families: the ever-present danger of losing loved ones to the sea. Similar in form and function are ship votives commonly found in the Catholic churches of Northern Europe and the Canadian Maritimes. Here, congregations from maritime communities would commission ship models to be hung in the sanctuaries of local churches to elicit divine protection over its crew. Whether serving as a means of protection or a marker of loss, maritime communities have long used objects and images to tell of their relationship to the seas.
Quimby’s piece took inspiration from Nautical Tattoo Design Flash Art, object id #89.057.010
A Distant Memory, 2023
Acrylic and Oil Paint
Growing up in a seacoast state such as Maryland, it came as a surprise to everyone around me that I was never interested in seafood and our family fishing history. While researching Thomas Willis’s ship portrait of the Alhambra I was inspired by the way ship portraits each have their own story. Every ship was someone’s vessel; a place where they established their career and created their own stories. It made me start thinking about my personal connection to maritime culture through my family’s history in crabbing. I wanted to embrace and learn more about their life. I dug into my family connection by conducting three interviews. My mother’s father, Allen, was a commercial waterman and my dad’s father, Harvey, was a crab fisherman. Even though I do not share the same interest and stories as my family in the crabbing industry, I learned that their vessel is significant to my family history.
A lot of ship portraits are just about the vessel, not what happens on board. I wanted to take ship portraits in a different direction and portray what it looks like on the vessel. Through this process, I gained a better understanding of my family’s life on the vessel crabbing in Maryland.
In these artworks I am showcasing my personal connections to the importance of crabbing as a career. “A Distant Memory” showcases my paternal grandfather’s vessel, The Amazing Grace, and his life aboard. As an artist, I like to express narrative and ideas with realism, with a hint of illustrative style; this artwork is no different.
Meraki’s piece took inspiration from Silk Painting of Ship Alhambra, object id #2011.041
Sailing Through Time, 2023
Acrylic on Canvas
My painting connects the past and present of sea exploration. Since I was a child, I have always been interested in both boats and pirates. After living in Portland, Maine, for eight months, and taking this class, I have learned more about ships and the sailing community. The question I explored was; how did sailors navigate to ports around the world before current technology and how did they know where they were going? To illustrate this connection I centered a present-day cargo ship over a traditional chart.
As a digital artist, my task was to challenge myself with a new medium. I decided to combine the art styles of three modern artists, Cathy Peek, Alec Egan and Temi Coker, by using patterns, a mix of images and bold, bright colors. I created a work using the traditional medium of paint that looks more graphic with vibrant color blocks.
Anna’s work connects past and present on multiple levels. The modern cargo ship at the center of the painting represents the evolution of trade vessels that, only just over a century ago, were constructed with wood and hand tools. Likewise, Anna’s use of a traditional medium to emulate a digital, graphic style mirrors how the evolution of technology has radically changed the landscape of both the visual arts and merchant vessels.
Anna’s piece took inspiration from Ship Portrait of Ship America, object id #2005.001.1
What Happened to the Cora F. Cressy?, 2023
Reed, Cardboard, Rope, Burlap
My artwork celebrates Maine’s maritime culture by capturing the life and story of the Schooner Cora F. Cressy. It is meant to celebrate the magnificent craftsmanship from the Percy & Small Shipyard as well as demonstrate what happened to Cora F. Cressy after its life as a merchant ship. While the imagery of a broken ship has negative connotations, my artwork acknowledges the many hands that the Cressy passed through and memorializes the vessel itself. My goal with this piece was to embrace the rich history behind the ship, the builders, and the impact they had on maritime culture in Maine.
My goal is to create engaging forms that catch the viewer’s attention and help them engage with the broader scope behind my projects’ subjects. I want viewers to be engaged with a piece and spend time with every small detail and decision I made.
Madison’s piece took inspiration from Schooner Cora Cressey Trailboard, object id #76.041.1
Screenshots from a Digital Interactive Visual Novel
Conway is an interactive visual novel set on a fictional US Navy vessel, the USS Conway. Conway’s fictional vessel, USS Conway, is based off the USS Katahdin, a harbor defense ram built by Bath Iron Works. The narrative follows a new sailor, exploring the vessel and talking to various members of the crew. All who interact with the game can directly control the rate of the dialogue and make choices in-game that alter the outcome of the story. The players are encouraged to explore aspects and choices they find intriguing, and come away with an experience unique to each player. The format of the visual novel genre is accessible to those who have no experience with video games, and is an effective method of presenting a lot of information in a short game.
The characters and setting are inspired and informed by historical and fictional accounts of naval and commercial ship experiences, while the aesthetic presentation is inspired by other video games, such as Kentucky Route Zero and Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk. In the modern day, military-themed games are often relegated to the shooter and strategy simulation genres, Conway is a new experience within this theme.
Hope’s piece took inspiration from Photograph of USS Katadin, object id #K_004, PC3 – Photograph Collection