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It seems like only yesterday that I was sequestered in my studio working day and night on the final prints for the Dalvero Academy Journey of Transformation show currently on display at Mystic Seaport. As with so many projects, the end is never quite clear from the get go. As recent as the project coming to a close feels, the inception of the show seems that much farther in the past than I realized. Thankfully I dated the final work or I would be telling lies about the whole meandering journey. To be quite truthful, I was about to look through my computer and emails to track down the date on the photo above (thank you Jeanette) when I remembered that it was in the images below—you know, the work. This past summer I had the privilege of giving an artist talk at Mystic Seaport as part of series that included many of my peers in the show. About a month later I spent a few days in the area and took in the show for myself, oddly enough, for the first time. Though the show opened in November of 2015 this was the first time I casually and anonymously walked through the gallery. Soon after I found myself describing the show to someone and it dawned on me that I should document it, even just for my own memory, lest I think it happened decades ago.
Over the years The Dalvero Academy has developed a relationship with many of the incredible staff and board members of Mystic Seaport. As a group we documented the restoration process in an earlier show Restoring a Past Charting the Future that opened in 2012. When the museum decided to shift the focus of the Charles W. Morgan’s repair from a routine, albeit extensive, overhaul to becoming sea worthy once again, thoughts of sailing aboard started filling our minds. Let me stop right there, I never got to sail on the Morgan. That said, I got what I consider the next best thing, and an opportunity that set the course for this project. On the date in the title I was one of three artists aboard the steamboat Sabino traveling behind the Morgan as it was towed out of the Mystic River. Those drawings (above), and that moment in the history of the Morgan were huge. In full transparency, I never did ask if that was the only time it left the Mystic River since it was hauled in before Pearl Harbor, but none the less, it was epic. The river being to shallow, the Morgan needed a substantial escort as it floated by high above its normal depth, pulled around docks and past the drawbridge. The restoration crew followed in the whaling boats, fireboats sprayed in celebration and crowds gathered on the shores—it was an awesome bonding of community and one filled with excitement nearing panic. The entire harbor took a collective gasp when the Morgan listed well beyond any angle it had taken thus far—it ran aground and everyone knew it. What we didn’t know was the crew and escort were well aware and in control, but from a few hundred feet back, the world was ending. Like the rest of time during this project, certain moments last forever and certain ones are instantaneous. This mere minute or two lasted forever. Shortly thereafter, and much to our surprise, the Morgan was free and we were turning around. Apparently we didn’t pay attention to the memo. The Sabino was not following the Morgan to new London, just 1/2 out and then returning to the Seaport. The journey had begun and so had the project.
Over the course of the next few months the Morgan would travel up to Boston and back down to Mystic on its 38th voyage, breathing new life into what is the oldest wooden whaling ship in the world. With this new life, one of conservation and change, it stopped in ports along the New England coast to announce the conclusion of its multi-year restoration. By the time it was all finished I knew I wanted to take a simple approach to honoring this event. I started work on a series of silkscreen posters celebrating each port and the voyage in total—in all seven canvas prints for seven moments. The first was to honor the day it left Mystic Seaport, a rebirth in that it sailed for the first time in over half a century if not longer. As I stated above, the day on the Sabino led to this. I stared at the drawings many times and saw a pretty rare moment, simply captured in graphite and ink, and wondered how I could transform this to a poster. Working through several directions I finally came upon a pretty direct approach that I would try to carry through all of the ports I wanted to represent. Each one was different and each one led down a path that affected the whole—but this one was the origin. Though the rest did not go in any particular order of time, I labored over the first moment and the first print. As I waited for the screens to dry (above) I looked on the walls of my studio and wondered what would be next.
The following morning, to my dismay, the screens were not curing as I had hoped, so I let the sun do a bit of the work.
By the end of the day five colors were down on the canvas and the entire project was in chaos. Though I ended up keeping the original set (not identical) I had to rethink so much of what I had planned for the next six. This was the first time I was working on canvas and it was not forgiving. All the fine detail was lost, the halftones filled in and colors sat differently than I had anticipated. But none the less, the final stage had begun and sleep would be sacrificed for the next couple of months as I reworked the series to fit what I learned on this first print.