Feature Articles and Media

Three for the road: Art shows worth abandoning the beach for

Story By Kathleen Pierce in the Bangor Daily News

Blue Fish, 1988, painted wood, 48"x56"x30"

Blue Fish, 1988, painted wood, 48″x56″x30″

Besides the line at Red’s and mounting traffic on Route 1, there is another Maine mainstay in overdrive this summer — art shows. It’s tough to wade through the onslaught of openings between trips to the beach, but here are three shows worth ditching your blanket for on the coast. Rockland artist Eric Hopkins, known for playful paintings of Maine islands, hosts a retrospective at Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport called “Shells, Fish & Shellfish.” The varied solo exhibit, which opens this week, provides a deeper look into the beach detritus that has inspired the North Haven son of a fish monger. Anyone familiar with Hopkin’s abstract island-scapes will enjoy seeing these elegant wood and glass sculptures along with paintings and monotypes that are rarely on view.

Learning to blow glass from rockstar artist Dale Chihuly while a student at RISD, Hopkins jumps from the frame to the pedestal with ease. Like many artists he was informed by the surroundings of his childhood. “The rocks and shells and bones and branches were my play things,” he said in a prepared statement. “I’d see the patterns of clouds repeated on the waves on the water and later in the flesh of the filleted flounder.”

Read the full story in The Bangor Daily News

‘Shells, fish, shellfish’ inspire art Eric Hopkins draws on a life by the water

Story by Carl Little in The Working Waterfront

Broken Shell Form #1, by Eric Hopkins

Broken Shell Form #1, by Eric Hopkins

Let’s get the punning out of the way, pronto: Eric Hopkins is a shellfish artist. To be more precise, he is a renderer, in many mediums, of shells and fish and shellfish, as the title of his show at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, “Eric Hopkins: Shells—Fish—Shellfish,” puts it.

And this fact may well be a revelation to visitors who only know Hopkins by way of his often transcendent aerial views of the Maine archipelago. Indeed, the exhibition makes a powerful case for a body of work deserving of equal attention and acclaim.

The Bangor-born, North Haven-bred artist began exploring shells and fish as a youngster. The earliest piece in the show is a watercolor made in 1955 when Hopkins was four years old. While reflecting a boy’s fascination with fish—he has often told the story of painting directly on a codfish he had caught in order to keep its colors from fading, only to have his “artwork” disposed of by his mother when it began to stink—this piece of juvenilia already displays the energy of his later work, in particular, the darting fish with its craggy fin.

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art current: Gee’s Bend Quilts at the Penobscot Marine Museum

Story by Britta Konau in The Free Press

Crazy Quilt by Lucy Mongo

Crazy Quilt by Lucy Mongo

The story of Gee’s Bend quilts is a complicated, sad and happy one. Gee’s Bend, a remote, historically African-American village on a peninsula formed by the Alabama River, originated in the early 1800s from slave cabins of Joseph Gee’s cotton plantations. Women slaves and their emancipated descendants made quilts from worn-out clothes, feed sacks, and whatever scraps might be usable to provide warmth in unheated housing. Poverty was rampant and interaction with neighboring towns limited (ferry service was suspended by the cross-river town in response to Benders’ civil rights protests). How the rest of the world found out about those quilts has been recounted many times. In 1997, William Arnett, an art collector and scholar, tracked down the women after having seen photographs of some of their quilts. He bought nearly 700 old quilts and contracted for intellectual property rights to all quilts made before 1984, which he transferred to his non-profit promoting vernacular art, Tinwood Alliance. In 2002, the nationally touring exhibition of 70 quilts from that collection, “The Quilts of Gee’s Bend,” took the art world by surprise and was followed by commodification of the quilts’ designs into home products (postal stamps, too, were issued).

Read the full story in The Free Press

Students build boats in new museum learning center


SEARSPORT, Maine (NEWS CENTER)– A Searsport District High School course is teaching students problem solving skills and maintaining the tradition of boat budiling in Seasport.

“To have a new generation of young people involved in the maritime field is just super. To have them get excited about maritime- who knows where it will lead,” says Wayne Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Marine.

Wayne and Loraine Hamilton donated their old Hamilton Marine store to the Penobscot Marine Museum in December. Since then, students have been working with long time boat builder, Greg Rossel.

Read the rest and watch the video at WCSH 6.

Abandon ship!


Don Wagner of McMillan Offshore Survival Training climbs into an immersion suit. Photo by Tom Groening

SEARSPORT — At 2 a.m., 35 miles out to sea, with winter winds howling and water temperatures around 40 degrees, there can be no two more frightening words.

On a perfect summer day off the town dock, though, “Abandon ship!” was more educational than terrifying.

Sponsored by the Penobscot Marine Museum, the demonstration by Don Wagner of McMillan Offshore Survival Training of Belfast gave visitors a glimpse into how important training and equipment are in surviving a sinking. A six-person raft that was to be used in the demonstration failed. But Wagner turned that into part of the lesson.

At sea, the raft would be removed from a canister and by pulling a line, would be filled by a charged tank of C02. The raft has a safety valve that opens if the pressure from the tank is too great, and then it closes once filled. On the raft Wagner brought, the valve failed to stay closed and so it would not hold air. The 15-year-old demonstration raft had been condemned during an inspection several years ago, he explained. “This is why it’s so important to have a raft inspected and to have survival suits,” he said.

Click here to read the full story by Tom Groening at The Working Waterfront

Daring Rescue at Sea

SEARSPORT – The story of an incredible ocean rescue was the topic Thursday night at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Captain Skip Strong rehashed that historic rescue and salvage which happened almost twenty years ago.

“It was sort of the pinnacle of my career. It was taking everything I’d learned at that point in time, putting it to use. I had an excellent ship, a very good crew, and the guys in the tugboat also did everything they could,” Captain Skip Strong, of the Cherry Valley oil tanker, says.

It was a combination of skill, luck and a solid crew working together that enabled the salvage of the tugboat out of a tropical storm in November of 1994.

Click here to read the full story and watch the video by Karina Bolster at WFVX TV 7

Images taken century ago in Washington County show vibrant, busy towns

American Can Plant, Lubec ME

American Can Plant, Lubec ME

The children stare obediently at the photographer as if they have been interrupted at play. Behind them, smoke rises from brick chimneys atop square, squat buildings. The camera is too far away to tell how the the boys and girls feel about having their picture taken.

Photographer Lewis Hines did not set up his camera in 1911 to take photos of children at leisure. Instead he captured their images as they were either on their way to or from work at one of the many sardine canneries that dotted the streets of Lubec and Eastport more than a century ago.

Hines shot the children in front of the American Can Co., the first mechanized tin can manufacturer in Lubec. His framed photograph is one of 33 taken throughout Washington County in the first half of the 20th century gathered in a traveling exhibit.

Called “Washington County Through Eastern’s Eye,” its first stop is the Cherryfield Public Library. Next month it will move to Steuben and be shown in other Down East towns throughout the year.

The pictures were gathered from the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Co.’s collection of 50,000 glass plate negatives preserved by the Penobscot Marine Museum. The photos were shot to be used as postcards from 1909 through the 1950s, according to Kevin Johnson, curator and photo archivist for the collection.

Click here to read the full story by Judy Harrison at the Bangor Daily News

Searsport students chronicle their heritage one sea captain at a time

SEARSPORT, Maine — The Searsport where Alivia Cross lives is a very different community from the one that existed 150 years ago during the golden age of shipbuilding and sailing.

Through a multimedia class project, the Searsport District High School sophomore had the chance this semester to learn about her town’s history and create an exhibit that will be on display at the Penobscot Marine Museum this summer.

“I learned a lot about our history,” the 16-year-old said Monday evening at the museum after an opening for the “Then and Now: The Dangers of Life At Sea” exhibit. “I didn’t realize how big an impact we had on the world.”

Many of the world’s sea captains came from New England, and Searsport produced a disproportionate amount, she said. For her project, she talked to local historians including Charlene Farris and Faith Garrold, and worked with Cipperly Good, the collections manager at the museum. With their help, Alivia learned about different aspects of life at sea. Her exhibit, located in the Old Church Vestry at the museum, features photographs such as an unhappy toddler perched on the knee of her father, a ship captain.

Click here to read the full story by Abigail Curtis at the Bangor Daily News