Story by Carl Little in The Working Waterfront
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.