Think on this if you will.


Up at one in the morning sometimes to travel an hour in order to spend a sunrise-to-sunset, 16-hour day oystering on a skipjack in balmy December or seasonable January. Other times it is up at one again in order to be at the dock by two. So that under a wheeling sky of iced stars you can set nets and then have to wait out on the water till daybreak before hauling them. It can be so cold, bitter cold. Cold enough that the bones in your fingers will hurt for hours and the computer in the camera will go on strike. The guys’ hands hauling nets will get so cold that they will hold them just inches off the exhaust stack so they can bring the hurt back to them.


Then there are the summer days when you leave the docks in the dark so that you can be hauling the first pot as the sun rises. Days so hot that sometimes you think the mungy fish smell of the day’s catch smells better than you do. Your voice will turn hoarse from yelling over the constant roar of the engine. Imagine days with no wind to drive off the clouds of flies that settle on your arms and the back of your neck. Autumn or spring will bring days so windy that if you really didn’t have to go out to fish your gear you wouldn’t think twice about staying in bed. But it has already been so damn windy for the previous two days that you couldn’t fish your gear. Yet, you go down to the docks to see if the wind will lay down with the sun or get up on its hind legs and keep you off the water. Is the culler going to show up? Or will you leave shorthanded? Will the buyer make you pay for bait that you don’t like to use but because he’s the only one with bait you buy it anyway? Once out on the water you hope that your pots are fishing and that no one holds where you set them against you. Or even better they call the DNR to anonymously complain, so they will be waiting for you at the dock. Then they will go over your catch with a fine toothed set of laws and probably find one small infraction that will saddle you with a fine. Heaven knows that after reading all this you cannot but agree with the law and reason that there can be no possible room for a mistake in such an exacting livelihood. If that does not satisfy them, the locals might cut your pot markers loose and foul your gear so you cannot fish them even if you can find them.


Poaching crab pots is another privilege you occasionally get to endure.  There are breakdowns and broken gear, ameliorated only by those in the same business and their willingness to help. You can commiserate with another crew out on the water and lie about how poor you are doing and where you are doing the best. It is not enough that you have to work under confusing layers of laws but the profession that you have chosen has the most fatalities each year than any other.


Maybe my paintings will be better at explaining why it is that I find myself at ease on the water and am inspired when in the company of watermen who do this every day. Perhaps this thought might help. There is a deep and profound magic in the light carried by the wind on the water. It insinuates itself in certain people that will respond to water no matter where they are.


Racing sailboats has been an important part of my life for nearly thirty years now. As an actual participant I have a more intimate point of view that at times contrasts sharply with the standard images of the Marine art genre.  This hands-on experience lends a veracity to the un-classical view points that I favor. I have raced C-scows in the Midwest for 12 years. I have also sailed on Phrf rated boats and on yachts out of Annapolis. The types of sailing craft that I have sailed on range from the new America’s Cup Class yachts, the Whitbread 60’s of the last Whitbread Around the World Race, to the racing log canoes and skipjacks of the Chesapeake Bay. There is a real grace and elegance to all manner of racing and working sailboats. The appeal includes the potential for abstraction to the narrative realist possibilities. I have decided to hang my artistic concerns on the framework of boats, light and water. If you think that makes me a boat painter think again.


I first started painting the workboats of the Chesapeake from the dockside views that were the only angles available to me at the time. Now I spend hundreds of hours each year out on the water with the watermen who have learned that they can trust me to paint the truth of their lives and not to tell the stories that they trust me with. I do not need to bring any nobility to their labors. I have discovered that by gaining their trust and being allowed to go out with them that they reveal the nobility of themselves and their work to me in an unconscious manner that needs no embellishment from me. I grew up traveling in a military family. Every two years the Government saw fit to move us all over the U.S.A. and the world. So, now that I am older, I still feel the need to travel every two years or so. Travel means places like Iceland, Finland, France, New Zealand, Oman, India, Italy, and Maine. If you think about these places you will find that they all have deep and pervasive maritime traditions that still shape the character of each locale. My parents taught my brothers and I that it is an expression of sincerity to study the places that you are to visit and to study them long after your visit. Both of them were very competent photographers who handed down to us the importance of the discipline and the wide uses of the tool. Photography is one of the most important tools that I have in my arsenal. When one paints the conditions that shapes like boats can be found in it is important to have a means that can capture the ephemeral and constantly shifting effects of light, wind and water.


Inquiries may be directed to: Carla Massoni Gallery | 203 High Street | Chestertown, MD 21620 | 410.778.7330 |
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