Moby-Monday: “In the Unequal Cross-Lights” — Contemporary Sculptors Respond to the Whaling Museum Collections

Giant Squid sculpture by Erik Durant

Last month I took the kids to New Bedford Open Studios and one of the highlights was meeting sculptor Erik Durant and seeing his giant squid which was under construction for the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s outdoor sculpture show which opened last week. Durant’s studio is always a real hit with the kids if for no other reason than his giant ear sculpture with companion Q-tip;  Joy especially loves it.

The sculpture show is titled “”In the Unequal Cross-Lights” — Contemporary Sculptors Respond to the Whaling Museum Collections” and the title is derived from Moby-Dick. From David Boyce’s article in the New Bedford Standard Times:

The project’s title is taken from “Moby-Dick,” referring to Ishmael’s visit to the Spouter-Inn, where in the “unequal cross-lights” he sees a painting on the wall that confounds him. Melville writes that this artwork requires “careful inquiry,” “earnest contemplation,” and “repeated ponderings.” In other words, much like looking at some contemporary art work, one must allow it time to divulge its intentions, its message, its meaning, or merely its composition.

Photo from ErikDurant.com

Moby-Monday: A song about the thoughts of a young Moby-Dick

Last Thursday marked the first of a series of concerts organized by the Ladies Branch of the New Bedford Port Society for the Seamen’s Bethel Restoration Project Fund. It was a great evening of shanties and sea stories by Dillon Bustin and the Rum-Soaked Crooks.

Here’s a short video of a neat song that Dillon Bustin sang. It was part of a youth education program that he helped organize in which students wrote a prequel to Moby-Dick. The song give each of the characters in Herman Melville’s classic an adolescent outlook. Here’s what was doing on with Moby-Dick. (Low light video but audio is definitely worth the listen.)

The Seamen’s Bethel is one of America’s historic treasures. Hope you will consider making a donation to it’s Restoration Project Fund so that future generations will be able to experience it.  For more information or to get involved, please visit the Seamen’s Bethel website, email support@portsociety.org or call +1 508-992-3295.

Moby-Monday: Herman Melville’s Pew

Herman Melville's Pew by kodachromeslides on Flickr

Ever go somewhere and “feel” that you are really experiencing history. Well, the historic Seamen’s Bethel in New Bedford, Massachusetts is one of those special places. If you haven’t been there, make a plan to and when you do make sure you sit in Herman Melville’s pew. Who knows. maybe some of his inspiration will rub off on you.

I’m a member of the board of managers of the New Bedford Port Society and we own and operate the Seamen’s Bethel and I recently wrote Please Help Me Help the Seamen’s Bethel.

If you live anywhere in the area, I invite you to join me for a very special fundraising evening with Dylan Bustin and the Rum-Soaked Crooks on Thursday, October 21st in the historic Seamen’s Bethel.  You can buy tickets at http://bit.ly/bethelconcerts and 100% of the proceeds go to Seamen’s Bethel Restoration Project Fund.

We are well underway with the work to make sure that future generations will be able to experience history at the Bethel and Mariner Home too. Hope you can join us and support the effort too!

Photo credit: Herman Melville’s Pew by Patrick Mont (kodachromeslides on Flickr.com)

Moby-Monday: Happy Belated Berthday Herman Melville!

Okay we missed Herman Melville’s birthday (August 1st); yesterday was his 191st. We were actually on a family roadtrip to Mystic Seaport where they were celebrating Melville’s birthday with a marathon reading of Moby-Dick.

It had been a few years since we visited Mystic and the first time with the kids. It’s a great destination with lots and lots of things to do for “youth of all ages.” We started our visit with a showing of the outdoor play, A Tale of a Whaler which is highly recommended if you have kids. It’s engaging and answers, in a fun way, some of those difficult historical questions kids always have.

Some of the other highlights included a visit to the Charles W. Morgan which is currently in the middle of a MAJOR restoration project.  You can actually climb aboard her and go below to see first hand how whalers lived and how restorers do their work. This experience should not be missed.

Charles W. Morgan - On the Ways

It’s a bit of a climb, especially with small children, but it’s definitely worth it!

Charles W. Morgan - Maindeck looking aft

Here are a few “artsy” shots taken with my iPhone of other favorite spots in the Seaport.

This is from the Shipyard Gallery looking down into the work area. The gallery has an interesting exhibit about the Morgan restoration project.

Shipyard Gallery

I love scale models of villages and this one is a must see. Even though it’s Mystic, it’s great to imagine what our town, Mattapoisett, was like back in the mid 1800’s when activity was buzzing at the six shipyards located on the harborfront.

Mystic River Scale Model

No visit is complete without hopping aboard a real living tall ship like the Joseph Conrad. Well, she might not leave the dock but in the summer time she serves as living quarters for the young campers in the Seaport’s sailing program. How cool is that!

Joseph Conrad

Moby-Monday: Alec Baldwin on Moby-Dick


Last week, Tom Beer of Newsday quizzed actor Alec Baldwin on his love for Moby-Dick…and then the paper stowed the interview behind a paywall, more’s the pity. Here’s a (hopefully) fair-use excerpt:

Q: What does Moby-Dick have to say to us today?
A: We still live in a world where men are led by other men. And those men, the followers, have trouble distinguishing the membrane between the leader’s passion and his neurosis. You’re onboard that ship and you know that Ahab’s your man and you want to go get this whale, and then you find out the hard way that maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Well, isn’t that [Enron’s] Jeffrey Skilling? Wasn’t it a white whale he was after?

Margaret Guroff is editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick.

Moby-Monday: Herman Melville’s Ship Was Built In My Backyard

Herman Melville's Ship

This is a poster that we found a few week’s ago during a trip to the Mattapoisett Historical Society’s Museum and Carriage House. It reminded me that Herman Melville’s whaleship, the Acushnet was built in our backyard where 150 years ago six shipyards stood . Melville once referred to the Acushnet as “my Yale College and my Harvard.” Somethings never change; sailing a tall ship is still a valuable education.

Moby-Monday: “It is not down in any map; true places never are.”

Jeremy Wood is a multidiscipline artist and map maker whose diverse work offers people and places a playground of space and time. In October 2000 he began to explore GPS satellite technology as a tool for digital mark making on water, over land, and in the air. He makes drawings and maps of his movements by recording all his daily journeys with GPS to create a personal cartography. (from the artist’s website)

One of Wood’s projects included a walk though London along the quote: “It is not down in any map; true places never are.” Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

Jeremy Wood drawing

Also from the artist’s website.

The text was written over a period of three months from January 2005. The length of the line recorded on foot for the drawing was 44.2 miles, and the total distance traveled to make the drawing was 458.6 miles. I had two bicycle punctures with reinforced puncture resistant tires, the first of which happened 20 miles into a journey looking for locations that ended in having to push the bike home for 9 miles. After closing the body of the last letter, I headed as far north as the land allowed to a small pier on which the Greenwich Meridian is marked, and finished the drawing by circling around on the footpath at the edge of the River Thames for a full stop.

Via PowerMobyDick where you can find lots of other interesting Moby-Dick digital ephemera.

Whale of a Thank You Meg! (@powermobydick)

After nearly 60 always interesting and entertaining posts, Meg Guroff, the creator and curator of the amazing Power MobyDick, is taking some well deserved shore-leave from Sea-Fever’s Moby-Monday.

Meg’s got some exciting, new adventures underway, so she can’t be here every week.  But she has agreed to be a relief captain from time to time and we look forward to welcoming her back aboard as often as she can manage.

A new skipper will be taking over Moby-Monday and I’ll have an update on that soon.  And from time to time we’ll have some guest posts like Vassar senior english and art history major and New Bedford Whaling Museum intern, Evander Price’s great post today titled “Of Whales in Mountains…”

But today, I want to give a whale of a thank you to Meg for the incredible job that she’s done over the past year for Sea-Fever readers (including me)! Here’s something that Charlotte Cheshire created for one of her teachers which is cool and appropriate for Meg too!

Moby-Monday: Of Whales in Mountains…

This week’s guest Moby-Monday is by Evander Price, Senior English & Art History Major at Vassar College and former New Bedford Whaling Museum intern, along with a strong pull of the oar by Jeffrey Walker, Professor of Earth Science at Vassar College.*

Petrified Whale by Evander Price

In bony, ribby regions of the earth, where at the base of high broken cliffs masses of rock lie strewn in fantastic groupings upon the plain, you will often discover images as of the petrified forms of the Leviathan partly merged in grass, which of a windy day breaks against them in a surf of green surges.

Moby-Dick, Chapter 57, “Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars”

High up in the Catskills, though not too high, and not too far off from the historic Mountain House, lie the petrified remains of perhaps the oldest beached whale on our planet.  He is composed of 350-million-year-old sandstone of the Catskill delta, and is surrounded by hemlocks.  No doubt he remembers the time when the Hudson River Valley was almost entirely hemlock, before the demands of the Industrial Revolution deforested the old growth trees.  While his mossy bulk has no doubt morphed considerably with the erosion of time, his toothy lower jaw corroborates his classification as an odontocete, and the prominence of his jaw further suggests that he is of some close relation to the physter macrocephalus, or the sperm whale.

It is discoveries like this that remind us readers of Melville that what might be taken for exaggeration or imaginative literary flourish is often pure fact.

*Credit to Jeffrey Walker, Professor of Earth Science at Vassar College for all geological information, and for leading the hike to the petrified whale. Continue reading Moby-Monday: Of Whales in Mountains…