Tag Archives: waterfront

Working Waterfront Festival Publishes Book

Our friends at the Working Waterfront Festival have announced publication of Voices from the Waterfront: Portrait of the New Bedford Fishing Industry.

A reception to celebrate the release of the book will take place at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on Thursday, January 14th at 6:30 PM in conjunction with New Bedford’s monthly celebration of art, history, and architecture – AHA . The reception is free and open to the public. Photographer Mark Starr and Co-editors Kirsten Bendiksen and Laura Orleans will be on hand to talk about creating the book which will be available for purchase.

This 80-page book is based on interviews conducted over a five year period with 43 individuals from the New Bedford/Fairhaven fishing community. Their voices provide a rare first hand accounting of life and work in the port.

Those interviewed include retired and active fishermen, lumpers, auctioneers, shoreside business owners, fisheries scientists, a tug boat captain, fishing family members and others. Oral history excerpts are accompanied by black and white portraits taken by photographer Markham Starr.

New Exhibit, “Mike Mazer: Waterfront Works”

Mattapoisett watercolorist Mike Mazer is currently exhibiting 33 of his watercolors of the New Bedford Harbor working waterfront in an exhibit entitled, “Mike Mazer: Waterfront Works”. Installed in the third floor San Francisco Room and the adjacent gallery of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, these images depict a variety of daily scenes of the working harbor. The third floor gallery provides the entrance to the NBWM’s observation deck, where one can observe many of the sites depicted in Mazer’s work, in both the New Bedford and Fairhaven sides of the harbor. Mazer is a master of light and color, bringing lyricism and romance to the gritty marine enterprises.

The exhibit is curated by David B. Boyce, Curatorial Consultant to the New Bedford Art Museum, who also curated a larger exhibit of Mazer’s work in 2006 at NBAM, “Mike Mazer Paints New Bedford & Other Scenes of the South Coast.” Mazer’s work is well known locally and has won numerous awards across the nation. This exhibit will remain open through May 31st,  2010.

An exhibit catalog is available for purchase in the Museum Store.

Artist Statement

No one specific reason or incident would adequately explain my excitement and invariable attraction to paint along New Bedford’s waterfront. The more I think about why this is, the more I realize that it is multifaceted. I do know that as I approach the site, my emotional juices start to flow in anticipation that there will be another scene waiting to be painted. I need this passion for my work.

I also know that from New Bedford’s past prominence during the whaling era to presently being our country’s financially most successful commercial fishing fleet and industry, that I have a strong urge to capture and portray today whatcould become tomorrow’s history.

A frequent theme in my waterfront paintings is the inclusion of the workers who maintain and repair the fleet. Although it is a different type of work, somehow, I feel a common bond between the workers and myself. Their work brings back memories of my past when I was a gravedigger maintaining a cemetery, a construction laborer building houses, an arborist and tree climber tending to the Boston Commons and surrounding area, and more recently as a physician. I interpret their hard work as well as the benefit and safety given to the crews and owners as not being too dissimilar to my past or present activities. Interestingly, when the workers and I have the chance to talk, not only do they tell you about their family and goals, a number of them also paint as artists and are awaiting better times to do more. I obviously feel comfortable being there.

Thus, it is not one aspect, but rather the waterfront in its entirety that intrigues me. The panoply of subject matter offers a wealth of material helping to bring about the essence of my maritime work, which is the creation of a compelling design. I find a fascination with all the abstract geometric man-made shapes found there that can be selectively rearranged into a realistic composition and painting.

Ship Caulkers and Their Tools, by Sanford Moss

Volunteers at the New Bedford Whaling Museum perform myriad tasks in all of the departments of the institution.  One such individual, Sanford “Sandy” Moss, works in the Curatorial Department identifying and researching tools and related artifacts in our collection.  The article below is a piece he has penned on a simple looking tool box and its contents.  Through his specialized expertise and some additional research, he has been able to relate a good bit about the work and life of the unknown person who owned this tool kit.  This is but one example of how volunteers “bring history to life” through a labor of love.

The picture below shows a box of tools that belonged to an un-named ship caulker who doubtlessly worked in a crew of ship caulkers on the New Bedford waterfront, sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century.  As with most tool boxes, we can tell something of the man who owned this set of tools, and what he did for a living.

In the days of sail and Yankee whaling, ship caulkers were important shipyard workers, finishing the process of making new hulls and decks tight and leak-free; and restoring older hulls to the same the same degree of fitness prior to every extended whaling voyage.  Their job was one that required skill, but a fairly simple arsenal of tools.  These included two or three types of caulking mallets, a group of caulking “chisels” or “irons” that were really tampers, and a small array of hooks or narrow scrapers to clean the seams between the hull or deck planks prior to caulking.  The actual caulking material could be comprised of cotton yarn or string, and most importantly, oakum, which was usually the yarn from which manila or hemp cordage was made and tarred with pitch.


2001.100.3143: Leather seat with wood sides and bottom. Contains one caulking mallet, five caulking irons, one seam raker made from a race knife, one instrument (seam raker), and one spare mallet handle.

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