When one is unemployed, and is searching for a new job; you tend to spend a lot of time in front of a computer. And it goes without saying, you find yourself being quite sedentary. My wife noticed this last week, so she insisted that I take the car, and go somewhere…anywhere! I took her up on her suggestion, and went up north to Rockport and Gloucester.
Over thirty years ago, these two Cape Ann, MA communities are where I went on my weekends off, usually by train when I lived in Boston. It was there that I encountered art; art being produced by living artists, in the moment. I would visit the numerous galleries, some owned by the artists themselves. I would browse over the art works, wondering to myself if I had any artistic talent. I was inspired to start taking classes in watercolor and oil painting. Sadly, in recent years, I have not kept up the practice of painting, and I am afraid I have become rusty with using the paintbrush. Maybe a return visit to the source of my original inspiration would kick start my aspirations again.
So I drove north on Route 128, till I came to Rockport. I was fortunate in finding a parking space quickly. Now, my first stop was not to an art gallery, but to a white Episcopal church called St. Mary’s. Back in the day, I would always stop there for a few moments of prayer, (one of the few churches I have found that is opened to the public during the week!) I would gaze at the beautiful interior, and for a moment, I experienced the Presence of God.
Leaving St. Mary’s, I went down Broadway to the public wharf in Rockport Harbor. There you have a wonderful view of the inner harbor, with its fishing boats, rowing skiffs, and sailboats. And of course, you get a wonderful view of the most painted scene on Cape Ann, Motif #1. Originally a fishing shack, artists, both local and from other places, have produced many images of it. The original shack was destroyed in a storm; a replacement was built on the site. Hundreds of artists and photographers continue to capture its image on canvas and film.
I continued down the town streets, and entered an area called Bearskin Neck, a piece of land that stretches out into sea, and separates the harbor from the public beach. It is a place that is teeming with little shops, selling everything from handicrafts, to ice cream and candy, to paintings being mass produced overseas in Asia. At the end of the Neck, is a beautiful view of the ocean. The sea was such a beautiful blue! Seating on the rocks, gazing out, I did not want to leave. It took me a few minutes before I could get myself on my feet and moving on.
As I walked down Main St., I noticed that many of the galleries I had visited in the past were no longer there, and that some of the painter/owners of the remaining galleries have passed on. But one gallery is still very much in existence, the Rockport Art Association. Founded in 1921, it bills itself as one of the oldest and active art organizations in the country. Walking through its galleries, looking at the paintings hanging there, it brought back memories. Once, I was a supporting associate member, and the associates had an annual art show, where members could bring in a piece to hang on the gallery walls. I submitted a watercolor, and it was on the wall when my parents and some of my siblings came to see it.
I left Rockport around mid-afternoon, and drove down to Gloucester, specifically, East Gloucester, which forms one bank of the town’s Inner Harbor. Located there is a red building which houses the North Shore Arts Association. Founded in 1922, it too has supported and encouraged the artists of Cape Ann in their work. The association has a great deal of gallery space, especially on the second floor. The artists have a wide range of style. I found one of my favorite artists, Donald Mosher, who passed away in 2014, exhibited there. I left the building, and sat outside on their porch, and watched the comings and goings of the boats through the harbor. Unlike Rockport, Gloucester is an industrial fishing harbor, its shores lined with boatyards and fishing docks. If, though, one looks with a painter’s eye, one can see the beauty of shapes, colors and lines, that have inspired so many to pick up a pencil, a piece of chalk, or a paintbrush.
Afternoon was drawing to a close, I got in the car and set off for home, wondering if I should break open my old paint box, and pick up the brush again.