The Cape Cod Museum of Art’s premier summer exhibition will pay homage to both the whaling culture of the Cape and the 200th anniversary of the birth of author Herman Melville. On Friday, June 14, the museum will unveil “Moby Dick: Inspired Visions,” a collection of artwork by New Bedford artist Peter Michael Martin.
The exhibition features 24 pieces inspired by the great novel, including works never before exhibited, such as a life-size kinetic wall sculpture of Jonah being consumed by a whale. Together, the exhibition can be viewed as one large-scale installation. Martin uses a recurring visual vocabulary, with highly contrasting, black-on-white, cut paper or cut Tyvek silhouettes. Other works are made from sailcloth, and one is a grouping of period sailors’ shirts, hanging ghostlike from the rafters. Martin, renowned for his larger-than-life pieces, transforms the museum’s grand Hope / McClennen Gallery – floor to ceiling. Inspired during a chance meeting with a Melville lecturer seven years ago, Martin later learned that one of his ancestor’s was buried at sea after being crushed by a heavy slab of whale blubber while working as a crewman on a whaling ship out of New Bedford at the age of 25.
Martin maintains a gallery in New Bedford and makes his home in Mattapoisett, but he has deep roots on the Cape. He spent twenty-five years as a Special Education Teacher in the Dennis-Yarmouth School System. He officially retired from teaching in 2009 (at that point teaching at Old Roster Regional High School in Mattapoisett) to pursue a full-time career as an artist.
“I am an artist and educator and I am on a journey,” says Martin. “My collection is not about illustrating Melville’s story but about how it made me think. We all gather visual images about places we are going, people we will meet, and stories that we read or hear. With my art I hope to present the viewer with the opportunity to make some of their own personal connections.”
Benton Jones, CCMoA’s Director of Art commented, “As an educator and artist, Peter Michael Martin fully understands the lasting impact artwork can have when used effectively to convey a narrative. Each work tells a piece of the story, collectively outlining the larger picture.”
The Museum will host several auxiliary events to complement the Moby Dick theme. On June 13th, there will be a VIP Opening Reception, giving guests a private preview and a chance to meet the artist over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Attendees will also be treated to a very special guest appearance that evening. Peter Whittemore, Herman Melville’s great-great grandson, will join the celebration and read a passage from the novel. Patron Members and 2019 contributors of $500 or more will receive complimentary admission to the event.
On June 22, the Museum will host a life-size, forty-four-foot long inflatable blow-up whale on loan from The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. Kids of all ages can walk through the creature and learn about its behaviors from the inside-out from 3-6 pm. At 4 p.m., Martin will be present a gallery talk for the public, followed by a public exhibition reception at 5:30 p.m. (complimentary).
Moby Dick: Inspired Visions will be on exhibition through Aug. 25. For more information, inclusing hours and admission cost, visit www.ccmoa.org. The museum is off Route 6A in Dennis.