Two stories above the frozen fish and live crustaceans of the Red Hook Fairway, a man who has spent his adult life pursuing the Alaska King Crab has opened a gallery for the art he fell in love while at sea.
Look North Inuit Art Gallery is the brainchild of Jim Clark, a 15-year veteran of the commercial crabbing boats of the Bering Sea. The gallery opened this spring after Clark returned from an icy fishing season and signed a two-year-lease on the Fairway building loft that serves as both his home and gallery. He rents one of 45 mixed-use units created to keep artists and businesses on the fast-gentrifying waterfront.
“I’ve been in waterfront communities all my life that have been stagnant or in decline, so it’s good to be in one that is coming back,” Clark said, staring at New York Harbor through a large, round window.
Look North is the only Inuit Gallery in Brooklyn and so far, all compasses are pointing to its success.
“He’s got some fabulous stuff and a gorgeous location,” said customer Daniel Nimetz, who visited the gallery last week to buy an Inuit sculpture carved out of green-veined Serpentine stone.
Nimetz, who lives upstate and works in Manhattan, had been to Red Hook only once before — in 1955, for a junior high field day.
Clark’s love affair with the waterfront and the Inuit communities of the arctic shores began early.
He grew up in the whaling town that inspired “Moby Dick” — New Bedford, Mass. At 21, he left the East Coast for what he expected to be a short stint on an Alaskan fishing boat. The adventure, however, turned into a crabbing career dotted with art collecting trips in the Inuit villages of Canada and Alaska. During the off-seasons, he visited Red Hook and fell in love again
“I never planned to be a commercial fisherman,” Clark said. “But I fell in love with the land, the harshness, the stoicism of it and just kept moving up the ranks of the boats. The more I learned about the art and got to know artists there, the more I wanted to be there for that. At some point, I realized I wasn’t giving it up.”
And still, he says he is not giving it up.
“I’m still on a working waterfront,” he said, “But I have also realized that the sea is much more romantic from the dock.”
Look North (275 Conover St., in Red Hook) is open by appointment only. Call (917) 482-2878 or visit looknorthny.com.