Sunken place: Artist shows shipwreck paintings on a barge

Destroyed but not forgotten: This oil painting from Jim St. Clair, “Broken Tanker” will be on display at the Watefront Museum in Red Hook starting on April 26.
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A Windsor Terrace artist will ship his paintings of half-sunken boats to an actual floating barge in Red Hook for a month-long exhibit. The boats featured in the “Derelicts” exhibit, opening at the Waterfront Museum on April 26, were all discovered bobbing in obscure locations around New York harbor, including off the coast of bucolic Staten Island, said painter Jim St. Clair.

“I am drawn to remote or inaccessible spots in the metropolitan New York waterfront that often have rotting industrial remains, including abandoned mud-bound hulks of vessels,” he said.

But all of the wrecks date from before Hurricane Sandy, the notorious 2012 storm that forcefully blew through Brooklyn. St. Clair says that older ships are really what floats his boat — ones that have been abandoned long enough to decay and be overtaken by nature.

“They are things that have been there for a long time usually and really settled in and rusted,” said St. Clair. “What I really find beautiful is how nature insists on reclaiming everything. Which to me is hopeful.”

This show marks the first time that St. Clair’s work has been displayed on a floating vessel — the Waterfront Museum is housed within the 104-year-old Lehigh Valley Railroad Barge #79, floating just off Red Hook — and the setting gives the show a unique feel, said the artist.

“It’s not like a real commercial functioning gallery — it’s a place where he displays memorabilia of the river, it’s very different than a regular gallery,” said St. Clair.

St. Clair fell in love with traveling on the water as a child, and he now owns his own fishing boat. He creates his paintings from the deck of that boat, anchoring near the wrecks and finding tranquility from putting paint on a blank canvas while surrounded by nothing but sea, he said.

“I grew up with boats and have always been around boats,” said St. Clair. “They are in abandoned, overgrown beautiful places, quiet places to go and paint.”

“Derelicts” at the Waterfront Museum (290 Conover St. at the waterfront in Red Hook, On display April 26–May 26; Thursdays 4–8 pm; Saturdays 1–6 pm. Artist’s reception May 5, 2–5 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:46 pm, July 9, 2018
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