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Shipwreck shards, sea sagas: New artwork installed in museum's functional spaces

Posted: 7/9/14

Gloucester Daily Times -  When the Cape Ann Museum reopens next month after a year-round renovation, much of its collection will be in new places. But a new work may keep visitors in the coatroom vestibule and bathrooms. Link to full article here.

The artwork, which will be on display when the museum reopens Aug. 19, incorporates shards of pottery from shipwrecks dating from 1620 to 1850, imprinted with digital images of documents from the museum’s archives: the 1838 ship’s log of Capt. Edward Babson, written aboard the Cadet, and the diary of the captain’s wife, Amanda Babson, written in Gloucester.

The four panels of “Strong Breezes and Passing Clouds,” a new permanent installation at the museum, were created by Diane Chen Koch-Weser, a ceramic artist known as Diane KW who lives in Honolulu and spends her summers in Gloucester.

“In an art museum, art should be everywhere,” said Koch-Weser of the panels she created for the bathrooms and vestibule using shards found at shipwrecks that occurred in the South China Sea, and the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. 

Koch-Weser applied digital images of documents from Capt. Babson’s ship log and his wife’s diary, as well as excerpts of 1800s missing vessel reports from the Gloucester Marine Journal onto the porcelain pieces.

“Juxtaposing one day from Capt. Babson’s ship log and the same day from Mrs. Babson’s diary,” says a statement from the museum, “Diane KW shows the daily life of a sea-faring Gloucester family. Capt. Babson was never shipwrecked, but one senses the concern about the weather conditions in each daily entry.”

The shards came from the wrecks of the Wanli off Mayalasia, circa 1625; Cau Mau off Vietnam, 1725; Geldermalsen off Indonesia, 1752; Tek Sing, 1822, and Desaru, 1840, both in the South China Sea; and the S.S. Republic off the coast of Georgia in the Atlantic, 1865.

They were purchased from or donated by marine biologists, antique shops and collectors.