Artist-in-residence floats tribute to unsung women seafarers


  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Inbal Newman, the artist-in-residence at the Lunenburg School of Arts, hand stitching a canvas flag using a traditional sail maker&#8217;s palm.</p>

Inbal Newman, the artist-in-residence at the Lunenburg School of Arts (LSA) who is an avid sailor, has created an exhibit of hand-stitched "standards" or flags for unsung female seafarers.

An exhibition of the flags was set to kick off on May 31 with an online artist talk and video insights into the artistic process, and the flags will be displayed in the LSA's storefront windows on the corner of Montague and Prince Streets in Lunenburg from May 31 to June 6.

While sailing on a schooner in New York years ago, Newman first learned about the tradition of a "Captain's Personal Ensign." Ship flags indicate information across long distances and the captain's ensign signifies the captain's origins (home state on most American sailing vessels) and were hand-sewn by their wives.

"It made me think: Where are the personal ensigns for all the women captains and seafarers forgotten or often left out of history, and for women seafarers today?" the Wisconsin-born Newman indicated in her exhibition proposal to the LSA. And who would lovingly sew personal ensigns for them?"

The artist wanted to produce a series of captain's personal ensigns for women sailors and share their stories in a striking visual manner.

"The more I sail, the more fascinated I become with the feminization of the forces of seafaring (the ocean, moon, tide, and ships referred to as "she") and simultaneous erasure of historical women sailors," Newman reported.

She said newly published references have begun "recovering this forgotten world, providing an inspired precursor for today's increasingly woman-led maritime industry."

Drawing upon ongoing archival research and prospective interviews with women seafarers, Newman committed to spending a month designing and two months sewing a series of "personal ensigns" for contemporary, historical, "and possibly mythical women sailors who deserve a unique pennant."

The design of the flags would integrate elements of sailing history, superstition and vexillology, personal sailing experience, "and my continued practise in experimental textiles." The artist suggested the project would give her the opportunity to perfect hand-sewing skills, explore the materiality of natural ropes, twines, and cotton canvas, and examine how well they respond to paints, natural dyes and printing methods.

Moreover, she said, "The oversize flags will fill a room fully, yet drape quietly and stow easily for travel."

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