Javelina Queen

Artist Arthur ‘Art’ Benson lost his studio/property to the city of Baltimore when they took his property via eminent domain. During his fight with the city, he discovered that he could live on a vessel in the harbor for free and set his sites on building one. Ten years later, we caught up to him, living on his boat and continuing to work on it. It was 63 feet long, weighed in around 50 tons, looking like a  a Chinese junk realized by Dennis Oppenheim and Richard Serra. The hull was welded 3/4 inch steel. Benson used three VW trans-axles to mechanically raise and lower the sails in varying artistic ways. Impressive? I’d never witnessed anything like it before or since.


In an equal collaborative effort with the artist and photographer Jim Cherry, we decided to bring the 63 foot long, 50 ton vessel indoors. Using a captain’s chair, we hoisted Cherry up the mast to take black and white photographs, then had him shoot fore and aft. The resulting images (some twenty printed rolls, each 3 ft by 10 ft) were then aligned where line and image matched and left to wander where they didn’t. All of the rolls were laminated onto plywood and installed in a gallery on a one-to-one scale. The bow lifted vertically on one wall. The deck lay across the floor. The captain’s quarter’s, access to below, rested on the back wall.


In the process of making his floating studio/living quarters, Benson cast more than 150 bronze elements–from porthole covers to latches to air vents. Some of those elements were placed on the images where they would normally exist. Upon entering the gallery, you were able to walk across the deck.



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