Alex Charner
Alex Charner Art & Communication

Restoring a Past, Charting a Future


Dalvero Academy & Mystic Seaport  

"Restoring a Past, Charting a Future" – An Artistic Discovery of America's Whaling Future by Dalvero Academy  opened in Mystic Seaport on April 28, 2012. Over 200 pieces (prints, sculptures, textiles and stained glass), five videos and several books (physical and digital) – People who love whales, ships, navigation, animation and reportage art find inspiration in this show.

24 artists (and 4 guest artists) connected strongly to the mission of restoring the Charles W. Morgan the last wooden whale ship in the world. Every artist found in the restoration of the Morgan a prism into their own histories and work. Work on the ship blends traditional and cutting-edge technologies – the art that it inspired, runs a similar gamut from figuration to abstraction, handmade to digital.

All my life, I have lived a little bit in two worlds. As an American born and raised in Venezuela, or a Venezuelan with an American History, my identification with my cultures has often ranged from both to neither and many places in between. The Charles W. Morgan is unmistakably American, and has traveled the world.

Jonah found Redemption in the belly of the whale. The American Economy, and to a great degree, the American Revolution were built on the blood of the whale and the sweat of the whale fishermen. The Morgan is a moving factory, and the devotion to craft and hard work we see in her restoration is alive in America, even when we don't see or value it.

My research revealed the opportunities for personal freedom that whaling fostered. Whaling helped finance the American Revolution and afforded a path for some to work for their freedom from bondage.

Mystic Seaport is a place where History breathes, sings and reveals itself. It's a museum where the work happens in plain sight rather than behind sheetrock, because the work is the exhibit. It's a laboratory for the preservation of tradition. It helps us explain ourselves to ourselves.

There is a philosophical aspect of it that informed my work. All the passion, science and resources that go into keeping her navigable, make me wonder if she is truly the same ship she was when she was built.

The struts that hold up the Morgan fascinate me. The spacing and order involved in keeping something so large and convex so sturdy has me hooked every time I see it.

I always think I'll return with a clear plan of action, but it generally shifts a little. Changes in light, season and the weather shade and morph my plans into something that is ultimately more relevant and beautiful.