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Everyday Art

April 25th, 2013

I spent a couple of hours at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, on random summer Saturday morning. I went for the Ansel Adams "At the Water's Edge" exhibit and was treated to two other photography collections by Jerry Uelsmann and Barbara Bosworth. All were good and well worth the price of admission as well as the convoluted, GPS-directed trip through Peabody town center to get there.

As I negotiated the labyrinth of other exhibits, I came across the "maritime" room full of nautical artifacts that one might expect to find: antique sextants, compasses, model ships, fishing implements, and the like.

But the thing that truly fascinated me and has been kicking around in the back of my mind since then was the collection of ship log books and sailors' journals. Surely there is some historical value in knowing the details of some random ships routine daily activity as recorded by some no-name sailor. What I found amazing what the actual penmanship on display; how each letter was perfectly and consistently formed -- how each "A" was formed with an intricate swash reminiscent of something a Byzantine monk would have spent a lifetime perfecting while toiling away in solitude in some mountain hide away.

Since seeing those I have thinking: Here is just this teen age sailor, in the middle of the ocean, on a nauseating long voyage, recording the mundane daily activity of his shipmates. Four times a day. Every day. Day after day. Seas rolling. Far less than ideal conditions. And he still crafts the letters on the pages with the same diligence and detail. Surely unaware that 250 years later, his work is considered art and would be on display in a museum.

Earlier this year I was bitten by the "photo bug" and have been taking 1000's of photos as is evidenced by my many posts. My trip to the PEM was looking for a bit of inspiration from one of photography's greats, yet my biggest lessons learned came from an anonymous sailor.

Art is not always intentional. Art is not always deliberate. It can be spontaneous and routine. Exceptional work is not just about exceptional subject matter but can also be about exceptional craftsmanship.

Find your art. Everyday.