Dan blew into town last night. We took him out to dinner and some of the many questions that we plied him with was about his latest art show, “Boats Against the Current”. We missed it when we visited him last month, because it was delayed. His work featured a model of the 1878 steam-sailor, the USS Jeannette. The picture shows its installation as the centerpiece on his second gigantic handmade hammock. He made his first one when he was interning at Ox-Bow. He started the Jeannette with a Russian made model of a similar Russian vessel. He said that transforming that ship’s model to the Jeannette was akin to rearranging the deck chairs, really the deck houses and other superstructures. He told a nice story about this vessel and in art, the story behind a work is often more important than the work itself.
The USS Jeannette was a privately own ship that through political connections was entered onto the US Navy’s rolls. It was purpose-built to be an arctic explorer. The vessel launched on its expedition, sailed north of Siberia, got trapped in sea ice and after a valiant effort, the intrepid crew was forced to abandon ship and returned to civilization by dogsled. The Jeannette was presumed lost, crushed by ice. Three years later though, it was sighted off Greenland, still trapped by sea ice. When the ice melted, the punctured hull promptly sank. Its rediscovery led to a better understanding of the movement of polar ice cap. It is hypothesized that at the time the Jeannette was the manmade object that had made the closest approach to the North Pole. That would be 25 years before man actually made it there.