Current and coming: Making Waves at the Peabody Essex

Editorial Staff Art, Exhibitions, Magazine

Yacht Racing off Sandy Hook by James Edward Buttersworth (1817–1894), c. 1877. Collection of Alan Granby and Janice Hyland; photograph courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

The beauty and drama of the sea have been subjects of art for likely as long as there have been artists. But in the realm of American art, beyond depictions of crashing waves and stately sailing ships, the curators of a current exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum argue that images of the sea have taken on deeper meanings that involve issues of community, identity, and social history.

In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting features more than ninety works of art by a wide array of historical and contemporary artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, Hale Woodruff, Paul Cadmus, Thomas Hart Benton, Amy Sherald, Kay WalkingStick, Jacob Lawrence, Valerie Hegarty, and Stuart Davis. Through their work, the show traces “changing attitudes about the symbolic and emotional resonance of the sea in America,” and allows us to “see how contemporary perspectives are informed by marine traditions,” says PEM curator and associate director for exhibitions Dan Finamore. “No matter where we live, the sea shapes all of our lives and continues to inspire some of the most exciting artists working today.”

After its run at the Peabody Essex, the exhibition will travel to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

In American Waters: The Sea in American Painting • Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts • to October 3 •