CLAYTON – A shipment of entries is expected for a summer art exhibition whose subject will focus on a dilapidated ship that has not been in the water for 20 years. Despite her decrepit nature, Anna fans have traveled for miles to see and pose for photos with the boat, stored along the banks of the St. Lawrence River at Anchor Marina in Cape Vincent. A popular Facebook page dedicated to Anna calls her “the beloved unofficial icon of the Cape Vincent community”.
Hope Marshall, co-founder of River Muse Art Gallery and Studio, 229 John St., Clayton, first noticed the growing interest and intrigue around Anna, a 30ft Block Island trawler, on the group. Facebook “1000 Island River Rats Now and Then.”
“During the pandemic, people started making pilgrimages to Anna and sharing the photos,” Ms. Marshall said. “It was a way for people to connect in a way that we weren’t able to do during the early stages of the lockdown. And then, she became a collective interest, a common challenge to photograph her in a unique way.
A few works of art related to Anna were on display at River Muse, which caught the eye of seasonal Thousand Islands resident and photographer Richard Margolis of Rochester.
“He suggested that I do an Anna art show,” Ms. Marshall said.
“She’s a symbol of change, a beautiful wooden boat on display next to the river that will never float again,” Mr. Margolis said. “It becomes more and more textured and brittle as it ages. Everyone who sees her must wonder how long she can last. Time must eventually spell its demise.
Mr. Margolis noticed photos of Anna at exhibitions such as the Thousand Island Art Center’s annual “Along The River’s Edge”.
“There must be hundreds of such paintings in the north of the country,” he said. “That’s why I suggested the show to Hope.”
Ms Marshall felt the time had come for an exhibit on Anna. Anna’s Facebook group, “The Anna,” was launched last July. Since then, the site has featured Anna-inspired artwork ranging from burning wood to miniature magnets, all proudly displayed on the Facebook page.
“I knew I would have the artist base and public interest in this type of exhibition,” Ms. Marshall said.
A few weeks ago, she announced a call for entries for “The Art of Anna, A River Icon”. The exhibit at River Muse will run from Saturday July 30 to Monday September 5. The exhibition is open to all mediums and skill levels.
Ms. Marshall received four entries in the days following the announcement of the exhibit. They include a duvet, a table and shutters.
“I would love to see some artists reach new creative heights,” she said. “I would like to see stained glass and traditional arts, not just fine art.”
Ms Marshall, a digital and multimedia artist, photographed the Anna in 2009 – before the ship reached its “iconic” status.
“I think Anna attracts people because she’s a mystery,” Ms. Marshall said. “She is beautiful in her decrepit state juxtaposed by the river.”
‘something about her’
In the fall of 2018, artist Joan Applebaum, who finds artistic inspiration in her natural surroundings, visited Anna to take photos.
“The more pictures I took and the more I looked at it, the more I wanted to paint it,” said Ms. Applebaum, who moved to Lewes, Del. about three years ago, but maintains a seasonal home in the Indian River Lake District.
“The Anna is intriguing because I think people are wondering about her story,” Ms. Applebaum said. “There are a lot of boats that we see on the river but it is ashore and there is just something about it.”
She also appreciated the “lines” of the boat, despite the fact that the machine is in such a state of disrepair.
“For artists, it’s also very intriguing,” Ms. Applebaum said. “We love to draw or paint things like that. That’s what attracted me to the boat.
She took pictures of Anna with the intention of painting her. But first, she had to make a sketch on which to base the painting further.
“As I was doing the sketch, I got more involved in the details of the boat and realized that I was actually doing a drawing, not a sketch,” Ms. Applebaum said.
So she started over “on a good piece” of art paper.
“There is something about the simplicity of the pencil – just black and white and a series of grays on a stark white background can look very stylish,” Ms. Applebaum said.
She liked the way it turned out, but said her husband came to her studio and said he thought she was doing a painting.
She waits a few weeks and begins her acrylic painting of Anna. When completed three years ago, it was exhibited at Bay House Artisans in Alexandria Bay. It sold out quickly.
The Anna exhibit, Ms. Marshall said, is an effort to make special exhibits at River Muse.
“I mostly bring in guest artists every two months with our regular rotation of talented local artists,” she said. “This exhibition, being an open call for art, will do a lot to create a good community spirit and allow some people to exhibit their art that might otherwise be intimidated in a gallery.”
She said the niche of river-themed art exhibitions is well represented by the annual “Along the Riverside” exhibition organized by TIAC.
“I am looking to complement and create opportunities and gain greater support for the arts in our region,” she said. “Among the artists who regularly exhibit their work, I think it’s a tiny fraction of the talent in our region. Shedding light on more people will be a great result. “
John L. Stiefel of Cape Vincent, with the help of two other crew members, flew Anna to Cape Vincent twenty years ago.
Mr. Stiefel, who spent five years in the US Coast Guard, is a diver and relic hunter. He needed a companion boat for his operation and found Anna for sale in Providence, RI. The layover trip lasted just over three weeks, he told The Times in August. But his local service was short-lived. Anna was taken down after about a year of service. In a barter deal, Mr. Stiefel traded Anna to Anchor Marina owner Ronald J. Trottier in exchange for dock space for another boat.