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Tying a nautical cliche into knots

As a natural harbor, New Bedford is accustomed to having all sorts of things wash up on its shores. A few years back, Alex Buchanan beached in New Bedford – entirely appropriate owing to the fact that he is both a Merchant Marine as well as an artist.

The combination of those two facets of his personality fuse together in his art, as you can discover for yourself right now on the walls of the Groundwork! Gallery.

“Rope to Trope,” a solo exhibit of the Merchant Mariner, Alex Buchanan’s art is on display through April 15, 2018. An opening reception will be held on Friday, March 16 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. where the artist will be present.

The show signifies that this fabled city by the sea is more than a port of call for Buchanan.

A “trope” is defined as a “a word or expression used in a figurative sense” and also something that is a “a common or overused theme or device.”

So, the artist is laying out the parameters of his show in the title – as well as a challenge. How can you redefine art based on a nautical theme in a city whose relationship with the water stretches back centuries?

Meeting a challenge is nothing new for Alex; he’s been tested at sea, after all. Born in Boston, his dual loyalties to Neptune and Art has basically ruled his entire life.

The Merchant Marine received a BFA from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, according to his bio. He began his aquatic adventures with four years active service in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Today, he lives in New Bedford. Here, he divides his time behind time spent at sea as a Merchant Marine and time on land creating art derived from nautical influences – “ layering literal and conceptual translations in plain sight,” he states.

Of that most simple of tools in the sailor’s arsenal, he writes of rope that is “arguably the most vital material utilized across the ever-industrious maritime industry by rugged expendables.” His artist’s statement continues,“(it) tells a story greater than the one it mimics by being weathered, strained, discarded and replaced.

“Now tattered and frayed, its imperfections become intentional and humbly individualize themselves, reflecting personal experiences, conquests over the horizon, and even moments of vulnerability.  

“They echo, ‘We are sailors and we come from the sea.’”

Just like Merchant Marine and Artist Alex Buchanan.

  • The public is invited to the free opening reception for “Rope to Trope” on Friday, March 16 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Work will be available for sale.
Steven Froias