Lifeboat

1998
Oil on Linen
80 x 100

This is probably one of my more successful paintings. I was up in Maine sitting at what later became the Dip Net Restaurant, over at Miller’s Lobster Company in Port Clyde. I was thinking about going out to the island and what I was going to work on that summer. I looked up, and there was a print of Homer’s Fog Warning on the wall, so I did a little drawing in my sketchbook of someone rowing a little lifeboat, sort of flipping and turning it the other way and making it fresher and more modern. Then I had everybody in my family pose for it. Man, Will, and I all posed for different parts of it. We found different skiffs in Monhegan that I photographed, and I wound up putting a boat on the grass and working from it, which is why it feels a little bit like he is on a grassy hill. The joke title is “Mid-Lifeboat” because I was at that point in my life when I was definitely mid-life. And it felt like this…the seas were rocky, and there was always something over the next wave, just constant. But if you look closely, The name of the lifeboat is “Jonah.” There is definitely a shark in the water, and you can see it when you look at the real painting, just under the surface. So there are threats everywhere. The wave in the back sort of becomes a dorsal fin, and then the whole thing becomes a whale or shark. The white of the boat becomes the underbelly and the head becomes the eye. It’s like this thing about to start through the water and attack. So this was a sort of precursor to Leviathan, which came later.

-Bo Bartlett