The Mayport Shrimp painting is based on a photo from the sixties of a road sign in front of one of the old fish markets on Mayport Road. Mayport inlet and its old fishing village on the northeast coast of Florida is one of the few that my Great Grandfather, my Grandfather and his brothers and their Sons sold their shrimp to for a few generations. The image of shrimpboats , for me, resonate. They are a part of my families history and I’ll always try to come up with new ways of portraying them. This piece is one of my favorites so far. Heres what inspired it:
Last year , a boat that had been built by my Grandfather, one he had shrimped on for decades and eventually sold, caught fire and sank while docked at one of the boat docks at Mayport on one the coldest nights of the year because of a malfunctioning space heater. No one was hurt thankfully . It was the last boat as far as we know in the States from his fleet that was still in operation. The true end of an era. I think about him designing , building and maintaining something that lasted for almost 60 yrs all the time, almost everyday. He did it from scratch. A poor family with nothing. It makes me realize what it took to be what he was. I’m not saying he’s as Saint. He had his faults. They all did. But they were more than Captains. The amount of knowledge it took to be a shrimpboat Capt during his time is something most of us can’t fathom. They were engineers , mechanics, designers, painters, carpenters, medics, leaders and life savers. They provided a resource absolutely necessary to the health and welfare of their community and to those visiting. My Grandfather Louis Bennett Sr. moved my Family south to New Smyrna Beach. His brothers stayed in Fernandina to shrimp. He shrimped for decades. We lost my Uncle Capt Louis Bennett Jr. to the Sea after he rescued his crew from a capsized fishing trawler in the middle of the night during a freak storm in 1992 8 days after my birthday on April 12th. My birthday being the last time any of us saw him, I’ve always felt connected in someway to the event and to him. His crew said they were sleeping when the boat flipped. The cabin filled with water and they thought they were fucked. My Uncle who had been thrown from the ship miraculously appeared after swimming back under after them and pulled them out. Together they were all able to pull the life raft out and climb inside . It capsized three times that night. The third flip was the last time they ever saw their Captain.
Hearing about my Grandfathers boat sinking last year made me want to honor them even more with more and more paintings. I live a few miles from the Mayport boat docks and make it a point bring every person who’s visiting my home in Atlantic Beach to Singletons to eat at a place The Bennett’s use to sell their Royal Red Shrimp too.
Signed and numbered reproduction on canvas with black custom wood frame.
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