Saturday, March 12, 2016

Local Art Seen: One Builder's Perspetcive @ Benchmark Tattoo

The Green Boat
This week I was notified that I shouldn't miss the opening for Benchmark Tattoo's current show featuring half hull model ships by Garry Couch. Half hull shipbuilding is a form of American folk art in which 19th century shipbuilders constructed scale model replicas of an actual hip's hull. Much like the development of car concepts in Detroit or airplanes like those created by local airplane manufacturer Cirrus Design, the models do more than appeal to the eye, though appeal they do.

Garry Couch's interest in this kind of work began with a quest to find a line drawings for a Lake Superior fishing boat. Eventually this morphed into numerous line drawings that have become wall art, and a series of half-hull ships. Couch prefers the 1"= 1' ratio and the work he's produced reveals exceptional craftsmanship.

Photo depicting Couch taking measurements.
The artist hails from Bayfield, a small port on the South Shore of Lake Superior about an hour east of the Twin Ports. Instead of designing ships, Couch finds existing boats of interest, takes measurements and performs a version of reverse engineering. The exhibit includes photos of the artist with his hand-crafted tool for taking measurements along the keel of one of these boats. The measurements get scaled down to produce these various drawings which are now on display, and the models that accompany them.

The artist has been a professional builder of wooden boats for four decades, making both fishing boats and sailing vessels. His skills have been applied to restorations as well as the creation of new boats. You can learn more about the artist and his craft here at

Benchmark Tattoo is located on 8th Street near the corner of 19th Avenue East in Duluth, just minutes from UMD and practically across the street from Chester Park Cafe. The exhibit is titled One Builder's Perspective. Make it if you can. A really rewarding show.

1 comment:

Garry Couch said...

Thanks Ed with one small correction. May I add the definition of an artisan;
a person or a company that makes a high quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or with traditional methods.