Weathervane exhibit shows the winds of time on Martha’s Vineyard

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Boat carvings by Jimmy Morgan. —Courtesy Anna Barber

Sometimes a single item from the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s collection will inspire an entire exhibit. Such is the case with the current selection featured in the museum’s small Spotlight gallery. “Windblown: Weathervanes from the Museum’s Collection” was curated specifically to include a new donation: a group of beautiful scale-model boats by woodcarver extraordinaire Jimmy Morgan.

“The purpose of the Spotlight Gallery is to show off something from our collection — either a new acquisition or an item that we haven’t exhibited before or in a long time,” exhibit curator Anna Barber said. “This is a pretty small exhibit. It’s just a way to show off this little corner of our collection. It’s nice to give each corner of our collection a time to shine.”

Although the ship models are not actually weathervanes, their creator, Mr. Morgan, was also known to carve boats for that purpose. His small, very precise boats take up one entire wall and a corner of the gallery. The rest of the exhibit is devoted to weathervanes that were already in the museum’s collection. These include the work of three Vineyard craftsmen: Frank Adams, George Tait, and Rasmus Klimm, as well as a couple of pieces by unknown crafters.

Mr. Adams’ work includes three carved wooden ship models complete with sails. A smaller, less detailed boat model by Mr. Adams sits atop a weathervane on a pedestal.

“Frank Adams was pretty well known on the Island for his duck decoys,” Ms. Barber said. “The interesting thing about both his decoys and his weathervanes is that they both started out as having a purpose, but his work eventually morphed into folk art.”

During the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, Mr. Adams sold weathervanes, ship models, mini duck decoys, paperweights, and doorstops.

Rasmus Klimm also made duck decoys and other carved animals, which famously decorated his fishing shack in Menemsha. Mr. Klimm’s sole piece in the exhibit is a duck decoy weathervane, which has clearly seen its share of rough weather.

The exhibit is filled out by a large copper weathervane that was rescued from the Federated Church when it was replaced with a duplicate, and an interesting sculptural wooden wall hanging carved into a design featuring an angel, hearts, and a harp. The piece has the look of a Swedish or Norwegian carving. Its provenance and purpose are unknown, but it certainly fits in well with the exhibit.

The centerpiece of the exhibit, Mr. Morgan’s ship models, have already attracted a good deal of attention, especially from boat lovers. They are extraordinarily detailed, even including tiny figures of men, swordfish, little barrels, and tools of the fishing trade. Many of the pieces are set on wave-shaped bases painted to represent water.

In the audio guide which accompanies the exhibit, visitors can hear Mr. Morgan describe the actual fishing boats that he used as models for his handicraft. He tells some fascinating stories about both the boats and their owners. The museum is hopeful that Mr. Morgan, who is in his 90s, will have a chance to visit the exhibit.

On Thursday, Feb. 2, the museum will host local weathervane artisan Anthony Holand, who will be on hand to talk about his art and answer questions. Mr. Holand moved to the Vineyard in 2002 to apprentice with the legendary metalsmith Travis Tuck. When Mr. Tuck passed away later that year, Mr. Holland took over the four-decade-old business.

Tuck and Holand Metal Sculptors creates custom weathervanes for both private and public use. Their pieces can be seen atop Cronig’s Market, the Steamship Authority building, the bandstand in Ocean Park, the Edgartown Yacht Club, and the Tisbury and Edgartown town halls.

Mr. Holand notes that the weathervane is a “very New England” feature. Many of Tuck and Holand’s designs are seafaring images: whales, ospreys, and boats. The designs do not stop there, however. The long-established metal studio has created a velociraptor for director Steven Spielberg, a “Where the Wild Things Are” menagerie, and a huge elephant for the Philadelphia Zoo.

Of the weathervane exhibit, Mr. Holand said, “It’s really nice to see the imagination that others have worked into their designs. There’s so much creative output there.”
For more information, visit mvmuseum.org.