Talbot County Oyster Cans
This new painting was created to be shown at the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Maryland. Easton is in Talbot County, which also includes the towns of Oxford, St. Michaels, and Tilghman. (On Tilghman Island). All these towns are located either close-by or on bodies of water connected to the oyster-rich Chesapeake Bay, including the Tred Avon River, the Miles River, Harris Creek, etc. According to a brief history of the area in one of my favorite Eastern Shore books, “From a Lighthouse Window,” Talbot County’s 600 miles of shoreline is possibly the longest shoreline of any county in the United States. All the above-mentioned towns had or still have oyster packing facilities. Oysters are still a major economic entity on the Eastern Shore.
I have a modest but colorful collection of antique oyster cans atop the cabinets in my kitchen and on the shelves in my studio. As an artist, I love the color, the sometimes-funky graphics, and more than that, the history these old cans represent. It used to be easy to find old oyster cans in boathouses or garages in communities along the water, usually rusted and holding dried-out paintbrushes encrusted in hardened varnish, nuts and bolts or old nails. Today, a rare oyster can, often a hundred years old or more, can command thousands of dollars in flea markets, antique shops or auctions. None of my cans are worth quite that much, but I love to think about their history, where they’ve been and the stories they could tell. I also really love to paint them in my typical “trompe l’oeil” (“fool the eye”) style. It’s a tedious process, but when it works, it can be a special experience for a viewer. I enjoy watching people walk up to these paintings, pause and do a double-take, not sure if they are looking at a painting or a real shelf full of oyster cans. Often, they will ask me if they can touch the painting just to be sure.
I’ve been doing this for over 50 years now, which is hard to admit, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. Techno-dinosaur that I am, I wouldn’t know how to do anything else anyway!
Original painting: 14 x 34” $5,000.
Giclee prints on canvas: Limited Edition of 100 S/N : $350