Discover the dedication and drive of local maritime workers through a new series of portraits of shipyard employees by an award-winning, Norfolk-based photographer. The Chrysler Museum of Art is proud to present Glen McClure: The Shipyard Workers of Hampton Roads in its McKinnon Wing of Modern and Contemporary Art (Galleries 226 and 227) from May 19 to July 23, 2017. Admission is free.
Since 2014, Norfolk-based photographer Glen McClure has been visiting the region’s shipyards, making portraits of the men and women who keep our coastal economy afloat. Monumentally scaled, yet intimately detailed, each portrait is captured on the docks and decks that line our waterways. Presented with biographical sketches collected from the sitters, the show celebrates the skill, knowledge, and individuality of some of Hampton Roads’ most dedicated workers.
McClure, a Norfolk native, has made a career of bringing the everyday lives of people in the United States and Europe into focus. In addition to his work as an accomplished landscape photographer, he has completed series on roller derby athletes, the watermen of the Chesapeake, and people living in Italy and France, and has shown his work in more than 50 solo and 40 group exhibitions in the United States and Europe.
His new series on shipyard workers was inspired by McClure’s memories of his father, a repairman for the C&P Telephone Company for 42 years. As a boy, McClure looked at his father with admiration whenever he was outfitted in his well-stocked tool belt. Now drawn to the epic scale of Hampton Roads’ famed shipyards, McClure has set his sights on the workers who operate the enormous cranes and barges at BAE Systems, Colonna’s Shipyard, East Coast Repair and Fabrication, Fairlead Boat Works, Lyon Shipyard, MHI Ship Repair & Services, General Dynamics NASSCO, Newport News Shipbuilding, Norfolk Naval Shipyard, and Técnico Corporation.
“We are fortunate and very pleased to present the work of one of Hampton Roads’ leading artists in a project that has such resonance for the traditions of labor in our community,” Chrysler Museum Director Erik Neil says.
“Glen has visited nearly a dozen shipyards in the area and met thousands of workers,” says Seth Feman, Curator of Exhibitions and acting Curator of Photography at the Chrysler. “The lighting and scale of his black-and-white portraits give these men and women a heroic appearance, but they are also familiar and direct—they are, after all, our friends and neighbors.”
When the photographer decided to make this series, he discovered that it’s not possible to just walk onto the shipyards, where heavy machinery and sensitive operations require high security and safety protocols. “Gaining access to shipyards, with a camera and lights, well, that presented a whole new set of challenges,” McClure recalls. Undeterred, he contacted a high school buddy who worked for a shipyard and made his case by showing examples of previous photographic series. After his work passed up the ranks, one of the shipyards agreed to let him set up his tripod on the dock, stopping workers to take their picture as they passed by.
“I am really proud and honored to have done this project,” McClure says. “What a joy it is to show these hard working folks, directly and honestly!”
After roughly 9,000 exposures, McClure produced about 400 prints for the series. Of these, 21 photographs are on view at the Chrysler, and visitors can explore the entire series using touch monitors in the exhibition. The exhibition will be on view in the Chrysler’s McKinnon Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art (Galleries 226 and 227) from May 19 to July 23, 2017. Admission is free.
Additional shipyard worker portraits will be on view in three companion shows across Coastal Virginia: at the Portsmouth Art & Cultural Center (June 2–August 6), at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News (June 3–June 25), and at the Charles H. Taylor Arts Center, Hampton (June 25–August 13). The exhibition also will include an illustrated catalogue co-created with Marshall McClure.
PROGRAMS AND EVENTS
Third Thursday: Exhibition Previews
May 18 │ 5–10 p.m.
Two nautically themed exhibition debut at the Chrysler during May’s Third Thursday: Thomas Hart Benton and the Navy (on loan from the Naval History and Heritage Command) and Glen McClure: The Shipyard Workers of Hampton Roads. The evening’s festivities are a throwback to the 1940s wartime era. Enjoy a 6 p.m. tour of the Benton and McClure exhibitions, as well as a make-and-take table and World War II-vintage music by America’s Sweethearts.
Cost: Admission to this month’s Third Thursday is free for Museum Members, military, and shipyard employees, $5 for all others. Cash bar.
Triple Play Family Day
Saturday, July 15 │ 10 a.m.–3 p.m. │ Free
Today the Chrysler celebrates boats and baseball in our Family Day focused on our key summer shows. Tour Having a Ball: George Sosnak’s Striking Portraits of America’s Pastime, Glen McClure: The Shipyard Workers of Hampton Roads and Thomas Hart Benton and the Navy (on loan from the Naval History and Heritage Command). Enjoy lawn games, fun artmaking activities, summer snacks, and more!
Family Day at the Chrysler is generously sponsored by the Bunny and Perry Morgan Fund.
For additional programs during the run of the exhibition, see www.chrysler.org.