Mid-Shore Arts: Philip McMartin’s Remarkable Woodcuts at Trippe-Hilderbrandt

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There is very little doubt that Philip McMartin (1930-2009) was a remarkable man. The deceased artist, photographer, and writer, whose stunning woodcuts now on display at theTrippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery in Easton, was very much the product of a different time in our country.

Self-educated, McMartin started his career as a small town reporter in Vermont right after high school, which would lead to being the new anchor of the state’s largest television station in Burlington for a good part of the 1960s.  And, along with his wife, artist Helen Lakis, and their four children, McMartin moved to Washington, DC to become a filmmaker for many years with the National Rural
Electric Cooperative Association.

But, like many interesting men, the story does not end there.

As Philip McMartin continued to branch out with is photography, particularly focused on the Chesapeake Bay and working watermen, he found himself constantly frustrated that he could fully capture the essence of these powerful scenes through the use of a camera. And with no artistic training at all, he spontaneously shifted into making woodcut plates on the family dining room table for the next five years.

In all, he completed twenty blocks during that period.  In his spare time, this very independent and solitary man  would periodically sell some of them at small galleries in Annapolis, but in the end, storied his artwork away permanently, feeling he had completed his mission, and moved on hand build a 38 foot catamaran, and never returned to the art of woodcuts.

Fast forward some fifty years, well after Philip’s passing, and his son, Jim, along with Talbot County friend Kevin Garber, were clearing out space in Jim’s workshop in Wittman and rediscovered the woodcuts. It didn’t take them long to realize how remarkable the art was and began reproducing the work.  And the results of that labor, with Kevin making the prints and Jim making the frames, was a successful exhibitions at the Academy Art Museum and Salisbury University, and more recently, on the walls at Nanny Trippe’s popular gallery in downtown Easton.

A few weekends ago, the Spy sat down with Jim McMartin to talk about his father, his love of the Chesapeake, and his lifelong admiration for those making a living with their hands and knowledge of the sea.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the McMartin woodcuts, please go to Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery’s website here

About Dave Wheelan

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