‘Come Sail Away’: SRU’s Heather Hertel displays sailcloth project in Erie

Sailcloth art displayed at Erie museum

Heather Hertel's "Sailcloth Art Project" opened Sept. 1 at the Bayfront Maritime Center in Erie.

 Sept. 2, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - In the shadow of nearly a dozen tall ships, including the Porcupine, a representation' of a War of 1812 gunboat, sails of a different sort than those set out to sea will be on display courtesy of a Slippery Rock University art professor.

Heather Hertel's "Sailcloth Art Project" opened yesterday and will be aloft through Sept. 30 at the Bayfront Maritime Center, in conjunction with the 2016 Tall Ships Erie festival, Sept. 8-11. The festival will showcase the tall ships, provide on-board tours and sail a ways, and offer live music and entertainment, children's activities, a festival marketplace, food vendors and much more, including Hertel's exhibit.

Hertel, an associate professor of art, said her eight recycled racing sails each span 30 to 44 feet in length. Using acrylic paint, she painted human figures in colorful attire gesturing toward the sky to symbolize the open water.

"The goal of the project is to evoke the motion and fluidity of sailing and the energy of the wind," said Hertel.

The Bayfront Maritime Center is displaying the large-scale sails indoors and outdoors. In fact, visitors to the display will be welcomed by one of the large sails that hangs on a metal arch in front of the building. The buildings arches are being used to represent the ribs of the bottom of a boat.

"The outside hanging sail has figures painted and sewn into it," Hertel said "It also features a figure from the Japanese Edo period riding on a crane over the ocean. She is holding a long scroll made out of sailcloth."

Also on display outside the center is a metal sailcloth sculpture designed by SRU art majors and recent graduates: Kathryn Fitzgerald from Pittsburgh; Erin Pandolfino from York; Mikaela Skiljo from Sharon; Bernard Store from Grove City; Tyra Welsh from New Castle; Maggie Acker, '16, from Coudersport; and Jared Robinson, '16, from Lyndora.

The work features six small sails that were cut and sewn from a larger, white spinnaker sail. Inside the center are three hanging sails with images of Japanese courtesans and one showing a spirit painted and cut out of a black racing sail.

Hertel said the project combines her passion for art and sailing.

The interdisciplinary project incorporates art, music and environmental geosciences. Dance majors Kylie Hushon from Elred; Darrin Mosley from York; Kacei Womack from Philadelphia; Patricia Kohler from Leechburg; Brianna Casale from Pittsburgh; Maria Crist from Lancaster, New York; and Alyssa Bradley from Pittsburgh will perform from 1-3 p.m., Sept. 10-11, weaving in and out of the sailcloth paintings. Ursula Payne, professor of dance, and Lindsay Fisher, adjunct professor of dance, choreographed the piece.

Chase Upchurch, a music education major from Titusville, performed a 10-minute piano solo - which included a voiceover of an abbreviated version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" - during the Sept. 1 opening reception.

"I offered my specialties to enhance the overall project," Upchurch said. "This opportunity has allowed me to compose music to a poem - which I have never done before - and it also has allowed me to create amazing relationships with professors and new friends."

Clare Clark, an environmental geosciences major from Brookville, and Sarahmay Schlea, an environmental geosciences and physics major from Stow, Ohio, were involved with the construction of the exhibit.

"With so many people from different walks of life helping with the Sailcloth Art Project, it really is a community effort," said Clark. "People may not think there are scientific aspects to something of this nature, but there certainly are."

Clark said she provided inspiration for the sail paintings through her understanding of nature, including the ocean and the eyes on butterfly wings. "My role was to provide scientific thinking," she said.

Schlea provided physics input on structural design of the sail art, material experimentation and composition.

David Krayesky, SRU associate professor of biology, provided photographic images of red/brown algae cells that are incorporated into the artwork/ paintings. Ben Shaevitz, SRU professor of physics and pre-engineering and an avid sailor, donated six sails for the project.

The Bayfront Maritime Center is a non-profit organization provides sailing, paddling and boat-building opportunities for the public, especially young people.

Tall Ships Erie 2016 will showcase authentic and replica ships, including a replica of the Niagara, a victorious flagship from the War of 1812's Battle of Lake Erie.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 | gordon.ovenshine@sru.edu