For Marc Castelli, the grace and beauty of function has led him to draw, photograph and ultimately paint dead rise workboats, exotic sailboats and handcrafted automobiles.
The wind driven weather and light found on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries constantly moves him. When not at home in Chestertown, he can be found with the watermen on workboats, culling fish, oysters, out on crab boats, or up secluded creeks turtle potting. He works alongside the men as they driftnet or work their pound nets. In log canoe season, he crews on racing canoes and throughout all these activities he quietly and unobtrusively shoots the photographs that will become his studies.
Not one to be limited to the editorial constraint of “calendar” weather, he has found great beauty on the Bay in an open boat during small craft advisories, or tagging yellow perch during a blizzard on a river, and in the silver pewter glow of an overcast day. Watermen work in all weather and he feels those on the land need to know who put that seafood dinner on their table. It is not enough to let these men be symbols. They are individual human beings with strengths, weaknesses and diverse personalities. He invites us to get closer to his subjects, if only vicariously through his work. Over the years, this has resulted in near portraiture at times, and has led him to devote more energy in carefully crafting the surfaces, textures and materials found in his painting, thereby increasing the immediacy and timeless qualities for him.
Castelli is on the water nearly 100 days a year gathering material to paint. 41 years of crewing on racing sailboats, and 22 years actively participating on workboats has enabled him to get past the spectator view that represents the majority of marine and regional art. His experience removes him from these narrow genres and puts him squarely in the realm of contemporary art. Often people see a documentary aspect to Castelli’s work, and in doing so, lose sight of the constant inspiration and awe Castelli derives from his subject.
The potential for abstraction, still life, figurative, atmospherics and sharp focus vignette, may exist in all genres but for Marc it is the strongest when on the water. It is the light, as it moves on and in water and is then reflected back on the men and their boats that pulls at him. He feels the same enthusiasm for simple sailing vessels, state of the art racing yachts, hand built log canoes, deadrise workboats and vintage cars.
Participatory intimacy doesn’t allow him any room for visually conceptual or contextual gymnastics. He leaves that to others while he endeavors to reflect what speaks to him without words. This respect for correct detail provides a solid baseline from which he builds his watercolors. It also draws people to collect his work, which is included in corporate collections, owned by sponsors and skippers of America’s Cup yachts, regional museums, loyal private collectors, and most importantly for Castelli, hanging in the family homes of watermen, log canoe crews and their skippers and owners. These people know that he will tell it right.
Marc’s long awaited book, Building Sultana was published in 2017 by the Sultana Organization. It tells the story of building the 18th century replica schooner Sultana in Chestertown, Maryland. The story is told through Marc’s 200 pen and ink drawings with text by the shipwrights, and volunteers. In 2018 the Chesapeake Bay Museum published Judge John C. North II’s book, Tradition, Speed and Grace; Chesapeake Bay Sailing Log Canoes. At the request of the author many of Marc’s watercolors and photographs of the log canoes have been included as illustrations.
His work has garnered awards from the Gallery at Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut, where he is considered a Modern Marine Master. His paintings are exhibited by the prestigious J. Russell Jinishian Gallery in Fairfield, Connecticut. He has been widely published in Nautical Quarterly, Sailing Magazine, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Maritime History and in several books. Recently, he illustrated a collector’s limited edition of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” for the Chester River Press. One of Marc’s paintings in the Simison Collection of his work at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum was included in the museum’s “Broad Reach” exhibition. It was selected from 60,000 items in the collection for the exhibition and catalog. For the past 27 years, he’s exhibited his work in annual one-man shows in the MassoniArt Gallery in Chestertown, Maryland. In addition to some commissions, Marc is currently working on his 27th solo show with Massoniart for October-November 2020.
Carla Massoni serves as his agent. MassoniArt is Marc’s exclusive dealer for all his original paintings.