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Shipwrecked: NYC Boat Artist Marie Lorenz's Chilly Spill

On a blustery day in March of 2009, Marie Lorenz, then a fellow at the American Academy in Rome, took a boat that she had crafted out of plywood to a cove at Lido di Ostia on the Italian coast. The plan was to give her newly-built vessel a test ride. But the winds and swells at Ostia were a lot stronger than she had anticipated. The rudder snapped, the boat spun out of control, the mast tipped and she was ejected. Unable to right the damaged ship, Lorenz had the presence of mind to unhook the waterproof video camera she had strapped to the deck, put it in her mouth and swim to shore.

The video piece below, “Capsize,” captures the seven minutes from the moment Lorenz tipped over, to the moment she hit land – a disorienting tumult of steely skies and water accompanied by a soundtrack of Lorenz’s labored breathing. It is chilling. Here and there, in split-second fragments, there are glimpses of her capsized vessel being dragged out to sea, of the dark jetties in the distance and of her desperate father standing on the shore. (Find Lorenz’s own narrative of that day, with photographs, on her website.)

A number of figures (Swoon, Duke Riley and the artists behind the Waterpod in Brooklyn) have drawn headlines in recent years for their use of functioning vessels as art. But Lorenz has been quietly crafting hers since the early 1990s, when she was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design and would use them to explore the waterfront around Providence. Since 2005, she has an undertake an annual project called the Tide and Current Taxi,  in which she uses the tides to shuttle random strangers around New York’s waterways.

At the Jack Hanley Gallery in Manhattan, Lorenz is showing the video “Capsize,” along with a rubbing of her Italian boat (which she left behind when she returned to the U.S. last summer), along with another hand-crafted boat, built from the carved wood blocks used to make the over-sized prints that also hang in the gallery.

Interestingly, there is a happy postscript to the story of her capsizing: Lorenz was ultimately able to retrieve the boat when it washed ashore a couple of days after the incident. She fixed it and sailed it down the Tiber and various other Italian rivers the following month as she had originally intended. She has posted documentation of that project here.

Marie Lorenz/SHIPWRECKS runs through January 31st at Jack Hanley Gallery in Tribeca, 136 Watts St., between Greenwich and Washington; an artist reception will be held Friday, Jan. 8 at 6 p.m.