Phantom Shippe Reappears

Allan Appel PhotoThe “Great Shippe” that left New Haven Harbor bearing the struggling colony’s desperate commercial hopes has finally returned.

It took a few hundred years longer than expected. The location of arrival was not too far from the colonial harbor where it had originally sailed off.

Yet how it had climbed onto a 40-foot wall downtown on Crown Street remains a mystery.

The occasion for the spectral sighting of the ship—which, according to historical lore, originally sank with New Haven’s hopes of quick commercial comeback from colonial recession—was an art “happening” for those who do painting and graffiti with light. They did works playing on the theme of one of New Haven’s foundational myths, about the ship that took all of its commercial goods in 1647 and then disappeared forever, except when a ghost-like image of it appeared in the sky. (Read about the tale here.)

The shippe was found again Friday night projected on the wall of Robert Greenberg’s Acme Moving and Storage Company at the third annual Light Artists Making Places (LAMP) event.

Local historian, artist, and New Haven memorabilia pack-rat extraordinaire Greenberg was one of dozens of light-bending artists who projected, displayed, and performed in the Crown and Orange streets area.

Their bright evanescent creations were variations on the the theme of the “the great shippe” in recognition of this the 375th year of our fair city’s establishment.

Greenberg offered a movie and timeline. His theme is that the city’s ship has come in embodied in the city’s perseverance and growth. Other artists’ offering were less documentary and more spooky in how they drew with light.

To prepare her work, projected on the back of the 55 Church St. bank building, noted light painter Vicki DaSilva ran up and down Lighthouse Point beach. That is, she “drew” with a 12-foot fluorescent bulb. 

Her husband Antonio held a camera with its shutter open at what DaSilva described as a “time-exposure photo shot on bulb setting.”

Then they put together the photos, along with video clips documenting what they had done. Because, of course, by light’s nature, the worked had instantly disappeared from sight.

The work represents “a visit on the beach by the [drowned] passengers of the phantom ship,” she said.

Nearby Paul Mayer and folks from cafe nine and others were erecting a mobile lighthouse.

In Artspace’s Lot, a crowd gathered in the illuminated darkness to watch Dada Mr. do live improvised painting to music.

As he has done for three years, at twilight Greenberg placed giant old-fashioned LAMP shades over seven street lamps turning the Ninth Square into a cozy outdoor parlor for illuminations.

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