Photograph courtesy of OlsonByTheSea Photography by Kathryn Olson
Nantucket’s storied maritime history dates back to the 17th and 18th century when the island was the whaling capital of the world. Over 15 to 20 whale ships, along with dozens of smaller vessels, could be seen in Nantucket harbor during this time. Today, whaling ships have been replaced with mega yachts, elegant schooners and the colorful rainbow sails of the beetle cats. To find out a little more about Nantucket's modern day sailing we spoke with a longtime Looms artist and avid sailor, Eric Holch.
Eric Holch is an internationally recognized artist and printmaker, based on Nantucket. Eric grew up in Andover, MA and Greenwich, CT, but spent every summer on Nantucket. His New England upbringing continues to have a strong influence on both the subject matter, stark light and crisp style of his original prints and oil paintings. He finds those familiar harbors, summer sailing races, friendly side streets, warm sandy beaches and unique architectural details a constant fascination.
"We have been carrying Eric’s artwork for over 25 years at the Looms. There is something very nostalgic about his color palette and whimsical style of painting. His love for the sea and the island really comes through in his work." Bess Clarke, Nantucket Looms.
It's a wonderful thing when an artist can combine their passion for art with their other passions in life. Eric is an accomplished sailor, having first learned to sail in Nantucket Harbor and his love for sailing has a big influence on his artwork. "If I had my way I’d be drawing sailboats all the time," says Eric, "But I know not everyone else does so I mix up my imagery with beaches, harbor scenes, architecture. Basically I try to capture the whole “essence” of summer on Nantucket".
As a lover of sailing and Nantucket summers, the annual Figawi Race on Memorial Day weekend is a favorite of Eric's. "There has been much written about the first “race” - a few boats lost in the fog and the infamous comment “Where the figawi?”, explains Eric, "The early days were fun and a bit raucous. But what I think is important now is that the Figawi Race is the only time the Boat Basin is filled with sailors and sailboats, and that the center of attention is our islands waterfront, not “uptown”. Everyone wants to come down to the docks and see the boats. The event is the kick-off for the summer. Add to that the fund raising that the Figawi Committee now does and the support it gives to the hospital and Boys & Girls Club - it has become an important part of the fabric of the island."
Of course, every sailor must have their favorite Figawi memory. Eric recalls competing in the race in 1994 - "Aboard 'Fair Isle' with Curt Ivey we thought we had such a bad start that when the whole fleet “went right”, the traditional tactic, we just went left heading straight to the island and ended up winning our Division, much to our surprise!"