There's something about the sea.
Though Kim Shaklee grew up in the land-locked state of Colorado, something about the sea and the life within it always fascinated her.
A sculptor for 27 years, Shaklee's art gravitates toward marine subjects, and she currently presides over the American Society of Marine Artists.
Shaklee loves capturing the motion of marine subjects, but for other artists, the allure of the sea differs.
That's the beauty of marine art, and consequently, the 17th National Exhibition of the American Society of Marine Art, opening at the Muscarelle Museum of Art this weekend.
"It's not just like a seascape with a boat," Shaklee said, "It's really anything imaginable that has to do with any waters of the world."
From historical to cultural to environmental themes, the national exhibition captures the diversity of marine art and the talent of marine artists.
Following its showing at the Muscarelle from Sept. 10 to Dec. 2, the exhibition will continue on a national tour, but it's Williamsburg kick-off is made all the more significant by an accompanying National Marine Art Conference held Sept. 8-11.
"It's our very first conference," Shaklee said. "And it is the first time in our history that we have opened up such an event, the entire conference, to the general public."
The scope of the society's Williamsburg visit grows even more with a for-sale, invitational exhibition to display at Williamsburg Art Gallery from Sept. 8 to Nov. 11.
In the works for nearly two years, the national exhibition and surrounding events serve as the start to Williamsburg Fall Arts, a tourism initiative led by Terry Buntrock, arts coordinator for the Greater Williamsburg region.
"I really think that this will bring people in from across the East Coast to see this exhibition," Buntrock said. "It's an unprecedented opportunity to see the works of the greatest painters in the United States right now."
17th National Exhibition
About a week before opening, Aaron De Groft, director and CEO of the Muscarelle Museum, walked the perimeter of the main room containing works from the national exhibition.
"They're just shockingly good," De Groft said.
Shaklee said the society has more than 500 members. The national exhibition, occurring every three years, features nearly 150 juried works.
As De Groft perused the exhibition, he noted the variety: paintings and sculptures about life both on and under the water.
"We thought it would be popular and well-received because of where we live," De Groft said of the exhibition. He also saw it as a partnership between the Muscarelle and the city of Williamsburg to bring people to the region.
Corresponding with the exhibit, the Muscarelle's free First Tuesday Lecture Series will touch on environmental issues throughout the fall, in partnership with the College of William and Mary's Virginia Coastal Policy Center. Lecture times and topics, ranging from sea-level rise to the state of the Chesapeake Bay, can be found at muscarelle.org.
Also opening this weekend at the Muscarelle: "Building the Brafferton: The Founding, Funding and Legacy of America's Indian School," an exhibition incorporating more than 10 years of research into an unprecedented look at the Brafferton's significant history. Stay tuned for more coverage of this exhibit.
"Making Waves: An Exploration of the Maritime World of Art"
"It's very nice to be able to go to a show," Shaklee said, "but it's even nicer if you're there, and you get to experience from the artists themselves what they were trying to portray in their work."
It's an opportunity the public will have at the opening reception for "Making Waves: An Exploration of the Maritime World of Art," an invitational exhibition at Williamsburg Art Gallery.
The nearly 40 pieces displayed in "Making Waves" are different from pieces in the national exhibition at the Muscarelle, but they come from the same artists. And unlike those in the national exhibition, they are for sale.
Shaklee estimated around 50 society artists will be present at the opening reception Thursday evening.
"Then people can interact with the artists directly," she said. "They'll get a whole different opportunity."
Gallery owner and director Gulay Berryman has painted several seascapes, including one of only three existing paintings of the Battle of Grand Port off the coast of Mauritius.
"You just immortalize a time," she said of marine art. "What you see becomes timeless. That's what is important, I believe."
Whatever immortalized in the piece of art, viewers will find likely find some memory that relates, some aspect to enjoy.
"Where there's water, there's life," Berryman said. "That's what they say."
National Marine Art Conference
Beyond viewing the art and meeting the artists, the inaugural National Marine Art Conference allows a glimpse into the process behind it all.
Though registration for artists has closed, select lectures and presentations are open to the public as space is available. To see the schedule or to register, visit tacl-va.org.
Highlights include observing a plein air "paint out" at Jamestown Settlement, as conference artists paint the "Susan Constant" ship from 9:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. on Saturday, and a lecture from Admiral Robert J. Papp Jr., retired from the U.S. Coast Guard, at Yorktown Victory Center. Papp will speak at 3 p.m., Sunday, on the importance of maritime governance in the Arctic Ocean
The conference's keynote address comes from John Stobart, a founding member of the marine art society and one of the foremost marine artists in the country.
Shaklee has been involved with the society for several years, and what amazes her the most is the diversity of artists.
"It is the most diverse group of people you will ever meet in one location," she said.
Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesdays-Fridays; 12-4 p.m., Saturdays-Sundays
Where: Muscarelle Museum of Art, 608 Jamestown Road
Admission: $10; free to members, William and Mary students, faculty and staff and children under age 1.
When: 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 8
Where: Williamsburg Art Gallery, 440 W. Duke of Gloucester St.