Lady Diver: Art personifies places

First of all, let’s not forget I’ve taught Art in many forms to children for a fair old while and I’ve been interested in visual art for even longer.

A week or two ago we visited Scarborough and I took a (reasonably) good photo of the lighthouse at the end of Vincent Pier. When I was editing the photo for publication with the blog post, I noticed a statue at the end of the pier that I’d never seen before. It turned out to be an interesting sculpture of a woman with arms outstretched in preparation for a dive, presumably, considering the placement of the sculpture right on the end of the pier, people are to imagine her diving into the inviting waters of the sea, some twenty metres below.

Scarborough's Diving Woman
Scarborough’s Diving Woman

I didn’t know much about this sculpture and having conducted a little Internet research discovered that ‘she’ was donated to the town as part of a pair in order to commemorate Scarborough’s claim to be the first sea-side town to encourage bathing for pleasure and therefore becoming the first ‘resort’, giving birth to the tourism industry, no less! I was just really quite surprised that I hadn’t ever noticed it before. I pledged to visit the sculpture and see what else I could glean from visiting it.

So, yesterday afternoon we did just that. It was a lovely afternoon, weather-wise. As you may have read in a earlier post, I was feeling quite down in the dumps at the outset of the trip, but once within spitting distance of the sea, its healing powers performed their magic and I started to feel my mood lifting. Mark dropped me by the pier so that I could walk slowly down whilst he parked the car around the corner and re-joined me a few minutes later. I wandered along this pier, which is not entirely unique perhaps, but I can’t think of anywhere else that I’ve been that has three piers surrounding the harbour of a town. Vincent Pier is the one in the middle of the three, so that as you walk along you have harbour on both sides, with boats of all kinds docked at pontoons or in little groups of to or three tied together.

Love the names people give their boats!
Love the names people give their boats!

Some of these boats have interesting names – the ‘Autumn Liz’ immediately caught my eye (I hope for obvious reasons!) whilst ‘Our Dave’ and  ‘No Wonder’  also gave me reason to smile. I adore boats, especially when they are on display in these tranquil settings. The gentle slapping of the water on the side of the boats makes me feel equable and at ease. The colours, the reflections and the peacefulness put me in good spirits. Boats sitting in a harbour have this look of contentedness about them that makes me think of snuggling in my sofa, with my feet up and a fire roaring in the hearth, happy and safe. But there’s just a glint of potential for excitement, adventure and even, if I concentrate hard enough, a tiny whiff of danger – these beauties are destined to carry people across the water, for pleasure or for livelihood, with the very real threat of wicked storms to do battle against for survival. It’s the dichotomy of these potential situations that draws me to boats I guess.

Boats in Scarborough Harbour
Boats in Scarborough Harbour
What a lovely sailboat!
What a lovely sailboat!

The Diving Woman did not disappoint. Made from a matte metallic material, she stands on the tips of her toes, maybe slightly larger than life-size, atop a steel girder which rises about eight feet into the air from the pier. Her serious gaze faces East, so that she would be diving directly into the morning sunrise, which can occasionally be remarkably spectacular. She wears a sporting swimming costume and a look of expectant bliss upon her carefully crafted face. She is improbably balanced, capturing that moment, milliseconds before her feet leave contact with the earth and she is about to fly through the air in pursuit of the perfect arc of her dive. In just a few moments, you can imagine that she will cut through the icy cold waters of the North Sea, but in reality she stands, poised at this vital moment, personifying the hopes and dreams of the townsfolk to be remembered by the world as proponents of health tourism.

In the afternoon sunlight, she looks ready to soar...
In the afternoon sunlight, she looks ready to soar…

How could you not be inspired by this? And then, the fading afternoon sunlight caught her face from a different angle and she seemed utterly transfixed, ready to soar into the heavens … as was I.

Walking back to the car, the tide had receded significantly and many of the boats were now high and dry. My favourite of the day has to be this little boat, sitting atop its perch.

Don’t panic! Everyone is safe now.

Don't Panic. I love good advice from a boat.
Don’t Panic. I love good advice from a boat.

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