It seems that there is nothing but a sad cluster of rainy days ahead of us, so let us find comfort and entertainment where we can. Few things lift my spirits better than the cheerful and whimsical mermaid paintings by the folk artists Ralph and Martha Cahoon. The Cahoon Museum, housed in a 1775 Georgian colonial farmhouse on Route 28 in Cotuit, where the artists’ once lived and worked, is a perfect place to shake off the soggy day blues. Though their paintings tend to evoke New England coastal scenes from the 19th century, Ralph and his wife Martha were painting in the second half of the 20th century, becoming two of America’s premier and successful primitive painters, collected by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Paul Mellon, and the DuPonts, among others.
The Cahoon Museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with a number of cool exhibits. Up now until July 19th is “The Art of Photography/The Photographer’s Art,” which, by focusing on the work of seven photographers who each employ drastically different processes and techniques, explores the many, vastly diverse, faces of contemporary photography.
With stone fireplaces big enough to stand in (well, to crouch in at least), wide floor boards, beautifully stenciled floors and walls, the museum is housed in a perfect example of old colonial architecture. But I tend to visit the Cahoon Museum to mostly to check out the mermaids. Standing on their tails while cooking food for their handsome sailor overlords/boyfriends, hanging out in hot air balloons, coquettishly riding a whale while holding a parasol, smoking cigarettes at a mermaid tea party, these mystical creatures know how to have a good time. So, let’s take a lesson from them and have some devilish fun no matter what the weather. If they can do it topless and with a fish tail, I know that I, with my two human legs and my upper body properly clothed, can do it too.
And let’s have TS Eliot take us out:
I can just hear the mermaids giggling, saying, “Buck up, Thomas Stearns. Join us in eating peaches by the barrel full!” You know that Cahoon’s mermaids could show even a melancholy poet how to have a good time.