In Amanda Rhodenizer’s Love Boat at The Blue Building, the former dive support vessel HMCS Cormorant is understood as so much more than an eyesore in Bridgewater.
The ship was decommissioned in 1997, followed by almost 20 years of confusion over legal ownership and extensive cleanup costs. By 2013, it was essentially abandoned. After coming close to sinking in 2015, the Coast Guard determined the ship was at risk of causing significant environmental damage. Finally, by November 2020, residents of Bridgewater rejoiced at seeing the rusting hulk towed away to be scrapped. As a Bridgewater native, the vessel’s story suited Rhodenizer’s interest in land, history, and gender. Before becoming a major pollution threat, , sexual harassment and misogyny informed the experiences of the women who served aboard the “Love-Boat” , a nickname grimly earned as Canada’s first mixed gender Navy ship.
Extending the length of one wall, a series of eight large paintings entitled They’re just guys being guys in an atmosphere where that kind of behaviour is tolerated, allowed, or encouraged (2023) depicts the length of the port. The title is a quote from former crewmember Lynn Coveney, referring to the gendered harassment experienced in her two years on board the Cormorant. Articulated in economic gestural strokes, the scale allows us to walk through the area. From a distance, these works are picture perfect, capturing snapshots of moments which, up close, blur into the surroundings. In this way, her aesthetic sensibility mirrors her interest in these subjects—what appears clear from afar can be much harder to pin down under close inspection.
Following in the footsteps of their boat-building grandfathers, Rhodenizer’s brother Andrew helped create the mounted wooden model boat, HMCS Cormorant half-hull model (2023). The hull is marred by scattered drips of black acrylic, and dots of fluorescent pink paint mark breaches in the hull, the source of contaminants leaching into the surrounding environment. In Shag (2023) we find the same vivid fluorescent pink in the setting-sun buoy, upon which sits the shadowed silhouette of a cormorant. Nearby, the words Do Not Load (2023) have been sprayed onto a throw blanket loosely pinned to the wall by two nails, fringed sides hanging loose.
The shock of fluorescent pink on the softness of the found textile pulls in feminine forms, announcing itself in an uneasy placement beside the final painting, We don’t have to look at her rotting in the river (2023), whose titular quote is attributed to the former Minister of Fisheries & Oceans Bernadette Jordan, depicted here on board the ship. This text plays on the suggestion of gender violence; in referring to the boat with feminine pronouns (as per naval tradition), anxiety lands as we understand the inferred possibilities. In this beautifully rendered piece, the fluorescence comes from within as the form of Jordan’s jacket is carved out in negative space.
By employing fluorescent colours typical of flagger signs, these works artfully direct our attention. A quote presented with the exhibition from the HMCS Cormorant Welcome Aboard Booklet noted that cormorants are known for their, “Wariness and alertness to danger.” Without action, traumas such as those referenced in The Love Boat can fester and grow. Evidently, Rhodenizer is raising the alarm.