A Life From Two Directions on a Twisted Path: David Moses Bridges, Passamaquoddy Canoemaker
By Patricia Ayala, Ph.D.
«…David was a celebrated canoemaker, artist, educator, political activist, and cultural protector. He belonged to the Passamaquoddy tribe from the Northeast of the United States, who—along with the Abenaki, Penobscot, Maliseet, and Micmac—are part of the Wabanaki Confederacy…»
David’s portrait by Andrew Wyeth now in display at the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine.
“One remarkable artist’s portrait of another remarkable artist: master Passamaquoddy canoe maker David Moses Bridges (1962-2017) by master painter Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009) at the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine”.
This is one of the sketches Wyeth did before he did the painting named “threat“, where David and his oldest son Tobias were painted together.
The Damariscotta River Association and Penequid Land Trust merged and became Coastal River Conservation Trust (Maine). They relocated to Round Top Farm in Damariscotta and named one of their spaces “David Moses Bridges Educational Hall”. This hall has birch floors and ceiling in homage to David and his birch bark artistry.
Post on Coastal Rivers Conservation Trust website:
In 2015, David loaned to the Abbe Museum a collection of his writings, drawings, paintings, letters, sketchbooks, newspapers, manuscripts, pamphlets, transcripts, publications, planners, basket patterns, watercolors, canoe patterns, Mocuck patterns, etching patterns, maps, canoe plans, stencils, prints, paint palettes, as well as copies of drawings, images, books and designs. His motivation was based on the need for these objects and documents to be in a suitable place for their conservation, inventory and research. After his death in 2017, more objects and documents were included to this collection and the Abbe staff made an inventory. Given David past relation with the Abbe –where he leaded several educational programs, participated in numerous exhibits, built two canoes and was a trusteed-, and his deep appreciation for this institution, we decided to sign a “long-term loan collection” agreement. Now the David Moses Bridges collection is available for artists, researchers and educators who would like to study its items or use them as an inspiration for their own work.
At the beginning of 2018 a birch bark canoe built by David and Steve Cayard (loaned by the Abbe Museum) was included in the Portland Museum of Art Biennial. This exhibition featured the work of 25 artists, highlighting the diverse perspectives and interests of artists connected to Maine and making a powerful statement about art’s impact in this historical moment. Recently, the Portland Museum of Art acquired one of David’s beautiful baskets for its permanent collection.
In 2019 the Maine Historical Society in Portland will open the exhibit Holding up the Sky that will include David’s art. Holding up the Sky will explore Wabanaki people, history, culture, and art. In addition to the Maine Historical Society staff, they are working with a group of native american advisors (scholars and cultural specialists) to curate the exhibition.
This year, a generous soul who valued David’s life and work started a scholarship in his honor at the Maine Community Foundation. Family, friends and MCF staff worked together to make this happen. This scholarship is available to artists, researchers and educators inspired by David’s life, values, and artwork. To make this scholarship meaningful, our dear friend Raney Morrison Bench organized a FB Fundraising some weeks ago.