By: Hugh Brown
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.- The Castellani Art Museum is housing a nautical exhibit for the next six months. The exhibit, done entirely by local artist Justin Higner, showcases an entire fleet of miniature naval vessels. The models are clad with lights, funnels and lifeboats and furnished with dining room decor and indoor pools. They range from fifteen inches to as large as one-hundred and forty-six inches.
The exhibit, titled “The Higner Maritime Collection,” has works from over twenty-five years’ worth of model ships. The ships consist of small tugboats to large ocean liners, some historic, while others modern cruise ships and ferries.
While some ships are based on actual vessels, such as a model of the Edmund Fitzgerald (and a model of the sunken Edmund Fitzgerald), most of the ships are fictional. Some of the models, such as the Violet Jessop, pay homage to real maritime history. Violet Jessop was a stewardess on the RMS Titanic, and eventually a nurse on the Titanic’s sister, the HMHS Britannic (which sank in the Adriatic Sea in 1915). Every single ship has a large history written beside it. The Leviathan, for example, was built by Silver and Knight S&E Company and is owned by North Chioganah Lloyd and Sovereign Hotels, Ltd.
Higner, who has a bachelor’s in history from the University at Buffalo has been the town Historian for the Town of Wheatfield, NY, since 2017. Growing up, Higner would watch documentaries made about the Edmund Fitzgerald and the RMS Titanic. In particular, the 1994 documentary “Titanic- The Complete Story” inspired the artist.
‘As we engage with and examine the artists meticulously built fleet of ships and other vessels, we are reminded of how unique an impassioned an artist’s commitment to self-expression can be,” said Michael J Bean, the Curator of Exhibitions and Special Projects at the Castellani Art Museum.
On a personal note, as a big ship enthusiast myself, it is great to see such a detailed collection in our museum. Every model has such an intricate background you can spend hours in the exhibit learning about each ship and its history. Even someone who is not a fan of history can appreciate the craftsmanship.
See the Higner Maritime Collection in the Castellani Art Museum today. Admission is free to Niagara Students.