Gyotaku (gee-yo-tah-koo) is the Japanese art of fish printing. Thousands of years ago in Japan, it was a way for fisherman to record the exact size and species of the fish they had caught. Every fish has a story, so the fish prints mark those memories.
I don’t have a fish story, but I do have a story to share.
Fifteen years ago, I sat at the lunch counter at Island Pharmacy on Nantucket and met Pete Van Dingstee. He made THE best egg salad and curry chicken salad sandwiches I’ve ever had, and eventually gave me the recipes. Those who know me have had the curry chicken salad and asked for the recipe as well. Fast forward to December 2012, when I ran into Pete on Nantucket. I hadn’t seen him in years. This time our run-in was at his gallery on Old South Wharf called Pete’s Fresh Fish Prints. I learned that Pete hung up his apron and took on his passion as an artist. His kids have grown, and life continued on, along with his curry chicken salad recipe. I love his prints because they’re done in neutral colors — blacks and greys — and on heavily textured papers. I love the story because he has left his mark with me now twice.
Another Nantucket artist, Chris Bonelli, also does the print making with a more colorful and playful approach. One of my favorites, hangs in our kitchen — a striped bass, striped in red, white, and blue printed with stars. Other prints I love are by Nantucket Gyotaku many of which are whites on bold colored papers. Each print is one of a kind, original artwork, hand painted from real fish onto Japanese rice paper, canvas or linen — all, I’m sure, with a great story behind the catch.