Work on Monday: Ghost Ship by David Slater

David Slater Ghost Ship
“Ghost Ship” by David Slater. Photo by Gary Mamay.

For today’s Work on Monday, we have the pleasure of viewing Sag Harbor artist David Slater‘s masterpiece entitled “Ghost Ship.” The painting is an iconic composition that combines all Slater‘s charms—his colorful and sometimes cartoony painted shapes and figures, obscure scraps and collage elements, and a cryptic visual language rife with references from the artist’s deep lexicon of knowledge.

Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.

Ghost Ship
David Slater (Sag Harbor, born 1940)
Acrylic/mixed media on canvas
60 x 72 inches, 2008

Ghost Ship” came to Slater in a dream, like many of the artist‘s works. The frightening tallship floated toward shore and made landfall at Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, leaving Slater to consider it’s meaning and his mortality. The painting features the scene from his dream, along with a host of words and symbols that take the viewer on a stream of conscious trip through Slater‘s mind as he considers what he saw. He attempts to answer all these questions through the process of creation and with paint on canvas.

The artist pulls from his great knowledge of many topics and he includes references to various esoteric and historic subjects, which he researches as each one takes him to yet another line of thought. The boat, of course, brings to mind great pirate ships from history and literature, and Slater‘s study of the skull and crossbones symbol, or Jolly Roger, leads him to the Knights Templar and Malta—the symbol for both being one and the same, displayed prominently to the left of the ship.

Other references and symbols are more personal or direct. The scorpion, which appears in many of Slater‘s paintings, is the avatar of Scorpio, his Zodiac sign, and words like “Winter Solstice” commemorate the time when he created this particular piece. Directly to the left of the ship, Slater has even affixed the postcard he used as a reference for painting it.

Slater‘s work often has a sense of humor and mysterious narrative, as well as formal strength through its strong composition and interplay of color. “Ghost Ship” shines especially with its baby blue sea, and strong red and white stripe motif which surrounds the piece, goes through the water and features heavily on the ship. His addition of yellow and dark blue creates an unusual color palette that works brilliantly.

It’s worth spending some time with this piece. There is much to consider and enjoy.

David Slater is represented exclusively by Peter Marcelle of the Peter Marcelle Gallery in Bridgehampton. “Ghost Ship” is available for purchase. Visit or for more info.

More from Our Sister Sites