Titanic Talent

Titanic Talent

First published: Summer 2020

Miniature model ships and erotic comic books – the creative output of Patrick Hackleman is diverse but always about righting wrongs

In the studio where he works, in Corvallis, Oregon, artist Patrick Hackleman lifts his ruler from a long scroll of paper on a drafting table, on which is drawn a schematic of the USS Saratoga – a helicopter carrier, he explains.

Names, dates and locations of historic ships and shipwrecks roll off his tongue. Naval vessels occupy Hackleman’s thoughts, but only for part of his time. The boxed sets of comic books and brightly coloured posters, that are rolled or stacked on shelves near his drafting table, attest to his productivity and the disparate subjects that he is attracted to as an artist.

A childhood interest in warships and ill-fated luxury liners like the Titanic led him to study their design and – from around the age of eight – to re-envision them to prevent the “unnecessary and avoidable loss of lives”. Hackleman is not sure what inspired him to redesign flawed ships, but he says that his engineer dad and a friend “made a lot of really neat models” that he admired as a kid.

He took one drafting class, but otherwise taught himself everything he knows about ships, building models and drawing. Instead of completely recreating what has been done, he prefers to fix what he considers to be bad design. Dissatisfied with certain features of the original USS Saratoga – that, he speculates, led to her sinking – he created an improved version. He points out the design flaws in an illustration of the ship in a library book on the table, and shows the changes he has made that would make the vessel more seaworthy and safer.

Hackleman’s painstaking blueprints take him several weeks to complete. He draws the same ship at different scales before deciding which is most suitable for building a model. It is only then that he starts constructing, using materials that he has gathered from hobby shops. Several of his finished models are displayed near his workspace in the studio which is part of ArtWorks/CEI, a project of Collaborative Employment Innovations run by seasoned art champion and artist Bruce Burris. Expertly executed to scale, the model ships attest to Hackleman’s attention to detail, although the result is more rugged than refined.

Hackleman talks with relish about the Titanic T-3, his improved replica of the shipwrecked forebear. Again, he believes that its construction contributed to its sinking: “Rivets are a really bad idea. My model is welded instead”. He also added modern amenities, including a pancake restaurant, an art studio and a video arcade. A “Museum of the Lost” replaces the first-class smoking lounge, and displays models of famous ships and extinct animals such as dodos and dinosaurs.

This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #106