Shattering the Lens is an exhibit that will run from September 24 to October 20, 2019 at the National Lighthouse Museum. Artist Elaine Marie Austin, using her paintings of keepers and their lighthouses, sheds light on the dynamic impact of female lighthouse keepers. It is inspired by the book Women Who Kept the Lights by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford.

From the artist: This exhibit celebrates the life and legacy of J. Candace Clifford. She was a Maritime Historian, Researcher for the National Park Service and Historian for the US Lighthouse Society. Candace passed away last year. Candace’s impact on my life is monumental despite our brief encounter. I met Candace during a trip to the reopening of the Anclote Key Lighthouse in Florida. She was there to record the event and give a television interview. I would not be doing this exhibit if it weren’t for her. After the publication of an article she encouraged me to write, I was contacted about an exhibit opportunity. Candace was an invaluable resource for the lighthouse community and me. The exhibits at the National Lighthouse Museum were set up with her assistance. “Women Who Kept the Light” which Candace co-authored is the inspiration for my exhibit, “Shattering the Lens.” 

The Exhibit: This exhibit features the artist’s favorite lighthouses where women were light keepers and assistant light keepers. “While women were shut out of most professions in the 19th century. They were permitted to be light keepers.” There were no gender wage gaps. A woman was once the highest paid light keeper.

Record breaking hurricanes in New Orleans often make national headlines. New Canal Lighthouse female keepers deserve the spotlight too. With five female keepers, New Canal may hold the record for the most female light keepers. Margaret Norvell who faithfully served for nearly 41 years is remembered for her valiant rescues.

[. . .] There isn’t anything unusual in a woman keeping a light in her window to guide men folk home, I just happen to keep a bigger light.” – Keeper Margaret Norvell

About the artist: Elaine Marie Austin is a professionally trained artist specializing in oil, pastel, charcoal, graphite and watercolor media. She states, “My love of lighthouses has changed the way I live and travel. When I am not traveling to a lighthouse, I am writing, researching or painting lighthouses. I’ve painted lighthouses in the United States, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.” For more information, visit elainemarieartist.com