For centuries, ships of all sizes have crisscrossed the oceans, eventually connecting everyone in the world. In Benicia, we have our own unique shipping lanes: tiny portholes and narrow passageways between houses or trees, through car windows, at the end of hallways and beneath sheltering canopies – where we glimpse massive oil tankers and car carriers passing though the Carquinez Strait. Like an hourglass, their glacial march across the frame charts our own unique passage of time in Benicia, reminding us of past maritime traditions and our modern connection to Japan, China and the rest of the world.

About the work

In John Beck‘s new Shipping Lanes exhibit at the Benicia Library (opening reception 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, November 9), video screens mounted around the room will focus on various ships passing across the screen. Some are filmed from the same location at different intervals, others seemingly unrelated. Some, like ghost ships, unexplainably disappear while passing. Others slide by in slow motion. Filmed over the past three years, each video art installation will loop just like the ships that pass through the Carquinez Strait day and night.

About the artist

Benicia resident John Beck is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. Covering everything from Elvis impersonators who undergo plastic surgery to secret family gumbo recipes, his feature stories for newspapers and magazines have won several national awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors. His feature-length films – whether following an all-female grape-picking crew (Harvest – 2012) or Trappist monks trying to revive winemaking traditions (The Monks of Vina – 2014) or children growing up with parents in prison (Invisible Bars – 2019) – have aired on PBS stations nationally and at film festivals around the world. When he’s not working, Beck enjoys coaching his son and daughter’s soccer teams, kayaking the Carquinez Strait and walking around town with a camera. See more at


For more information, please view the exhibit trailer at:


Except for the artist photo, all images are still frames taken from video installations, they are not original photographs.