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Volume 15, Issue 27 ~ July 5 - July 11, 2007

On Exhibit

ArtWalk: A Second Mural Embarks

Ships sail to the Naval Academy Gate

reviewed by Carrie Madren

The large-scale painting John Paul Jones’ Ranger, by Greg Harlin, became ArtWalk’s second of 13 large murals to be hung at six downtown Annapolis sites

In a fitting salute to Annapolis’s Naval history, a mural of stately Revolutionary War ships began a three-year residency at the Naval Academy this week. The large-scale painting John Paul Jones’ Ranger, by Greg Harlin, became ArtWalk’s second of 13 large murals to be hung at six downtown Annapolis sites for the Charter 300 celebration.

We saw the first ArtWalk piece — painter Sy Mohr’s colorful collage of downtown Annapolis — installed on the Harbormaster building in May. Now, situated at the new Craig Street public walk-in entrance — behind the Harbormaster’s building at City Dock — Harlin’s very different, super-realistic 16-foot-wide-by-7.5-feet-tall image welcomes Naval Academy visitors traveling by foot.

“People are drawn to this dramatic artwork,” says Sally Wern Comport, ArtWalk’s artistic director.

Annapolitan Harlin, who has artwork featured in National Geographic and Smithsonian, is a 12-year friend of Comport. Historic artist Harlin was a natural for the Naval Academy mural.

Comport and Harlin chose his daunting scene of Ranger firing on a British ship, shown in the foreground. Sails and an early American flag billow. Silhouetted sailors hang on rigging and man cannons. Furious, choppy waves and tumultuous skies set mood.

The painting suits its station at the Naval Academy gate. John Paul Jones — known as the Father of the American Navy — commanded Ranger, an 18-gun frigate, in the Revolutionary War. Off the coast of Ireland, Ranger defeated the British ship Drake, a notable advancement in early America’s naval success.

Harlin painted Ranger in 2004, long before he knew it would be part of ArtWalk. In preparation for ArtWalk, Harlin researched at the Naval Academy’s naval history museum to make his ships historically accurate.

He then added a few brushstrokes to complete the work before Comport and her brother Steve Wern, made the enlarged mural.

“I don’t know what the Ranger looked like, but I took pictures of historic models of that type of ship from that time period and painted from those pictures,” he says. His original watercolor measures 10 by 20 inches, and remains at his home. Harlin says he would be glad to sell it.

“I was shocked when I came out to see what it looked like on the wall,” Harlin told Bay Weekly, though he was pleased with the reproduction. He worried which details would stand out at such a large size, he says. “I feel like I’m viewing someone else’s art,” he adds.

The giant murals, made by Art at Large with new technology to endure harsh weather without fading, was sponsored in large part by Loews Hotel, in addition to funds from Art Walk’s $70,000 grant from the Art in Public Places Commission.

“When I first mentioned the site, which is on federal government property,” said Comport, “people said we’d never get it on the walls here. But what we found was a very gracious and efficient process to get this art on the Naval Academy wall.”

It’s one more tie that binds the Naval Academy to the surrounding Annapolis community.

“We’re proud to display this dramatic piece of public art,” said the Naval Academy’s Capt. Mike Fierro. “Public art is important part of the city, adding to the character and heritage.”

Next, we’ll see enlarged photographs by the late Bay photographer Marion Warren, at parking lot of Stan and Joe’s Saloon, formerly Sean Donlon’s, off West Street during first week in August.

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