Historic Heroine to Guard Annapolis Gateway
For ArtWalk’s latest installation, a revolutionary mural
previewed by Carrie Madren
It’s money that makes a bank prosper, and long ago, making that money was prosperous colonial dame Anne Catharine Green. She printed the currency that pre-Revolutionary Annapolitans bought, sold and lived on. So it’s fitting that her portrait and ideals of freedom of the press should adorn the new Severn Savings Bank on Westgate Circle.
The pair of paintings honoring Green makes the third of six mural sets in ArtWalk, the outdoors, public-art exhibit rising for the three years of the Annapolis Charter 300 celebration. They are the first by Sally Wern Comport, the project’s artistic director, who has adapted to the project the style of self-taught portraitists who flourished in our young, raw country. The larger, an 11-by-six-foot portrait of Green, presents a bonneted, serious woman gazing flatly at an oversized, yellow, printed dollar she holds in one upright hand. In the other, she holds a copy of the Maryland Gazette. She is framed by the filigree and plumes still printed on today’s bills.
In the second six-by-nine-foot work, a printer wrenches the press with all his might. He holds above his head an already inked page billowing into blue skies. State House and buildings of old Annapolis surround him as the number 300 to represent our Charter 300 celebration detailed like on a modern money, frames the top.
Comport painted Green’s portrait with historically correct details because, she says, this is “a town full of historians.” The printer is symbolic rather than accurate to history or the techniques of his job.
Comport designed her murals in a poster-style with colorful, well-defined images quick to catch the eye because of their busy street-side location and elevated position.
“I was looking for gateways into Annapolis, and this was a brand new building,” says Comport of her choice of location for a project that “fell into place in a way it would make sense on the bank building.” Severn chairman and president Alan Hyatt welcomed the art addition, she says.
Green was one of the first publishers of the Gazette newspaper. Before the Revolution, she worked beside her husband, Jonas Green, who apprenticed with Benjamin Franklin. Like Franklin, Green had revolutionary ideas and was credited with printing broadsides urging resistance to the Stamp Act. As a widow, Green revived the failing business and persuaded the state legislature to make her official printer of the provincial note, the currency of the time. She also won the state printing contract.
Comport credits Green with changing history as well as making money. She “was one of the people that helped fuel discussion about the Revolution in the 1770s, at a time when people weren’t allowed to have resistance to British government,” Comport says.
Comport claims another reason for painting Anne Catharine Green: honoring “women’s roles in creating the modern day liberties that we have now.” It’s that spirit of independence Comport hoped to convey. “As I discovered her, I discovered if any artist were to cover women’s issues, it would be me,” says Comport. “I’m the only woman artist in project.”
Her gateway art, she hopes, gives us a sense of “what was created by these people forging the liberty that we have now.”
Catch the official unveiling celebration of Comport’s works at 5pm Oct. 3, at the Severn Savings Bank building. Stay updated on ArtWalk at its new website: www.artatlargeartwalk.com.