Fans line up for end of an Annapolis art era

Some wait a day to get artist's final city poster

October 06, 2003|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

Like other Navy wives, Kristin Factor catalogues the passing years by her family's base postings.

Between 1997 and 1999, she and her husband, Lt. Douglas Factor, lived in San Diego. In 2000, Newport, R.I. was home. Norfolk, Va., in 2001 and last year, and this year, Corpus Christi, Texas.

No matter where she lived, come each October for the past seven years, Factor has boarded a plane, bound for the Annapolis gallery of artist Nancy Hammond.

"The images help keep me less homesick," said Factor, 34, a native of Upper Marlboro, who waited in line 24 hours to purchase Hammond's latest limited-edition poster.

Factor is the kind of fan any artist craves. And Hammond, a lively mixed-media artist, inspires uncommon loyalty.

Most of the seven years that she has been producing her annual Annapolis-themed posters, fans have lined up to buy them hours before they go on sale, often sight unseen. Yesterday marked the last year Hammond will sell the posters from her snug clapboard storefront on State Circle, and more than 130 people lined up before dawn for the chance to purchase one for $45. Hammond greeted the crowd with waves and joy.

"I like to think it's about the art, but I also think it's about the love of a small town," Hammond said.

By day's end, fewer than 200 of the 500 posters were left.

The day officially began at 10 a.m., as buyers far back in the line hustled to stow their chairs to wait another two hours to get inside.

The gallery, wedged between Harry Browne's restaurant and the Governor Calvert House on State Circle, filled quickly as the first wave of buyers swept past the note cards, printed trays, silkscreened T-shirts and ties to snatch up the posters.

Jeff Lancaster, 40, the first in line, was back on the sidewalk within minutes, clutching two gold mailing tubes. As the 500 posters dwindled, the price crept upward.

When Don Kinney stepped to the end of the line about 9:40 a.m., on a quick mission for his wife, he found himself two and a half blocks and 135 people from the front of the line.

"My wife told me to come," said Kinney, 76. "She was hoping to get one for her granddaughter and herself," for $45.

But, rubbing his hands to stay warm, Kinney, an Air Force programmer from New Bedford, Mass., realized his place in line would dictate how many posters he bought.

"I think the second 50 posters go for $75 apiece," he added, "so we'll see."

Hammond's lithographs, signed and numbered 1 to 500, began as paper collages depicting scenes of boating and Colonial history of Maryland's capital.

Last year's poster paid tribute to the city's past in the image of a Georgian mansion that once belonged to William Paca, a wealthy local planter and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

This year's poster, Eventide, captures a captain's view as a sailboat heads through the main harbor toward the Sky Creek Bridge. Boaters barbecue off the sterns of their sloops, silhouetted against a coral and Wedgwood blue sky.

Tess Moran, 9, borrowed an expression coined by her grandmother to describe the color of twilight skies over Annapolis.

"Sky-blue pink," said Tess, who camped on State Circle with her parents to be among the first to purchase Hammond's latest work. "It's like when the sun sets, and it's almost down and the sky is all pinky."

The colors are the reason Frank Donaldson, 57, earmarked the 2004 poster for his master bedroom. "She reflects our taste, and we basically decorated our house around the colors of her art," said Donaldson, who arrived at 5:15 a.m. Saturday and was second in line. "They sort of set the tone for each room in our house."

Hammond, who lives in rural Centreville, plans to start a second series of posters next year based on the Eastern Shore.

When the Annapolis shop closes Dec. 31, she hopes aficionados will turn to her Web site to make their purchases online.

"We've been studying the Harry Potter marketing. We were thinking of [sending] the posters out to those who purchase them first so they arrive on the date of release, all gift wrapped like a present," she said.

Lancaster said he will miss the short-lived Annapolis tradition.

When he stepped outside with the first poster, the first thing he did was trade a second poster with a man who wanted a low number. Then he and Donaldson exchanged telephone numbers.

Trading series numbers and camping next to the State House with new friends are all part of the appeal of buying Hammond's work, Lancaster said.

"It's interesting," he said, "you never see her art on eBay. I've looked."

And, true enough, none of Hammond's works was listed on the online marketplace.

"It means that they are closely held," Donaldson said. "It means people who buy her art love her art."

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