Capital city depictions


July 09, 2008|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

Many downtown Annapolis galleries are taking not only a patriotic red, white and blue theme this month, but also a city one as part of the celebration this year of the 300th anniversary of the signing of Annapolis' royal charter.

About 20 members of the Annapolis Gallery Association are sponsoring open houses and special exhibitions from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. I was able to preview the event at McBride Gallery, 215 Main St., which is showing Annapolis: A Living History featuring 20 artists' works exploring 300 years of Annapolis history as well as scenes of the contemporary state capital.

"This exhibit is both to encourage the artists to paint this city they love, creating memories for future generations and to showcase the artists' view of what seemed beautiful and worth capturing," said gallery owner Cynthia McBride.

In addition, Howard Buffington will discuss the section of the trunk of the Liberty Tree displayed at the gallery; it stood for over 400 years on St. John's College campus. He'll speak and take questions for about 15 minutes at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. The tree was brought down by Hurricane Floyd in October 1999, and visible inside the wood at McBride Gallery is a darkened core where students put explosives in a hole in the tree to blow it up. Later the hole with filled with concrete, which preserved the core of the tree, preventing disease.

At McBride Gallery, artists exhibiting works include Eric Conklin, whose trompe l'oeil images truly fool our eyes in depictions of a silver coin owned by Annapolitan John Chalmer - the first in the United States - along with one of the campaign buttons made for George Washington.

Scott Cameron's oil painting The Steamer Annapolis is a record of naval history. The ship was built in 1889 and sailed through Annapolis until the 1930s.

Well-suited to Colonial Annapolis, Lee Boynton's oil Debating the Issue depicts two colonists discussing the country's future.

For some humor, we can revisit the father of our country in Eric Smith's pen and ink First Tourist, which transforms George Washington into a contemporary Annapolis tourist complete with sunglasses and Hawaiian shirt.

Bill Schmidt's Main Street Annapolis not only shows Annapolis as it is today but impressionistically captures the light and air.

Tim Bell's End of Day records several ships' tall sails against a rosy-golden sunset sky with their reflections in Monet-like ripples of water.

Linda Roberts' watercolor The Calvert House realistically depicts the building on State Circle complete with flying Maryland and American flags.

Also in the exhibit is an uncanny realistic representation of the scene looking north from McBride Gallery, a watercolor by Margaret Kranking called From McBride's Steps.

Among the artists expected at the reception will be: Boynton, Roberts, Conklin, Smith and Bruce Handford, who exhibits a watercolor Bicycling on Main that captures the light and charming essence of the area.

"Art by local artists, especially if the painting is a local scene, is sometimes dismissed as being 'local' or 'touristy' and somehow not an important work of art," said McBride. "But allow some time to pass - even 50 years - and that local art by a local artist is a cherished statement of how things really looked in Annapolis on Main Street."

She noted that skipjacks at City Dock were once thought to be taking up so much space that people with pleasure boats willing to pay mooring fees had no place to tie up their new clean boats: "Now we miss having those workboats at City Dock because they added character and reflected on the history of the watermen - their skipjacks, bugeyes and buyboats."

The current exhibit has paintings from the Colonial era through three centuries to Annapolis today. It would be easy to spend an hour here at McBride, but that might prevent seeing other examples of local crafts and fine art that Annapolis galleries offer at this annual patriotic celebration.

For further information on the exhibits call 410-626-1583 or visit for a list of participating galleries.

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