Our most recent exhibition, Dazzle & Drab was a dramatic presentation of ocean liners during wartime. It was held at the Water Street Gallery at the Seamen’s Church Institute (241 Water Street, NY).
Almost immediately after Labor Day, the great load-in began. Curator Wayne Mazzotta and our dedicated corps of Ocean Liner Museum volunteers set about the painstaking task of unpacking, assembling and mounting every facet of the exhibition. Paintings, photographs, photo murals, models large and small, artifacts, mementoes and three-dimensional pieces were assembled, hung and organized into the correct chronological sequence.
Three of the most eagerly anticipated Dazzle & Drab components were three large ocean liner models from land-locked Minnesota, the work of amiable and talented Tim Leagjeld. He fabricated large models made of Styrofoam and paper and then painted them exquisitely. Finding ocean liner models that can be adorned with dazzle or gray paint for exhibition was not easy; understandably, owners are not anxious to have their precious ship models painted in wartime livery for one-time use.
Enter the extraordinary Mr. Leagjeld. By one of those incredibly fortuitous coincidences, Tim
submitted a photograph of his 12-foot Titanic model some months ago, posed afloat in a body of water near his house. (It weighs a total of 15 pounds!) Your Editor published that photograph on the back page of a recent Gazette and, in thanking Tim Leagjeld, inquired if he might possibly consider undertaking three models specifically for Dazzle & Drab. His response was instantaneous and exhilarating: Not only would he undertake the commission but he would accept no payment whatsoever, (italics mine). That kind of enthusiasm and generosity is incredibly heartening and very much appreciated.
The three models Leagjeld created were dazzle-painted Olympic, France II as a hospital ship and Queen Mary in a coat of gray.
All were to scale and were given a beautifully life-like and realistic look, occasionally streaked with rust.
The same three models were commemorated in another device especially created for the exhibition. It is the conception and invention of your Editor, housed in a case built by Michael Jedd. The models, sculpted by Maxtone-Graham, were beautifully painted by Wayne Mazzotta; Wayne also perfected the scenic effects of sky as well as the ocean groundrow.
A legend attached to the front of the free-standing box reads as follows: “WHAT THE GERMAN U-BOAT SKIPPER SAW OR THOUGHT HE SAW.” The box was free-standing and has on its front surface a large wheel as well as a padded viewing port, rather like the eyepiece of a submarine’s periscope.
That exterior wheel was shafted to an interior wheel which had, around its circumference, three models (Olympic, France II and Queen Mary) repeated twice, a total of six miniature profiles. The first shows the vessel’s peacetime profile at sea and the second, summoned into the “periscope” viewing port by cranking the outer wheel clockwise, brings into sight the same ocean liner disguised for war. The point is to demonstrate the efficacy of dazzle-paint as well as gray, to see how the same ship, camouflaged rather than in peacetime livery, tends to disappear, subject to the same sea and light conditions.
The only thing this invention lacked was an appropriate name! Suggestions were welcomed from those
who have caught a glimpse of it. To your Editor’s knowledge, it is the only device of its kind in the world, designed to evaluate the effects of wartime camouflage. Of course, France II painted as a hospital ship can scarcely be described as camouflage but it is at least the appearance several ocean liners were obliged to adopt during World War I.
The exhibit ended February 28th, 2002.