Artist un­veils Har­riet Tub­man bust for state OK

Dorchester Star - - What’s Up - By SARAH DRURY sdrury@ches­pub.com

EAS­TON — Artist Bren­dan Thorpe O’Neill re­cently un­veiled the clay bust of Har­riet Tub­man for ap­proval by state of­fi­cials at the Troika Gallery in Eas­ton.

O’Neill spent about six to eight months craft­ing a clay bust of Har­riet Tub­man for the new Har­riet Tub­man Vis­i­tor’s Cen­ter that is be­ing built in Dorch­ester County. The grand open­ing of the new cen­ter is slated for March 2017.

The theme of the vis­i­tor’s cen­ter is “the view north,” which is re­lated to the jour­ney north that the en­slaved peo­ple took to es­cape to free­dom in the 1800s. The lo­ca­tion of the build­ing, as well as all of the ex­hibits will tie into this theme. The Har­riet Tub­man bust will specif­i­cally be po­si­tioned to face north, for the pur­pose of the theme.

“This bust is mod­eled af­ter pho­to­graphs of her in her 60s,” O’Neill said. “But the bust is a younger ver­sion of her.”

The ex­hibits will touch on three main themes — the Chop­tank area and Har­riet Tub­man’s fam­ily, com­mu­nity, and faith; the Un­der­ground Rail­road as a na­tional re­sis­tance move­ment; and how Har­riet Tub­man is still rel­e­vant to­day.

With the bust ap­proved by mem­bers of the Mary­land State Park Ser­vice, O’Neill’s next step was to trans­port it to the New Arts Foundry in Bal­ti­more to have it bronzed. The bronzed ver­sion would be the one to ul­ti­mately stand in the vis­i­tor’s cen­ter.

The bust merely shows Har­riet Tub­man from the top of the chest and up. O’Neill de­cided to keep her hair in a bun, tied with a strand of rope. A scarf was wrapped around her neck and the back of her shirt ex­posed a few scars from whip­pings she en­dured when she was en­slaved. There was also a chain on the back of the bust to al­lude to her be­ing a slave.

“I wanted to por­tray her strength,” O’Neill said.

He also said he de­cided that it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate to have her scarf around her head.

“I wanted the scarf to be loose and nat­u­ral, not tight around her neck,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill has been a por­trait sculp­tor since 1980 and he had another bust of Har­riet Tub­man that was ac­cepted into the Mary­land State Archives and dis­played at the State of Mary­land Gov­ern­ment House in An­napo­lis. He stud­ied at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity and Cor­co­ran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The bust will be placed in the lobby of the vis­i­tor’s cen­ter and O’Neill said he wanted it to stand at her ex­act height. The bust will be placed on a red cedar log base which is sup­posed to re­late to the work she used to do with her fa­ther as a child. The fin­ished sculp­ture will be of­fi­cially un­veiled when the cen­ter has its grand open­ing.

The com­plex will also fea­ture 3/4-mile in walk­ing paths and a 2,600-square-foot out­door pav­il­ion, com­plete with fire­place, which will be avail­able for rental for fam­ily reunions and other events. Also sit­u­ated on the land will be of­fices for the Mary­land Park Ser­vice, the Na­tional Park Ser­vice’s Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Park and the Net­work to Free­dom na­tional head­quar­ters.

PHOTO BY SARAH DRURY

From left to right (front row): O’Neill’s wife, Bren­dan O’Neill, State of Mary­land Park Man­ager Dana Paterra and State of Mary­land Park Ranger An­gela Cren­shaw. From left to right (back row): Eas­ton Busi­ness Al­liance Town Man­ager Ross Ben­in­casa, Troika Gallery Owner Laura Era, Troika Gallery Man­ager Peg Fitzger­ald and Jor­dan Lo­ran of the Dept. of Nat­u­ral Re­sources. The Har­riet Tub­man clay bust was un­veiled at the Troika Gallery on Wed­nes­day, Sept. 21.

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