When you enter GulfQuest/National Maritime Museum, the first thing you see is often one of the most memorable. Titled “Above Mobile Bay,” this batik on silk is suspended 60 feet in the air and is the focal point of the Grand Lobby, welcoming visitors and creating a unique sense of place.
The soaring artwork mirrors a ship’s sail and consists of seven separately dyed panels sewn into three “sails” using the same seam sailors use to make a real sails work. Floating above the “America’s Sea” exhibit, the silk sails move subtly with air currents, draped in an arc shape to give the sense of a 3-masted sailing ship of long ago.
To create the masterpiece, artist Mary Edna Fraser flew in an ultra-light airplane above the Mobile Bay area and shot hundreds of photos of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Mobile Bay and the open Gulf of Mexico beyond. Utilizing Google Earth images and the aerial photographs she took, Fraser was able to depict an aerial landscape of Mobile Bay revealing the bays, rivers, marshlands, deltas, islands and peninsulas surrounding the museum with geographical accuracy, providing a visual context for experiencing the exhibits.
This was Fraser’s first time creating batik on silk in a triangular form, and the first time she seamed drapes vertically. Known for her large-scale artwork—having produced work for NOAA, NASA and the Smithsonian—Fraser was a natural fit for creating the GulfQuest batik. With expert precision, Fraser made sure the batik on silk would look perfect from every angle.
The installation of “Above Mobile Bay” was the final installation event before GulfQuest’s grand opening in September 2015.
CLICK HERE to read the AL.com article on the installation process.
"Shanghaied" sailors were sometimes drugged and abducted on board ships that were short-handed. Pacific-coast mariners dreaded Shanghai, China because it was so difficult to work a passage directly home. When we "shanghai" someone today, we take them from their planned activities.