Jul 11

Land and Sea, Then and Now: New Art at the Navy Yard

by: Laura Kochman

South Philadelphia’s Navy Yard has a long history—this city is the birthplace of the United States Navy, and the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, the location of the current Navy Yard, was in use from 1876 to 1996. That’s 120 years of shipbuilding! In recent years, the Navy Yard landscape has evolved to incorporate different generations of businesses and their employees, from new corporate offices and R&D facilities to longstanding naval and shipbuilding companies.

We’ve teamed with PIDC to commission artists Nate Harris and Miriam Singer to create artwork around this historic space. Nate has created four bright, narrative, shape-based installations, while Miriam has crafted a large-scale collage that will serve as the new graphic identity for the Navy Yard, across business cards, stationary, signs, van wraps, and mugs. We’ll unveil work by both artists on July 12, so we chatted with Nate and Miriam to get a sense of their process.

Miriam: I drew from looking at the Navy Yard—I went there on different trips to draw and take photos, and collected all that imagery into these drawings. I had a collagist approach, so I’d put buildings on top of maps. Instead of doing any Photoshop, it’s all within the piece of paper, my hand moving things around and changing colors. Collage has meaning for me—the layers of history of a place, of paper, of covering and building up, and taking away.

The New Navy Yard Graphic Identity 

  • Detail of collage by Miriam Singer, for the Navy Yard.

  • Detail of collage by Miriam Singer, for the Navy Yard.

  • Collage by Miriam Singer, for the Navy Yard.

Nate: I wanted to approach each piece differently, so that it would be refreshing to view each one, and to be sensitive to the environment and how people might interact with the spaces. And it was a chance for me to work with new mediums—like fabric, screen printing, all the sewing. That was a learning curve for me. I also don’t do a lot of pattern-based or abstract work, so this was a chance to do something new to me.

Miriam: My work is an abstract impression of the Navy Yard. I’m working from a romantic idea of just going to a place and drawing. It’s fictional, though—things are not located where they’re supposed to be, and you can’t find your way from the maps in my drawings.

Nate: Each installation is loosely based on nautical themes. Sails at Crescent Park was created because the structures there reminded me of ship masts…Dazzle Wall is based on dazzle patterns painted on ships in World War I, to camouflage them by scattering light. Each pattern is unique and massive. This mural is loosely based on the patterns of those ships—stark, black and white, geometric.

Installations Around the Navy Yard 

  • Banner artwork by Nate Harris at the Navy Yard. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Banner artwork by Nate Harris at the Navy Yard. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Amphitheater stair artwork by Nate Harris. Photo by Steve Weinik.

  • Dazzle camouflage inspired mural by Nate Harris. Photo by Steve Weinik

Miriam: Through this project, I also learned that the Navy Yard is a great place to come and have fun, and work, and just enjoy yourself. Even if you work there, you can go to Central Green for racquetball—there are beer gardens, there are races, there are lunch trucks, and that was really exciting for me, because I now think of it as a great place to go, too.

Last updated: Jul 11, 2017

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