Contacts:   Virginia Gold Ocean Liner Museum
(917) 821-5359
Debra Wagner
Seamen's Church Institute
(212) 349-9090 ext. 249

First Time Exhibition Features Luxury Ships Outfitted for War

NEW YORK, NY - - Ocean liners, the favored transport chosen by the military to carry troops overseas, will highlight DAZZLE & DRAB, the first exhibition ever to chronicle the vital wartime roles these customarily luxurious vessels performed. A joint presentation of The Ocean Liner Museum and The Seamen's Church Institute, the exhibition documents the use of the ocean liners converted to troop carriers, hospital ships and armed merchant cruisers during hostilities. DAZZLE & DRAB: Ocean Liners At War includes rare ship models, vivid paintings, archival photographs, historical posters, illuminating videos and a variety of three-dimensional nautical artifacts that illustrate the dramatic but indispensable role that passenger liners played during wartime in the 20th century.

     DAZZLE & DRAB opens to the public on Sunday, November 11, 2001 at The Seamen's Church Institute Water Street Gallery.

     "The ocean liner served as an indisputable means of transporting regiments overseas," said John Maxtone-Graham, president of the Ocean Liner Museum, maritime historian and lecturer at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and author of The Only Way to Cross. "These ships made a striking contribution to the wars of the 20th century. But these soldier/passengers' experiences bore no resemblance whatsoever to the luxurious civilian ambiance they had displaced." During World War I, an experimental scheme of camouflage was employed to mislead enemy commanders as to the identity and course of Allied ships. Perfected for Britain's Admiralty by marine artist Norman Wilkinson, this elaborate cosmetic treatment was christened "dazzle paint." Hull, superstructure, lifeboats and funnels were painted to formula in startling, multi-colored overlays of triangles, diamonds, stripes and arbitrary design whimsies, what later generations would come to call "op art." New York artist Kim Keever, whose work includes hard-edged abstractionist paintings that use vibrant colors to form abstract shapes, said this effect confuses the eye. "It's similar to zebra herds when they run together on the African plains. They affect the accuracy of predators trying to single out specific targets," noted Mr. Keever, whose paintings are part of permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hence the DAZZLE of the exhibition's title.

     But in practice, dazzle painting proved expensive, time-consuming and, some suggested, ineffectual. So during the second World War, and with the development of radar, ocean liners were merely disguised beneath an enveloping coat of "drab" gray paint. Thus World War II's corollary of DRAB rather than DAZZLE.

     The exhibition, which appeals to both ship and military aficionados alike, opens at the Seaman's Church Institute Water Street Gallery, located at 241 Water Street, a few doors north of Fulton Street. There is a $5 suggested donation from visitors to the gallery, which is used to maintain pieces in the maritime art collection and to support future exhibits. The exhibition continues until January 2002.


THE OCEAN LINER MUSEUM, the only institution of its kind in the world, is devoted exclusively to the history and preservation of passenger vessels. Founded in 1981, the Ocean Liner Museum finds, preserves and displays memorabilia, ephemera and artifacts from a vanished past. The OLM sponsors exhibitions, collectibles bazaars, lectures, films, Sunday at Sea gatherings and members' cruises. It's most recent exhibition, in 1999, at Manhattan's Federal Courthouse was Blue Ribband: The Quest for Speed Across The Atlantic.

THE SEAMEN'S CHURCH INSTITUTE OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY advances the personal, professional, and spiritual well being of merchant mariners worldwide. Through its Center for Maritime Education, Center for Seafarers' Rights, and Center for Seafarers' Services, the Institute promotes safety, dignity, and improved working and living conditions for the men and women serving in the maritime workplace. Founded in 1834, the Institute is a voluntary, ecumenical agency affiliated with the Episcopal Church.

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