Baltimore has been enveloped for weeks in a deep purple hue — figuratively at the very least, often literally — and this all-Ravens-all-the-time stimulation was bound to rub off on the arts community.
Local artists have been expressing their enthusiasm for the Ravens throughout the football season with freshly created works, including pop-up images on downtown streets and murals in private homes.
"It's pretty natural for artists to get excited about something going on in popular culture," said Jenny Carson, chair of the art history department at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Artists who tackle sports subjects do not necessarily get their rah-rahs out by doing portraits of popular athletes or incorporating team logos.
The famous boxing paintings of George Bellows in the early 20th century, for example, "were more motivated by the crowd reaction," Carson said. "Bellows would probably respond more to Ravens mania than the players."
But as the crowd-pleasing, critic-dismissing works of the late LeRoy Neiman and a few others demonstrate, there's a market for celebratory football-related art.
Just the fact that the Ravens secured a place in the New Orleans contest was enough to get Loring Cornish psyched.
He's the self-trained, Baltimore-born artist known for his use of found and recycled objects, especially glass (his Druid Hill home is encrusted in prismatic glass pieces). He jumped wholeheartedly into the spirit right after the Ravens clinched the AFC championship.
"How many times do you get this far in football," Cornish said, "where you're sitting on the edge of your seat and going, 'Oh my God, we won another game'? I just knew the team is deserving of this art. It is the least I could do. I wanted to make something shiny to reflect how big this is for the Ravens, and the way the city really believes in this team."
Cornish placed bits of hand-cut glass on pressed wood to create a work measuring about 7 by 3 feet. The glass, some reflective and some painted, reveals a symbolic football field with multicolored yard lines.
"The championship represented a national win for us, so I used colors of teams we beat," the artist said.
Protruding from one corner is a full-sized, football-shaped object covered in silvery mirrored glass. (The artist said he would keep people guessing whether an actual pigskin is encased.) At the diagonally opposite corner, the "S" in Ravens also rises from the surface, larger than the other letters — "The 'S' is huge because of the Super Bowl, of course," Cornish said with a laugh.
An emblazoned Ravens logo at the top of the work completes the bright, celebratory piece, which Cornish finished after about 100 hours of work. His title for it: "Ravens Bringing Sunshine to Maryland."
"How could you not have a big piece of art for this spectacular event?" Cornish said.
The artist also produced an equally large work fashioned from dozens of old sneakers. "I wanted to do a piece about the fans of Baltimore and how we support our teams," he said.
It takes a long second look at this work, called "Fans Coming to the Game," to notice that some of the shoes have been arranged to spell out "Ravens."
Among the rich assortment of art objects in Cornish's Fells Point gallery is a massive glass work celebrating the Orioles that he made a few years ago. Friends and customers have asked when he was going to give a nod to the football team, too, and this season turned out to be the right time.
The gallery's location also provided motivation.
"They might as well call this Ravens Point," Cornish said. "It's a mecca for Ravens madness. When a game is on, it looks like a ghost town around here. Then, after the game, people spill into the streets. It's going to be crazy here for the Super Bowl."
It's going to be crazy in a lot of private homes in the area, too, as the game is played. But most people will not be quite as thoroughly surrounded with a Ravens ambience as those gathering to watch the broadcast in the basement at the home of loan officer Ken Davis in Millersville.