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His Is a 1st-Class Piece of Artwork

June 10, 1998|STEVE CARNEY

The work of Newport Beach artist Larry Taugher has appeared in galleries and in advertising for everything from Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe to IBM. But a copy of what he calls his most satisfying work will set you back only 32 cents.

Taugher was one of three artists worldwide chosen to design stamps commemorating the United Nations' International Year of the Ocean.

The U.N. so designated 1998 to "raise awareness of the oceans and coastal areas as finite economic assets," promote global scientific cooperation and bring ocean issues to the attention of decision-makers and the public, according to U.N. literature.

"If I want to do art, I might as well get involved in something that's worthwhile like that. It feels good," said Taugher, 41, an avid windsurfer who has lived in Newport Beach off and on for 15 years.

He made wildlife pictures even before his art-school days at Ohio University and has an abiding concern for environmental issues, including dying tropical reefs and threatened rain forests--where many of his subjects reside.

The sheet of 12 U.N. stamps features pelicans, whales, manatees, seals and a scuba diver swimming among them. Pictured on the shore in the background are radio telescopes and an observatory.

"They wanted some sort of benign signs of human beings, not gushing, polluting, big old smokestacks," Taugher said of his broad instructions from the U.N.

"They're basically promoting the idea [that] humans should be able to get along with the environment in a good, positive way, and hopefully achieve some kind of balance."

The airbrushed acrylic painting took about three weeks to finish, he said. And though the commission paid $5,000, Taugher said the prestige means even more.

"Doing something for the U.N. is just such a kick. Of all the jobs I've done, this has really excited me the most," he said. "This is worldwide. I don't think I'll be able to top that."

The stamps are valid only for mail posted at U.N. Headquarters in New York City. And though he's seen the full sheet of stamps, he hadn't seen any of them individually, in use. Then a recent letter to him from the U.N. bore a postmarked stamp depicting a sea turtle.

"I looked at it, and it didn't really register at first," he said. " 'Oh, that's a cool stamp. . . . Oh! That's mine.' "

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