By Mike Giuliano
4:35 PM EDT, August 1, 2012
Sunburst Studio's group exhibit "Watercolor Visions 2012" fills the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House with a variety of subjects, but most of them involve nature in some way. All of the fruit, flowers and landscapes make for a cheerful show.
The simplest approach sometimes proves to be the best in conveying the essence of natural subjects. Melodee Yates' "Just Apples," for instance, is a still-life arrangement containing three intact red apples and a fourth apple with a slice cut out to expose the pure white interior.
Even more basic in its presentation is Becky Bogdan's "Springtime," depicting a single daffodil against a plain white background. Only slightly more detailed is Georgie Haykin's "Sign of Spring," an aptly tiny watercolor featuring two purple crocus, a patch of brown earth around them and a yellow sky behind them.
Whatever the season, the artists in this exhibit are sensitive to revelatory natural details. Joan Baccala's "Spring Snowballs" depicts a bush whose purple and white blossoms are bright announcements of that season. Moving further into the year, Susan Donoughe's "First to Fall" calls your attention to several oak leaves that have turned yellow and brown on a tree whose leaves otherwise are completely green.
Tam Dyer pulls up close to something in nature for "In the Woods," which is a closely cropped picture of mushrooms growing in a tree hollow. Watercolor is a medium that's well-suited for the subdued browns deployed for the mushrooms and the shades of gray for the tree trunk.
Stephanie Porta pulls back for a wider forest view in "Birches." This watercolor has a strong sense of compositional order, because those birch trees essentially are a series of white poles spaced at orderly intervals. The green tones used for the birch tree leaves and plants on the forest floor are color accents that remain subordinate to those stringently vertical tree trunks.
Pulling even further back for a truly panoramic view is Janet Freeman, whose "Northern Exposure" has tall conifers in the foreground and purple-tinged mountains in the background. The attributes of the watercolor medium facilitate the melting yellow, orange and green tones used for the landscape in the middle distance.
Although nature seems to be everywhere in this show, there are a few portraits. Pam Jones' "Juan the Potter" features a grizzled face that has done some living. Introducing an element of narrative to the depicted human subjects, Joyce Bell's amusing "Lobby Lullaby" features a casually dressed, middle-aged couple asleep in a theater lobby. Who knows what they paid for their tickets, but they surely feel that such a deep sleep is a priceless experience.
If that couple is asleep, the cats in this show remain alert. Nancy Halladay's "Three Cats" depicts three black cats on an outdoor wood seat. They may be at rest, but their attentive eyes are looking your way. Similarly, Linda Armstrong's "Sparkle and Plenty" is a tightly cropped composition in which a brown and white cat is prone and yet has its eyes trained on the viewer.
The built environment gets its due in a few watercolors in the show. Stella McDonnell's "Baltimore Run" is a straightforward presentation of a tugboat in the harbor. The artist restricts herself to near-monochromatic blue and gray tones not only for the boat, but for the water and also for buildings glimpsed in the background.
Venturing far from Baltimore, Nancy Halladay's "Capri, Italy" presents narrow stone steps leading up to an iron gate that underscores the sense that you won't get any closer to an old private residence.
Barbara Capella's "Dingle, Ireland" offers a broader view of modest houses lined up along a stream. Some of the houses have exposed stone facades and others are assertively painted, so you can appreciate both the Irish architecture and also this artist's eagerness to explore a spectrum of colors.
The Sunburst Studio exhibit runs through Aug. 10 at the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Wilde Lake Village Center in Columbia. Call 410-730-3987 or go to http://www.wildelake.org.