By Mike Giuliano
9:10 PM EDT, October 30, 2012
The exhibit "Two Windows on the World" at the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House is true to its title, because Dennis Gilbert and Elizabeth N. Galloway are very different artists. Gilbert takes photographs of various subjects that often are digitally altered; Galloway depicts still-life subject matter in pastels and oil paintings.
A Columbia resident, Gilbert sometimes does not have to go far for his photographic subjects.
"People Tree in Clouds" features that familiar downtown lakefront sculpture. Less familiar might be the angle from which he shoots it, because Gilbert only shows the top portion of it. This calls your attention to the cloudy sky behind the numerous sculptural figures that themselves push out into the sky.
He has a second photo of the same iconic sculpture, "People Tree at Dusk," which has it backed by a reddish sky. He also has pulled back far enough to show a few trees located near the sculpture. The effect is to make the sculpture seem connected to the landscape as well as to the sky above and behind it.
Another local-themed photo, "Bench in Sunlight," is a calm depiction of a bench in Centennial Park. The sun hits the bench's wood seat with such force that it truly seems like a warm place to sit. One reason why your thoughts rest on this unpeopled scene is that the bench is the center of attention and the backing greenery is deliberately blurry.
In another park scene, "Path in Winter, Columbia, MD," he shows a snow-covered bench near a winding path that has been cleared of snow. Except for that path and a lake in the background, everything else in the landscape is so completely blanketed with snow that it seems like winter has settled in here.
Gilbert has a variety of other landscape and human subjects in his half of the exhibit.
He often shows a preference for silhouetted objects or people appearing much as they might either at dawn or dusk. In "Tree," a large old tree is lit in such a way that you follow its many branches and yet don't see much detail. Consequently, you find yourself thinking about the basic form of that tree set against a big sky.
A silhouetted human figure in "Watching" is set against an assertively orange background.
This tendency to present outlined figures set against either pure color or all-white backgrounds is taken to an even greater extreme in digitally altered photos showing small groups of people and pets reduced to their essential forms against all-white backgrounds. In "Walking with a Friend," for instance, a woman and dog are outlined dark forms that capture the essence of something as primal as taking the dog for a walk.
An Ellicott City resident, Elizabeth N. Galloway works variations on traditional still-life subject matter.
In the oil painting "Lovely Lemons," for example, she's thinking about what she can do with patterning, texture and other compositional elements. A floral pattern on a bowl makes it a delicate contrast to the rough wood shelf on which it stands. Besides there being lemons placed inside the bowl, two lemons sit atop a blue-and-white towel resting on that shelf; indeed, if it weren't for these two anchoring lemons, the already-dangling towel might drop off the side of the shelf.
In the oil painting "Three Gray Jugs," her composition involves three different-sized jugs resting on a window sill. The artist is, er, juggling with the compositional issue of how to make the jugs harmoniously nestle together; and also with how to modulate tones of gray, brown and blue within a painting that has a rustic mood.
She tackles subject matter of a literary sort in the oil painting "The Sun Also Rises," whose still-life components include an antique lace cloth on the tabletop, a woman's glove and jewelry, a small carving of an elephant, and a copy of the Hemingway novel that gives this painting its title. It's also worth noting that in this painting and others, the artist favors a black background that keeps our attention on the objects resting on a table in the foreground.
Additional subjects presented in a convincingly realistic way include flowers, duck decoys, oranges, apples, sea shells and even a deer skull. Isolated on a flat surface and backed by blackness, such objects invite your contemplation.
Dennis Gilbert and Elizabeth N. Galloway exhibit through Nov. 10 at Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane, in Columbia. Call 410-730-3987.