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Slayton House exhibit showcases Columbia photographer Oberman's work

When you look at the photographs taken by Michael Oberman around Wilde Lake and Lake Kittamaqundi, you can't be blamed for thinking you're out in the wilderness rather than in the center of Columbia. His exhibit at the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House emphasizes the birds that call these lakes home.

Oberman sets the scene in the photo simply titled "Wilde Lake," in which there are birds in the water in the foreground and houses along both shores in the background. The intensely blue sky is characteristic of the deeply saturated colors found throughout the photos in this show.

The birds in "Wilde Lake" are relatively small within the overall composition, but most of the other photos are close-ups that allow you to focus on their bright feathers and equally assertive feeding habits.

"Born at Wilde Lake" shows three baby birds that look very hungry. Other shots make it clear how dinner is served around here. In "Green Heron Pigs Out," "Osprey Bringing Home the Prize" and "Osprey Pleased, Fish Not," you see birds clutching fish that are well on their way to becoming a meal.

Such birds depend so much on fishing that you can understand the frustration presumably felt by the subject of "Hawk Goes Ice Fishing," in which that hawk looks down tentatively as its claws skid across the surface of a frozen lake.

Besides these action shots of birds known for their hunting habits, the exhibit includes gentler shots of these same species in repose. There also are shots of smaller and more peaceful species, such as the "American Goldfinch" whose shimmering gold body is shown to advantage against a fuzzy green background.

It may seem as if there are birds in almost every photo, but there are some photos in which your attention is called to the built environment.

"Kittamaqundi" and "Thank you Frank Gehry" both focus on the lakeside headquarters building that famed architect Frank Gehry designed for the Rouse Company, Columbia's developer.

Other photos venture away from Columbia. In "Ode to Philip Marlowe ... Ellicott City," the unpeopled interior of an old room features such film noir-appropriate attributes as Venetian blinds on the windows and an ominously greenish glow surrounding a ceiling light fixture.

At first glance, this particular photo does not seem to fit in with the nature-themed images filling most of the show. However, the photographer's deployment of vivid colors helps connect it to the outdoors work. Also, the implied human presence is another link to shots that likewise never depict people.

Moving further out of town, "Road Over Prettyboy Dam" and several other photos take us into more completely rural areas. It's notable, though, that the wildlife surrounding lakes in downtown Columbia seems just as wild as anything else in the show.

Michael Oberman's exhibit "The Nature of Wilde Lake ... The Final Chapter" runs through April 28 at the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House, in Wilde Lake Village Center, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Columbia. Call 410-730-3987.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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