"Red Spikes"

"Red Spikes" by Donna Toohey. (Submitted photo / April 18, 2012)

Art is good for the soul, but it's also good for the soles in the Columbia Art Center exhibit "A Walk in My Shoes." Speaking of good, this show is co-sponsored by Howard County Promotion and Tourism's Blossoms of Hope and Cherrybration. Proceeds benefit the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center of Howard County General Hospital.

This thematically oriented exhibit has two main categories of subject matter: flowers and shoes. Sometimes they appear in the same artwork, as in Sally Stevens' photograph "Happy Feet." It's a close-up view of a pair of shoes adorned with colorful flowers. I'm not sure how well these shoes would fare during a long walk, but they certainly look pretty posed by themselves on a plain wood deck.

Most of the artists tend to focus on either flowers or footwear. Although some of them depict these subjects within a landscape setting, others offer such tightly cropped compositions that the rest of the world presumably exists just outside the frame.

Among those opting for flowers, one of the most topical works is Jing-Jy Chen's "Moon Light." This spring-celebrating watercolor depicts cherry blossoms set against a night sky that's illuminated by a large moon.


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Rather than presenting flowers within a landscape, Aline Feldman's print "In Her Steps" is a semi-abstracted landscape treatment in which an open field and a big sky amount to slices of color. A very small woman is not lost within the expansive landscape, however, because she's wearing an assertively blue dress and, for that matter, she's walking down a purple path.

Although such floral- and landscape-oriented works make a life-affirming impression that's in the spirit of this group show, it's the more overtly shoe-centered works that really grab your attention.

Some of the shoe-related pieces are relatively subtle about incorporating shoe imagery into an overall composition. Mary Adcock-Ingram's painting "The Last Day at the Beach" depicts five people seated in beach chairs. They're facing the ocean and not us, so there isn't much one could say about their identities. One thing we do see completely, though, is a pair of shoes resting on the sand next to one chair.

Another beach picture offers a more close-up view of a sandy setting. Sarah Snowden's painted ceramic plate "Beach Walk" depicts a flip-flop-wearing mother and her sneakers-wearing young daughter picking up seashells.

Such casual footwear is the only subject matter to inspect in the high-angle, close-up view provided by Kay Sandler's pastel "Walk In My Flip-Flops." Not only is there a foot wearing a flip-flop in this composition, but the woman's red toenail polish is so bright that it in effect announces that she doesn't mind putting her foot on public display.

Several other artists are represented by works that only feature depictions of shoes, leaving it to your imagination to contemplate who would wear them.

Donna Toohey's painting "Red Spikes" depicts very high heels that make quite a fashion statement. Katherine Cavanaugh's six small paintings feature tightly cropped pictures of different kinds of shoes; her "High School Shoe," for instance, is a well-worn tennis shoe that looks like it has clocked a lot of mileage. Chaya Schapiro's watercolor "Ballet Shoes" relies on that medium's fluid qualities to show a hanging pair of graceful shoes whose colors and very shape are flowing and dripping downward.

Most of the artists are represented by paintings, works on paper or photographs, but you can see two actual shoes in Roslyn Zinner's "Mother-Daughter Party Shoes." The maternal shoe is an elegant high heel. Next to it is a tiny child's shoe. Both have been almost completely covered with mosaic tiles whose cheerful colors would make these shoes the life of any party. Feeling good about yourself is an important part of the good cause that benefits from this exhibit.

"A Walk In My Shoes" runs through April 29 at the Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth in Columbia. Call 410-730-0075 or go to http://www.ColumbiaArtCenter.org.