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Baltimore Watercolor Society visits Columbia

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When there are 41 artists in the same exhibit, you can expect to see considerable diversity in subject matter and stylistic approach. That's certainly the case for the Baltimore Watercolor Society show at the Columbia Art Center.

Some of the artists rely on crisp definitional lines and well-behaved zones of color in their watercolors, while others make the most of their medium's literally fluid properties.

Where the watery attributes are concerned, check out Susan Avis Murphy's "Heading Home Beijing." She evokes a rainy-day feeling on a narrow street crowded with people. The overcast weather is suggested with slightly blurred and near-monochromatic watercolor application. There are bright spots of color, however, supplied by the vividly hued umbrellas held overhead by Chinese pedestrians.

Atmospheric blurring is taken to a greater extreme in Lois A. Wolford's "Hoofing It In NYC." The woman in the foreground of this street scene definitely gets your attention thanks to her high boots and purple coat. The yellow cabs driving behind her also call your attention to this central portion of the watercolor. As for the store awnings and signs in the background, they're blurry in a way that speaks to urban sensory overload as much as to the blurring that would appear at this distance.

In contrast to the softening effects deployed by the above-mentioned watercolors, David A. Churchill uses very sharp lines to depict the inside of a "Boat House." There are three blue-and-white boats neatly stored here, with a lighthouse-dominated seashore visible through several windows.

"Boat House" is joined in this exhibit by a few other waterfront-oriented watercolors, but the artists tackle the subject in different ways.

Bill Jaeger's "Back Creek" depicts a single boat docked in the middle of a marsh. The somewhat powdery watercolor application deployed for both the green marsh grass and the blue-and-white sky overhead engender a very calm mood.

There's also a boat docked in a marsh in Jim Haynes' "The Band of Pleasant Living," but this otherwise realistic landscape has a playfully inserted image that explains the watercolor's title: a musical trio comprised of a beer mug playing drums on a National Bohemian beer can, a crab playing a guitar, and a corn cob playing a trumpet.

There are a good number of additional landscape-themed watercolors in the exhibit. One that's likely to prompt weather-related observations is Diane Gibson's "Maryland Winter." It features such a deep snow in a rural setting that only the fence posts pop above the impressive accumulation. Wherever and whenever this farm scene was made, it certainly does not depict the central Maryland of the past couple years.

Among the artists favoring traditional still-life compositions, the pleasing examples include Barbara Scheihing's "Roots." The title actually refers to root crops, as you'll immediately realize upon examining the carrots, onions and radishes harmoniously arranged on a table. The presence of a knife indicates that this shortly will become a working kitchen.

For even more vegetables in your visual art diet, have a look at Wanda Hurt's "A Study in Radish." It's a close-up view of a pile of radishes. These red orbs and their dangling white roots are so densely piled up that they make quite an impression.

That strategy of filling the composition with clustered objects is adopted by some other artists in the show. Deborah E. Watson's "Feeding Frenzy" depicts numerous koi colorfully competing for food. Like the overall exhibit, there are a lot of fish to count here.

The Baltimore Watercolor Society exhibits through March 31 at the Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth in Long Reach Village Center in Columbia. Call 410-730-0075 or go to http://www.ArtStaff@ColumbiaAssociation.org.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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