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Art's future and past linked in 'Digital' exhibit Art

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Artists are as plugged into modern technology as anybody else these days. Not only is the proof of that statement hanging on the walls of the Howard County Arts Council's Gallery I, but some of the proof is being projected on its walls for the three-artist exhibit "Digital Disclosure: UMBC Faculty Perspectives."

This academic trio displays high-tech ways in which artists acknowledge art history while also taking art forward.

Neal McDonald, for instance, has an interest in traditional drawing and printmaking. These traditionally have been hands-on activities, but McDonald's choices for lines and colors are generated by running a photographic data-oriented computer program.

Ironically, this machine-generated art takes nature as its subject matter. McDonald has a projected animation titled "workly.com/redraws" shown against a gallery wall. It features a high-angle view of closely spaced trees that collectively create a leafy green canopy.

Hanging nearby are prints that also depict natural imagery. In "Draws/Redraws Print," a tree's solid brown trunk is flanked and dwarfed in near-surreal fashion by huge green leaves.

The mark-making activity in other prints ranges from the densely applied black lines crossing each other in SketchCloud" to the more spare application of isolated straight lines in "Cloud, Little, Fluffy."

The second artist in this exhibit, Steven Silberg, is intrigued by how the basic video unit of the pixel is deployed for digital data that, as Silberg observes in an artist statement, is subject to degradation and decay.

Thinking back to 19th-century photographic studies of human beings in motion, Silberg has a video and related archival inkjet prints in a series titled "After Muybridge, After Marey." Soccer players, cyclists and jugglers are almost impossible to make out as individual athletes in the extremely dark imagery, but flickers of light give a sense of their movement.

Silberg has additional video-reliant artworks in this exhibit that also explore ideas about human movement and, more specifically, about how visitors to the gallery will find live video images of themselves projected onto a wall. So, comb your hair and walk with confidence.

The third artist, Vin Grabill, has videos titled "Frontier" and "Sky Buy" in which the overlaid imagery includes shots of windows, water and sky. The imagery is broken up by gridded lines.

Related to some of this moving imagery, Grabill also has video stills from "Frontier" that have been printed on canvas. Here the gridded lines are laid over photographic shots of parked cars at a suburban mall. This unpeopled scene seems like a bleak car-populated landscape.

In a separate exhibit in Gallery II, the 15 artists in "Ordinary Woman" zestfully make the most of their mixed medium materials in order to make dresses installed on mannequins standing on the gallery floor. Each mannequin is also accompanied by an artist self-portrait hanging on the wall in this exhibit curated by Diana Marta.

Among the most innovative of the exhibiting artists is Susan Stockman. Her "Shattered Goddess Embodied" is a hollow-bodied, fragmentary female form made out of copper, bone, paint brushes, wire and fabric. Its extended metal wings conjure up the goddess of the title. Stockman's accompanying self-portrait is painted on translucent silk, giving her smiling face a slightly ethereal quality.

Another artist making clever use of eclectic materials is Mary Deacon Opasik. Her "Collector" is an assemblage whose component parts include plastic figurines, beer caps and oyster shells. The corresponding self-portrait is made out of materials including metal chains, rings and beads.

Quite different from such metal-reliant figures is Jessica Walton's "Remnants." It is composed of so many overlapping strips of variously colored fabric that the result is a very full dress that's emotionally full of good cheer.

If most of the exhibiting artists make visually busy figures, the most striking artwork in this show is the simplest. Nicole Buckingham's "Nike's Dress" is a white plaster-coated wire mesh figure. Just as the ancient Greek sculptors deftly carved marble in order to emulate the appearance of folds of cloth, Buckingham has created a motionless plaster figure that seems full of life. Her accompanying self-portrait is no more than an empty white wood frame, meaning her female statue tells you all you need to know.

"Digital Disclosure: UMBC Faculty Perspectives" and "Ordinary Woman" run through Feb. 21 at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road, in Ellicott City. There is a reception Friday, Jan. 24, 6- 8 p.m.; the reception snow date is Jan. 31. Call 410-313-2787 or go to http://www.hocoarts.org

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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