The art climbs the walls and also covers every flat surface at the Columbia Art Center, because that was the only way to accomodate the more than 300 artworks comprising its annual Student Faculty Exhibition 2014.
Although your attention is being pulled this way and that by such a large group exhibit of artwork in various mediums, some of the pieces really manage to grab your attention.
A good example is Virginia Chandler's oil painting "Walk With Me." The left side of the composition is dominated by a fence running from the foreground to deep in the background, and thereby taking your eyes deep into the pictorial space. Also, the fence casts a shadow, which falls towards the center of the composition and gives you something else to consider. The third principal point of interest is an impressive tree that dominates the right side of the composition.
Although the numerous watercolors in the show generally are a bit more subdued than Chandler's painting, some of them really know how to make you linger.
Robert Coe's watercolor "Sailing" has presence on the gallery wall owing to its simplicity. The white sail on a relatively small boat gives the painting its title, and it draws your attention at least in part because the artist provides a rather spare presentation of a green shoreline fronting invitingly blue water.
A spare composition and carefully selected colors also characterize Jane Deweib's otherwise very different watercolor "Geisha." It depicts a woman who wears a purple, pink and green kimono whose coloration is toned down so that it does not shout for your attention. Likewise, the woman's turned head is a relatively modest pose. And the potted bonsai in the background is another small and quiet compositional element.
Taking advantage of the melting atmospheric effects attainable by using watercolor, Stephanie Lyon's "Misty Morn" has small-scale buildings in the background, docked boats in the middle distance, and a body of water in the foreground. The shades of green used to define much of the shoreline melt into similar tones deployed to depict the water.
Watercolor also lends itself to abstraction, as in Deanna Williford's "Status Quo." It's a completely abstract composition that consists of vertical slices of several colors that make for congenial pictorial neighbors.
Even representational imagery tends to be at least slightly abstracted in some of the exhibited watercolors. Anne Maurer's "Blue Orchids" reduces its flowers to blue orbs.
Nature also is subjected to reductive representation in Mary Rosenbaum's Chinese brush painting "Wisteria." The deep green leaves and purple flowers clearly depict this flowering vine, but they're handled in such a distilled manner that you feel as if you're looking at the essence of flowers and leaves.
Among other mediums found in this exhibit, photography includes such attention-grabbing images as Dennis Gilbert's "Kayaks." It's a tightly cropped photo of yellow, red and blue kayaks colorfully docked in a body of water so still that it makes for a very peaceful nautical world.
There are many examples of ceramics in the exhibit. It's sometimes the case that simplest is best, as in a piece by Becky Palasits called "Small Pitcher (Blue)." The deep blue-hued pitcher has a gentle presence, and the decorative patterning of lines and dots encourages your eyes to roam around the curving surface of this little pitcher.
Some of the additional ceramic works that please the eyes and tickle the mind include several in which the ceramic surface is treated like a patch of nature. In Pam Hannasch's "Reef Tray," the tray's blue and tan surface seems appropriate for a reef; and the inner surface of the tray has mini-sculptural depictions of seashells and kelp. I don't know about you, but I would serve sushi on such a tray.
Also made with nature in mind, Pat Howell's "Large Leaf Bowl" treats the bowl's surface as if it were a black-veined, rather large gray-and-white leaf. A salad could be served in this bowl, and then you could scout out other ceramic pieces in this exhibit to handle the rest of the meal.
The annual Student Faculty Exhibition 2014 runs through June 8 at the Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth in Long Reach Village in Columbia. Call 410-730-0075 or go to http://www.ColumbiaArtCenter.org.