There is a lot of artwork by Howard County artists on display in “Ho Co Open 2018” at the Howard County Arts Council. This annual non-juried exhibit features a salon-style installation in which the gallery is agreeably crowded with work in various media.
Owing to the local nature of this group show, it’s apt that at least a few of the artists overtly favor what amounts to backyard subject matter. Sharon Fuller, for example, has a watercolor titled “Symphony Woods Pied Piper.” It depicts a saxophone-playing man and three children holding balloons. Their stroll through the woods serves as a reminder that this pastoral landscape is within yards of Little Patuxent Parkway in downtown Columbia.
Similarly, Heber Bouland’s oil painting “Cattail Marsh on Columbia Pathway” has enough thick vegetation to almost make you forget that civilization presumably is not so far away. In that respect, the path itself and a park bench make it clear that this unpeopled scene is ready for visitors.
Other artists in the show likewise have natural scenes that we all can see outdoors at this time of year. Betty H. Myers’ watercolor “Cardinal in Snowdrift” is a tightly-cropped depiction of a plump red cardinal resting against a few thin branches in what seems like a very generous snowfall.
Another burst of red in a winter landscape can be seen in Tom Wiggins’ photograph “Winter Redhead.” In this case, the red is atop a woodpecker pressed against a tree trunk. There is very little color elsewhere in this winter landscape, and so the woodpecker loudly announces its presence at the center of the photo.
There are no such assertive colors in Ellen Corddry’s watercolor “Nassawango Preserve,” in which a dense forest is represented as a muted melding of brown and green.
A very different approach to woodland subject matter is found in Myung Sook Ryu Kim’s acrylic painting “Forgotten Forest.” This artist takes an abstract approach here. The painting’s slightly-raised and incised surface has vegetal patterns running across it in such a way that it almost seems like a fossil record of an ancient forest.
That sort of unconventional painting fits right into a diverse exhibit that stylistically ranges from highly traditional art to other pieces that are unusual in terms of subject and style.
Where art-historical tradition is concerned, an oil painting that qualifies as Exhibit A is Ned Rosinsky’s “Rembrandt Self Portrait.” It’s a closely-observed copy of a famous self-portrait by that Dutch Old Master.
So, it’s nice that this Rembrandt-emulating painting hangs next to Jean Cathey’s oil painting “Still Life with Watermelon and Peaches.” It’s a very tradition-minded presentation of those tasty items, as well as some scattered grapes, all of which are resting atop a table. The painting’s shades of red, green and yellow meet each other in a subdued manner that encourages the viewer to slow down and linger awhile.
By contrast, other works do not subscribe to centuries-old genres and instead grab your attention because they are so, um, wonderfully weird.
Although Barbara Svoboda’s mosaic “Baroque Guitar” does skillfully recall the decorative effects associated with that art-historical period, it’s a quirky object consisting of an actual guitar whose surface has been coated with a mosaic whose applied items have the shape of face masks, sea shells and china fragments.
Also working a twist on a traditional style is Pam Perna’s acrylic painting “Year of the Dog.” Its endearing depiction of an alert canine pretty much fits within the realm of animal portraiture, but the background is an abstracted reddish-orange zone that speaks to the look of much modern art. A clever painterly touch is that the dog’s thin blue collar is complemented by a thin blue horizontal line running across that backing zone.
Turning assorted pieces of metal into a new assemblage is Ed Kidera, whose “Airship Rooster” has a rooster-shaped ship topped by a hot air balloon-shaped metal orb. This contraption resembles a Jule Verne-type science-fiction fantasy from the late 19th century.
And perhaps strangest of all is Melissa Lawson’s “Metallic Maryland.” A plank of cedar wood has been inserted with numerous brass and silver tacks that collectively resemble the design of the Maryland State flag. Although it’s literally tacky, it’s actually rather attractive.
“Ho Co Open 2018” runs through Feb. 23 in Gallery I at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. Running concurrently in Gallery II is “Everyday Relics,” a two-artist exhibit with Charles Bowers and Pamela Crockett. Call 410-313-2787 or go to hocoarts.org