Howard County's rural landscapes and the Columbia cityscape have long served as subject matter for local artist Mary Jo Tydlacka, whose exhibit at the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House is tied into the ongoing celebration of Columbia's 50th birthday.
Tydlacka, who has lived in Columbia since 1970, has frequently exhibited at Slayton House. It's fitting that the current show is a mini-retrospective of her work.
An early work gives a sense of what has remained the same and what has changed for her over the years. The 1973 acrylic painting "Clarksville Farm" features rural subject matter that she has known well over the years, but it's stylistically distinctive for the relatively thick paint application and extremely vigorous brushwork.
Although assertive colors and expressive brushwork have remained a constant throughout her career, the brushwork generally seems to have settled down a bit since her very loosely brushed "Clarksville Farm."
In the 1983 watercolor "Lake Kittamaqundi," the power-blue water is smoothly painted and has a calming effect. It's easy to understand why the two people seated along the shoreline have decided to relax here. Brown and yellow leaves on the trees suggest that they are enjoying the last stretch of warm weather in autumn.
Whether in her early or more recent work, Tydlacka has a tendency to simplify forms and go for the basic shapes found in both nature and architecture.
The 1983 watercolor "Wilde Lake Dam" uses a few simple horizontal blocks of color to indicate the dam. The houses in the background have a building block quality seemingly derived from the Post-Impressionist landscapes of Paul Cezanne at the turn of the 20th century.
This colorfully reductive approach can be seen in a number of works.
The 2014 watercolor "Ellicott City from Westchester Ave." is a high-angle view emphasizing the narrow, hill-hugging streets that seem like brightly colored ribbons stretching toward the horizon.
In the 1996 oil painting "Sledding," the bare tree branches and the snow covering the ground are the spare backdrop for the very orange and green sleds that seem like cheerful dots against an austere landscape.
Another favorite subject over the decades are the festivals and other cultural events that help bring life to the area.
Typical is her 2007 watercolor "Columbia Festival of the Arts," which presents a band playing on a lakefront stage for an appreciative audience of seated adults and dancing kids. As in so much of her work, the basic forms and bright colors have a kind of folk art-evocative simplicity.
A city is really comprised of its people and several works here give a personalized sense of how early Columbia residents were fruitful and multiplied.
The 1984 pastel "Pregnant" calls your attention to a woman's hands held over her full belly; and the 1987 watercolor "The Family" is a peacefully composed and gently colored depiction of parents, kids and dog.
The domestic architecture of the new city is the center of attention in the exterior view of a house provided by the 1988 oil painting "Columbia Home." The piano glimpsed through he house's picture window indicates the finer things in life.
On a stylistic note, this painting and numerous other works done throughout her career rely upon zestfully alive shades of pink, purple, red, orange and other colors that are deployed in a manner akin to what Henri Matisse and other so-called Fauve artists were doing in France in the early 20th century.
Amidst the landscapes, buildings and people in this Howard County-oriented exhibit, it's especially nice to see the 1989 charcoal drawing "Bernice Kish." The now-retired Wilde Lake Village manager, for whom this art gallery is named, is shown in a side profile, contemplative pose that seems apt in the context of this show.
Mary Jo Tydlacka exhibits through June 13 at Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Columbia. Running concurrently is an already-reviewed exhibit of Columbia-themed posters by Gail Holliday. Call 410-730-3987 or go to www.wildelake.org