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Pizza box art? Jelly bean portrait? Well, why not?

For proof that kids love pizza, have a look at Everett Stimler's "Folk Art House." A 5th grader at Lisbon Elementary School, Stimler made this painting by applying acrylic paint to the lid of a pizza box. And several other students in a new art exhibit likewise made paintings on pizza boxes.

These pizza-box-as-canvas paintings amount to just a few slices of the hundreds of pieces of art in various mediums that fill a gallery at the Howard County Arts Council for an exhibit titled "Alternative Processes — Alternative Materials."

The exhibiting young artists are students in the Howard County Public Schools. For all the diversity of materials and subject matter on display, this artwork often has an implicitly friendly environmental message, namely, that the students creatively recycle things.

In Stimler's case, that discarded pizza box provides a square flat surface for a painting that possesses a folk art-evocative simplicity in its depiction of a pink-walled house, green fields, and puffy white clouds in a blue sky.

Strictly speaking, not everything in the show is recycled. If Stimler likes to eat pizza, Jessica Qiu clearly and even obsessively loves jelly beans. A 12th grader at Centennial High School, she has applied numerous tightly spaced jelly beans on a board to create a portrait she calls "Sweet Selfie."

The swirling figurative lines are comprised of jelly beans that come in such festive colors as red and yellow. For the record, these jelly beans appear to be intact and show no evidence of having been nibbled on. Talk about artistic self-discipline.

She's hardly the only artist in the show who uses unconventional materials to make a portrait. Nicole Lowe, a 7th grader at Dunloggin Middle School, has a "Map Portrait" that was done by applying pen and ink onto an actual map of southern Maryland. The face is drawn with just a few definitional lines, which are on top of and, in a sense, interact with the printed lines on the map.

Many artists depict their personalities in ways other than direct portraiture, of course, as can be seen in examples including Sophia French's "Lost and Found Self-Portrait." A 4th grader at Elkridge Elementary School, French uses two fragmentary pieces of an actual picture frame to serve as the frame for an arrangement of objects including a seashell, a plastic butterfly and colorful sequins.

Moving from people to animals, some of the most cleverly conceived artworks in the exhibit are sculptural representations of dogs, elephants and other creatures.

Lauren Clabough, an 11th grader at Mount Hebron High School, skillfully deploys overlapping pieces of white Styrofoam to make a "Canine" that now stands guard in this art gallery.

Nick Forrest, a 12th grader at Glenelg High School, is just as adept at using pieces of cardboard to make "Elephonta." It's nice to see how well he uses curving slices of the cardboard to make the elephant's round body, huge ears and elegantly arcing trunk.

Installed nearly floor to ceiling on the gallery walls and also occupying the occasional pedestal, the hundreds of other artworks in this busy exhibit often demonstrate how artists make use and in many cases re-use of unconventional materials in an eco-friendly manner.

However, there also are constant reminders that artists have always been crafty when it comes to using basic materials.

One of the many such examples is by Logan Neal, a 5th grader at Hammond Elementary School, whose painted paper collage "The Viking Ship" does not need very many pieces of paper to present us with the ship, ocean, mountains and sky. Incidentally, it's a cheerfully all-yellow sky. When you're the artist, you get to make the world whatever you want it to be.

"Alternative Processes — Alternative Materials" runs through April 25 in Gallery I at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. Running concurrently in Gallery II is "No Boundaries," an exhibit of art by people with developmental disabilities that is presented in partnership with Howard County Recreation and Parks Department of Therapeutic Recreation and Inclusion Services. Call 410-313-2787 or go to http://www.hocoarts.org.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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