Howard art teachers know what they're talking about

The artists in a Columbia Festival of the Arts-related exhibit are stepping out of the classroom and into the gallery. "The Teacher Behind the Work: Celebrating Howard County Art Teachers" has so many art teachers involved that the exhibit fills both the Columbia Art Center and Howard Community College's Rouse Co. Foundation Gallery.

One of the most striking works in the Columbia Art Center half of the show is Trudy Babchak's oil painting "The Dance." Expressive brushwork vigorously melds together shades of orange, red and green for a female dancer's very full dress. The figure's upraised arms and head are so tightly cropped that the dancing energy in effect is confined to her torso. Also on view is Babchak's similarly conceived acrylic painting "The Dance in Yellow."

The flow of creative energy is more introverted in David Fried's oil painting "Jacob," whose subject is a seated violinist whose downward gaze reflects the intensity with which he plays.

It's a straightforward depiction of a violinist but hanging next to it is a more mysterious painting. The title subject in Fried's oil painting "Piano Man" may well be a snazzy jazz performer, because he's dressed in black pants, a red shirt, suspenders and an old-fashioned hat; however, he's standing next to a well-worn upright piano that's incongruously resting out in a field. Unless he's preparing for an outdoor concert, it's not clear what he and the bulky instrument are doing out there.

Several of the other painters in this show opt for modestly scaled compositions that tend to be muted in terms of the colors and brushwork.

Jaye Ayres' oil painting "Tiber Alley" emphasizes the narrowness of that Ellicott City street. Mark Coates' oil paintings "Court Avenue, Stop, Look, Listen" and "Farm on Folly Quarter Road" quietly depict small-town and rural life. Likewise, Chaya Schapiro's oil paintings "Blue House," "Morning Mist" and "Small Pond" softly blend yellow and green tones for a calm effect.

Among those working in watercolor, Robert Coe's "Lily" only has a single white flower and otherwise calls your attention to how a pond's surface is nearly covered by the oval green pads, and Joyce Bell's seasonally appropriate "Summer Hot Seat" depicts the shadows cast by outdoor patio furniture. She also fuses yellow and orange tones to turn up the pictorial heat.

Literally drawing strength from his medium, Paul Kerris' graphite drawing "Covered Bridge" has sharply drawn lines that give a detailed sense of the numerous pieces of wood that fit together to make this bridge.

Of those working in additional mediums, notable examples include Matthew Hanson's black-and-white, London-shot photographs "Tower Bridge" and "St. Paul's Cathedral," which present partial views that bring out interesting architectural detail.

For actual three-dimensional form, have a look at Loki's three-sided lamp "Bamboo," in which each side includes a stained glass evocation of bamboo stalks and leaves.

The Howard Community College half of this exhibit also has its share of noteworthy paintings. Linda Press's oil paintings "Near Gallery Place, DC" and "West Village NYC" feature the agreeably congested architecture of those two cities. Although there are no people in these pictures, the buildings themselves are so full of character that they conjure up urban life.

Of the other artwork in various mediums, you can have a smile-inducing side-by-side comparison involving two artists with a very different take on the same city. Bonnie Printz's print "Traveling Series: Baltimore, Inner Harbor" offers a standard attractive view of a sailboat-filled harbor and skyline as seen from Federal Hill. Nearby, Greg McLemore has several oil paintings in a "Baltimore Ruins" series that depict crumbling rowhouses and stores in economically stressed neighborhoods.

If Printz and McLemore are teaching very different lessons in urban studies, well, consider yourself the recipient of a well-rounded education.

"The Teacher Behind the Work: Celebrating Howard County Art Teachers" runs through July 1. There is a joint reception June 28, with the Columbia Art Center open that evening from 5-7 p.m. and Howard Community College from 6-8 p.m. The Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth, is in the Long Reach Village Center. Call 410-730-0075 or go to Howard Community College's Rouse Co. Foundation Gallery is at 10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy., in Columbia. Call 410-772-4809 or go to

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