Birds playfully perch at Artists' Gallery

The natural world is given a whimsical treatment in the two-artist exhibit "A Pulse of Nature" at Artists' Gallery. Ken Beerbohm has witty little sculptures that mostly represent birds, and Marian Gliese has oil paintings whose trees and birds are colorfully simplified.

Beerbohm has fun with the anthropomorphic possibilities of his feathered subjects. The birds standing side by side in "Bird Dancers" have their legs intertwined in such a way that it seems like a dance step; moreover, they're standing on a surface that looks like a wood dance floor.

It's advantageous that most of the birds in Beerbohm's sculptures have bodies like those of cranes and storks, because their long legs, necks and wings make them seem limber as they engage in all sorts of leisure activities.

In "Birdie," a golf-cap-wearing bird uses its lanky legs to hold an equally angular golf club on a green-hued surface emulating a golf course.

A bird balances on one leg and holds a rifle with its other leg in "Bird Hunting." Call it poetic justice that this bird is ready to do some hunting of its own.

Like humans, birds are curious about the surrounding environment. The bird in "Great Expectations" leans forward on its thin wire legs, and even its beady black eyes seem to be looking in the direction of who knows what.

The object of curiosity is present in "Casing the Joint," in which a bird's eyes are wide open as it looks into the small round entrance to a pole-mounted bird house. Whether this is a friendly visit or a territorial invasion is up to your imagination to decide.

The exhibit's second artist, Marian Gliese, also has birds as subject matter. Unlike the slender, tall birds in Beerbohm's sculptures, Gliese depicts compact little songbirds in her appropriately small oil paintings.

These birds typically perch in trees whose trunks and branches curve more extensively than the natural norm. In a "Whimsical Tree" series of paintings, the trees have a dreamy quality.

Similarly, the abstracted backing landscapes are comprised of gently curving lines; and the warm hues of orange, yellow and red add to the sense that these are dreamscapes.

It's an idealized realm in which the birds don't seem to have a care in the world. The three birds perched on branches in "Singing Threesome," for instance, are totally devoted to their chirping; and the moon in the sky behind them is such a large white orb that it seems to have been placed there by a celestial stage manager.

There's obviously a high degree of artifice in Gliese's compositions and colors, but it's in the service of calling your attention to the beauty that's found in nature.

"A Pulse of Nature" runs through July 27 at Artists' Gallery, in the American City Building Lobby, at 10227 Wincopin Circle, in Columbia. Call 410-740-8249.

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