Talent resides in Howard County artists

Artists tend to work quietly in their studios, but eventually they emerge to exhibit their work in art galleries. Some Howard County artists only have to make a very short indoor walk from studio to gallery for the "Resident Visual Artists Exhibit 2012" at the Howard County Arts Council in Ellicott City.

One of the nicest aspects of this exhibit is that the participating artists are given enough wall space to show multiple examples of their work. You can see how distinctive themes and techniques characterize an individual career. In the case of Andrei Trach, you get a keen awareness of the working process itself.

Trach has been given an entire wall to display the oil painting "Bang" and six stylistically similar graphite and charcoal drawings. Although these drawings do not appear to be specific studies for the painting, they give a sense of how this artist manipulates his abstract vocabulary.

In the graphite drawing "O," for example, the various circles and squiggles indicate that geometric forms have no more than a tenuous presence in a composition that's on the verge of being no more than nervous lines darting off in many directions. The graphite drawing "Spontaneous Movement" likewise has no more than a semblance of compositional order. And the aptly titled graphite drawing "Frenetic Rhythm" is about the abstract energy generated by so many vigorously and irregularly drawn lines.

These drawings flank that oil painting, "Bang," whose gray and black background is the somberly neutral backdrop for numerous small dabs of red, yellow, green and other bold colors. The thick brushwork and tight clustering of colors make for a painting that has affinities with the flanking drawings and, indeed, seems like the dense summation of those drawings.

Unlike the complete abstraction in Trach's work, Myungsook Ryu Kim's three acrylic paintings in a "Tideless Love" series balance an abstract treatment of natural scenery with more realistic natural references. The various shades of green washing across the surface of each canvas evoke a landscape without directly depicting it, while the arcing tree limbs and flowering branches are only slightly abstracted depictions of them. Kim's thick brushwork gives these paintings a chunky appearance that prompts you to think about the paint application as much as about the interplay between abstraction and representation.

Natural imagery and abstract washes also can be found in Leora "Lee" Smith's two poured ink paper collages in a "Ginkgo Tree" series. The cut-paper ginkgo leaves, which are colored gold, purple and brown, seemingly float against a background comprised of melting green and yellow.

Colorful variations

Among those artists working in a more overtly realistic manner, Heidi Praff's selection of work includes the acrylic painting "John St." It depicts a hilly street in Baltimore's Bolton Hill neighborhood. The lively brushwork accentuates the colorful variations from one rowhouse to the next, and this tightly cropped view also emphasizes the deep shadows cast by trees in a 19th-century neighborhood whose trees often are nearly that old.

Yet another take on realism is provided by Mary Jo Tydlacka, who uses bright colors and schematic designs recalling the folk art tradition for a series devoted to the outdoor productions staged by the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company at the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City. The acrylic painting "Pyramus and Thisbe from Midsummer Night's Dream" conveys how completely the actors use the stabilized ruins as the backdrop for their shows; and by way of conveying the mood of a specific play, the ink wash drawing "Titus Andronicus- Dinner Party" sums up that bloody play by depicting four dead characters on the floor and open-mouthed audience members seemingly in shock.

Other approaches to realism include Joan Bevelaqua's oil painting "Christening Dress I," which expertly incorporates subtle hints of color into an otherwise monochromatically gray depiction of a dress and assorted still-life objects; and Jereme Scott's oil painting "Epic Treehouse/Scarce Woods," whose ominous qualities are brought out by the absurdly large treehouse nestled high up in the trees, and the wildlife that's so wild that one silhouetted bird up in the sky looks like a prehistoric monster about to swoop down.

The expressive or otherwise selective approaches to realism deployed by some of these artists stand in contrast to the exacting realism practiced by two other artists, James Adkins and David Zuccarini, whose oil paintings depict female nudes in a studio setting. Although one can note stylistic distinctions between these two artists, they have in common the tendency to be paradoxically straightforward and reticent. In Adkins' "Sleep," the woman sleeping on pillows is surrounded by an open box, a teapot and a snake. These studio props may or may not provide clues as to her identity and her thoughts, but her sleeping pose ensures that her private thoughts remain her own. In Zuccarini's "Reclining Nude," the subject resting on an oriental carpet is turned away from us. Again, this is a nude shielding her thoughts.

Also exhibiting are Art Landerman, Alice St. Germain-Gray, Diana Marta, Jamie Travers and the late Carolyn Cates.

The "Resident Visual Artists Exhibit 2012" remains through June 24 in Gallery I at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. Running concurrently in Gallery II is an exhibit featuring Brenda Townsend-Kollman and Michael Spears. There is a Columbia Festival of the Arts-related reception June 21, 6- 8 p.m.; this reception includes Resident Artists Open Studios from 7- 8 p.m. and an Improv Group performance from 6:30- 7:30 p.m. Call 410-313-2787 or go to http://www.hocoarts.org.

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