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Baltimore artist captures 'The Feeling of Jazz'

A recent addition to the arts scene has a back story as appealing as the items on the walls.

The Mark Cottman Gallery in Federal Hill bears the name of a self-taught, Baltimore-born artist who walked away from a career as an architectural engineer in 1999 to concentrate on his passion. Cottman, 52, opened his gallery three months ago and is already into his third show — "I have enough work to change the gallery every six weeks," he says.

The latest offering, "The Feeling of Jazz," gives off a great vibe. The subjects range from Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald to Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz. With a lively use of color and a variety of stylistic approaches (a sort of modified cubism here, a touch of folk or cartoon art there), Cottman conveys much more than likenesses in these paintings and watercolors on handmade paper.

The artist reveals a penchant for capturing what he calls "a pensive moment"; a moody study of Nina Simone is a compelling example. An elegant rendering of Sarah Vaughan at a microphone and a deeply wrinkled Chet Baker purring into his trumpet suggest the subtle ecstasy of reaching just the right note at just the right point in a phrase.

Dynamic studies of Ornette Coleman and Miles Davis, infused with a rich concentration of colors, and a splash of Dizzy Gillespie in triplicate are among the attractions of this cool show, which runs through Oct. 3 at the Mark Cottman Gallery, 1014, S. Charles St. You can view the exhibit with live jazz from the Larry Brown Trio at a free reception 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. on Saturday. Call 443-872-0943 or go to markcottman.com.

— Tim Smith

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