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"Backyard Black-Eyed Susans" by Sandra Dietzel
"Backyard Black-Eyed Susans" by Sandra Dietzel (Howard County Arts Council / HANDOUT)

If you want to explore the local art scene’s diversity by making a single trip, all you have to do is make the drive to see the group exhibit “Art Howard County 2019” at the Howard County Center for the Arts in Ellicott City.

The juror for this biennial exhibit, Robin Holliday, is the owner and curator of the Historic Savage Mill-based HorseSpirit Arts Gallery. Her well-balanced selections give a sense of the subjects and styles being pursued by Howard County artists.

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These artists are responding to the world around them in various ways, of course, and some are quite literally reflecting that world. In Ed Charest’s photograph “Castle Reflections on the Loch,” for instance, a castle and the surrounding hills are reflected in the relatively still water of the loch. This photographer’s use of color has a glistening quality that is very appealing to contemplate.

By way of tonal contrast, where landscape photography is concerned, Geoffrey Baker brings a black-and-white austerity to his photo “Patapsco Falls at Oella.” It’s such a meditative shot of vegetation arching over the river that one would never suspect that civilization exists not too far from this wooded setting. Although this is a quiet scene, Baker does make it seem like the white-hued water is glowing in a subtle but palpable manner.

A landscape artist who gives us an impressively large and detailed cityscape is Duane Lutsko, whose oil painting “Baltimore, 395 North” depicts a scene that will be familiar to anybody who drives north on I-95 and then takes the exit for downtown Baltimore. The highway ramp is elevated, and so the viewer gets what amounts to a rooftop view of old industrial buildings, church steeples and tall buildings in the background.

Lutsko heads out into the country for his oil painting “MD Route 36,” in which a rural road has a gas station as its most prominent roadside attraction.

Other landscape-oriented artists in the exhibit take us all over the place. Karl Avellar’s oil painting “Honfleur, color, lines, structures and tourists” presents a lively scene in which people strolling along a street next to a harbor admire docked sailboats on one side and buildings exuding Old World charm on the other.

"Baltimore, 395 North" by Duane Lutsko
"Baltimore, 395 North" by Duane Lutsko (Howard County Arts Council / HANDOUT)

The scene is bursting with human activity, but there are no people to be found in D. Jean Lloyd’s oil painting “Cornfield After Harvest.” There is brown stubble in the foreground, a few tiny trees on the horizon line and gray-white clouds filling the sky that occupies most of this composition.

Nor are there any people in an otherwise very different landscape, Paul Gangemi’s oil painting “Tanzania.” The horizontal format the artist adopts for this composition calls your attention to a brown and dry plain that contains widely scattered trees, conveying a very real sense of openness.

Unlike the panoramic tendencies of some of the above-mentioned artists, other artists like to get up close to their natural subjects. This is strikingly the case with Sandra Dietzel’s oil painting “Backyard Black-Eyed Susans.” Not only do we get several of these assertively yellow flowers in a close-up composition, but they’re backed by a sky so vividly blue that it makes you stop and stare. Moreover, this tightly cropped composition presents the flowers at much larger than life size. To put it mildly, this painting makes a bold statement even if you’re standing at the other end of the gallery.

Getting up close to a single blossom, Joyce J. Ritter’s “Lotus” might surprise you once you take that closer look. This is an art quilt, meaning that what register as organic lines in the flower petals actually are quilting stitches.

Lest you think that nature dominates in this large exhibit, the human landscape also gets its share of attention.

One of the most smartly conceived portraits is Damon Hurbon’s oil painting “Doug Playing Yellow Guitar.” Its muted shades of brown and yellow lend a subdued tone to this depiction of a seated man playing the guitar. You’ll notice how light glistens on the wood body of the guitar and also gets reflected on the man’s bald head. It’s significant that the guitar player’s face has a shadow cast over it, because it’s all about the music in this painting.

Speaking of musical portraits, April M. Rimpo takes a much more colorful approach to similar subject matter in her watercolor “Showing Off II.” It depicts two musicians performing with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The artist deploys expressive hues of red, yellow and purple to give a sense of stage lighting, but also of the emotional attributes of the music itself. Rimpo’s watercolor “Connecting” depicts a saxophone player who has center stage to herself.

Most of the figurative works in this show are representational, but some of them have elements of abstraction. A notable example of near-abstraction is Brendan Robinson’s limestone sculpture “Joy/Mandolin.” Reminiscent of the cubism introduced by Pablo Picasso and other European artists in the early 20th century, this little sculpture depicts a mandolin-holding musician via tightly interlocked geometric planes.

It only seems fitting that an exhibit offering such a range of subjects and styles also contains some work that alludes to the process of making art. This is definitely the case with Marcia Palmer’s oil painting “Artist Tools,” depicting a wood box filled with a palette, pencils and other tools associated with the world of an art studio.

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Also exhibiting are Mary Cossentino, James Lubitz, Rebecca Zeligman, James Adkins, Christina Guercio, Lisa Scarbath, JoAnn Weiss, Elizabeth Sumner, Chelsea Bork, Patricia Lang, Barbara VanRossum, Lynda Mitic, Karen Cain, Robert Dansky, Vickie Thurston, Kevina Maher, Douglas Hanewinckel, S. Mark Cates, Diane Dunn, Annika Marthinuss, Freda Lee-McCann, Maria Charest, Sharon Fuller, Caroline Serafinas Garzon, Daniel Heifetz, Varada Vaidya, Karen Winston-Levin and Patrick Dillon.

"Art Howard County 2019″ runs through Dec. 13 in Gallery I at the Howard County Center for the Arts, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. Running concurrently in Gallery II is “New Media: Poetry in Motion,” featuring video works by Vin Grabill, Brandon Morse and Joon Sung. Call 410-313-2787 or go to hocoarts.org.

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