"Pearls of the Sea" by Artemis Herber
"Pearls of the Sea" by Artemis Herber

If there seems to be just a bit more traffic on Howard County roads over the next few days, it may be because culturally minded drivers are following the Howard County Arts Council-sponsored Road to the Arts.

The art exhibit receptions taking place Sept. 12-15 at local galleries are a great way to see what the new season has to offer.

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Among the most thought-provoking new shows are “Transformation” and “Fragments," two exhibits at the Howard County Arts Council that prompt viewers to consider art in terms of how it is made and presented. You’ll find yourself thinking about the materials deployed, as well as how they’re installed on the wall and, in some cases, extending down to the floor as well.

“Transformations,” in the arts council’s Gallery I, features eight mixed media pieces by Sunyoung Lee that are installed across the surface of a gallery wall. The rectangular canvases have oil and acrylic paint on them, as you would expect for paintings, but they also utilize materials including fabric and buckles.

In some of the paintings, the canvas itself is cut out in places, revealing the gallery wall behind it. There are also straps that seemingly hold the surface together, and wood frames that make the canvas resemble a window. Indeed, several of the paintings have the word “window” in their titles.

As for the sections of canvas covered with paint, Lee favors a striking contrast between bare white and assertive zones, with calligraphic passages and drips in attention-grabbing shades of red, yellow, pink and blue.

If Lee’s mixed-media paintings call attention to how artwork is made and displayed, hanging nearby are mixed media paintings by Artemis Herber that also call into question the conventional ways of making and showing art.

Herber’s painting “Vapor” has blue, pink and white acrylic unevenly spread across a large panel of corrugated cardboard. Although the painting is hanging in a gallery, its rough style with exposed areas of unpainted cardboard make it seem as if you’re looking at a well-worn wall in some derelict building.

Hanging on the wall and yet also extending down onto the floor is Herber’s “Pearls of the Sea.” The upper portion of the acrylic on corrugated cardboard has such an extensive coating of orange paint that it qualifies as an all-over abstraction, but the base of the painting has blue fabric shirts that are so tightly coiled that they seem like an organic life form anchoring the painting to a sea floor.

"Ball" by Chris Hornsby in the exhibit "Transformations."
"Ball" by Chris Hornsby in the exhibit "Transformations." (Courtesy photo/Howard County Arts Council)

Also testing conventional notions of how to make and exhibit paintings is Chris Hornsby, whose four paintings on display consist of multiple small rectangular canvases arranged in tight grids on the gallery wall. In the five-panel “Ball,” for instance, Hornsby has two bare white canvases and three in which acrylic paint and ink have been abstractly applied on top of affixed tissue paper.

In all of Hornsby’s paintings, there is an energetic quality to his abstract application. That sense of energy makes it easy for your eyes to keep moving from one canvas to the next.

Operating somewhat differently from the other artists is Rachel Borgman, whose nine works are installed on the wall — and the floor — in such a way that they are best considered as a single installation that includes oil paintings, aluminum foil, wood, plastic, gold leaf, stones and even frankincense and myrrh.

Unlike the other artists in this exhibit, who explore abstraction, Borgman’s more representational inclination has a very specific art-historical source in paintings by the Italian Baroque artist Caravaggio. In “Circa 3000: The Last Remaining Copy of Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath from Memory,” a triumphant David holds up Goliath’s head, which has a shocked expression frozen on its face.

Borgman has other paintings that directly reference works by Caravaggio, but she’s equally interested in how these paintings were made and how they are now preserved and viewed. Have a look at “Circa 3000: Woman Touching the Last Remaining Copy of Caravaggio’s The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist” and also “Circa 3000: Conservationist Restoring the Last Remaining Copy of Caravaggio’s Adoration of the Shepherds.”

The subject matter and the various objects resting on the gallery floor collectively give a sense of how the art was made and how it is perceived and preserved long afterward. In that regard, Borgman has thematic concerns that actually do relate to the work of the other three artists in this show.

The arts council’s Gallery II has a two-artist photography exhibit, “Fragments,” in which they explore distinctive approaches to that medium. Willy Conley shoots images reflected in bodies of water, and Don James has tightly cropped shots in which tree bark and agricultural fields are among the subjects seen in such close-up compositions that they seem like abstractions.

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“Transformations” and “Fragments” run through Oct. 11 at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. There is a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 13. This reception is in conjunction with the arts council’s meeting and grant awards ceremony; its resident artists host open studios from 7 to 8 p.m. Call 410-313-2787 or go to hocoarts.org.

Among other local galleries participating in the Road to the Arts receptions, Howard Community College in Columbia has a reception for exhibits by Rebecca Bafford and Kini Collins on Sept. 12, 6-8 p.m. Call 443-518-3202 or go to howardcc.edu/galleries.

Feldspar Studio & Gallery in Savage has a reception for Anna M. White, Kirsten Bowen and Ryan Kelley on Sept. 14, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Call 410-672-2410 or go to feldspargallery.com.

Columbia Art Center has a reception for its Student/Faculty Exhibition on Sept. 14, 2- p.m. Call 410-730-0075 or go to columbiaartcenter.org.

Artists’ Gallery in Ellicott City has a reception for Marian Gliese, Deborah Hoeper and more than 20 other gallery artists on Sept. 14, 4-6 p.m. Call 443-325-5936 or go to artistsgalleryec.com.

HorseSpirit Arts Gallery in Savage has a reception for Rana Geralis, Becky Behre, Loreen Western and Wendy Ng on Sept. 15, 1-4 p.m. Call 301-490-2001 or go to horsespiritgallery.com.

The African Art Museum of Maryland in Fulton has a reception for G. Sunday Tenabe, Abdulay Kasse, Lamide Fakeye, Jimoh Barimoh, Twins 7-7, Eliot Elisofan, M. Dianite and Schuyler Fonaroff on Sept. 15, 2-4 p.m. Call 301-490-6070 or go to africanartmuseum.org.

The Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House in Columbia has a reception for Peter Stern and Janet Little Jeffers on Sept. 15, 3-5 p.m. Call 410-730-3987 or go to wildelake.org.

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