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Vlad Duchev, "Wilde Lake in October"
Vlad Duchev, "Wilde Lake in October" (HANDOUT)

It's really nice at this time of year to take a brisk walk outdoors in order to admire the brightly colored fall foliage, but there's also something to be said for admiring such autumn scenes from within a warm and dry art gallery.

Artists participating in a plein air painting session at Lake Kittamaqundi and Wilde Lake in late October are now exhibiting their impressions of nature in the exhibit “Color Columbia 2019 Plein Air” at the Columbia Art Center.

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The exhibit’s juror, Gino Molfino, certainly had no need to worry about insufficient color in the resulting watercolors and paintings. These artists make sure there are enough assertively seasonal reds, oranges and yellows to ensure that you notice how the trees are showing off their colors before heading into a winter slumber.

Due to the time of year when the artists participated in this event, it’s only natural that quite a few of them give a palpable sense of transition. Joan Lok’s watercolor “Lake Kittamaqundi in Fall Colors,” for instance, really sets the scene with its panoramic view of the lake, the sky above it, and the many trees lining the shoreline. Many of these trees still have green leaves, but there are some that are lighting up with shades of orange.

That interplay between water, land and sky gets highlighted in a different way by Debra Moffitt, whose oil painting “Autumn Meditation” deploys muted shades of green, red and orange for the foliage, and then has those colors gently reflected on the calm and mirror-like surface of the lake.

Although most of the artists are not as literal as Moffitt in exploring the reflective qualities of lakefront settings, most of them do tend to be reflective in another sense. After all, this is a season that tends to have meditative associations.

You will walk past a number of such philosophically reflective artworks, and some of them correspondingly have a muted application of color. Just as you’re being lulled into an introspective mood, however, there will be a few works in which extremely active brushwork and vivid colors give you another sense of the season.

In Ann Crostic’s oil painting “Fall’s Glory (Wilde Lake),” the artist offers a close-up view of fall colors that shout for your attention. One reason for this effect is the closeness of the view, but even more important is that the paint application relies upon thick brushstrokes that treat the vegetation as distinct dabs of color.

Also calling your attention to the process of painting is Linda Press’s oil painting “Fall in Columbia,” in which loosely applied and spontaneous-seeming brushwork is used to depict a lakefront walkway. Here too there are dabs of color that give a visceral sense of how such foliage announces itself.

Most of the artists in this exhibit have landscapes in which animals and, for that matter, human beings do not appear. It’s as if the artists are intent upon giving their individual take on what can seem like a patch of wilderness in the heart of a city.

There are some artists, though, who manage to incorporate animals and people into the scenery. In both April Rimpo’s acrylic painting “Just Past Dawn” and Stacey Sass’s watercolor “Peaceful Paddlers” there are birds serenely floating on the placid water. They’re seen from some distance, however, and there are only a few birds to be seen.

People likewise are but a small part of the picture in Jen Eidson’s oil painting “Autumn Picnic at Wilde Lake.” You can see two people having a picnic, but the figures are so tiny and blurry that they nearly melt into the landscape. Instead, your attention is drawn to trees sporting red and yellow tones that can’t be missed.

Making the case that it’s really special to have nature almost to yourself are Brienne Brown’s watercolor “Crisp Fall Afternoon” and Lissa Abrams’ oil painting “Teach the Village,” which feature solitary fishermen communing with nature.

The artists themselves, of course, were working quietly alone or with small groups of fellow artists at such an outdoor painting event. Joan Lok’s watercolor “Plein Air Paint Out in Columbia” depicts two artists who have set up on a waterfront dock. It’s as if Lok does not want to disturb them, because her composition shows them as small figures at quite a distance from where Lok has set up in order to depict them. Likewise, Karen Winston-Levin’s oil painting “Art by the Lakefront” maintains a polite distance while looking toward a working artist.

Now you can get up close to these watercolors and paintings. Indeed, you’re invited to stare.

“Color Columbia 2019 Plein Air” runs through Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth in Long Reach Village Center. Call 410-730-0075 or go to columbiaartcenter.org.

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