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Two artistic visions on exhibit in 'Toward Abstraction' at Artists' Gallery

The watercolor "Super Moon" by Deborah Hoeper is part of the exhibit "Toward Abstraction" at the Artists' Gallery in Columbia.
The watercolor "Super Moon" by Deborah Hoeper is part of the exhibit "Toward Abstraction" at the Artists' Gallery in Columbia. (Submitted photo)

The two-artist exhibit "Toward Abstraction" at the Artists' Gallery features watercolors by Deborah Hoeper and pastels by Barbara Steinacker that achieve a creative balance between realism and abstraction.

They paint landscapes in which you're generally able to make out the basic distinctions between hills, lakes, trees, the sky and the occasional building. There is very little realistic detail, however, as these artists favor bands of color and atmospheric effects that verge on abstraction.

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In Hoeper's "Evening Blues," for instance, the artist's emphasis is on how various shades of that color melt into each other. It's the end of the day, so the overall composition is characterized by more darkness than light.

Similarly, the same artist's "Point Lobos" offers a seaside view whose distinctly defined divisions between sea and shore become somewhat less distinct owing to the hazy gray that in effect brings a lot of fog to the area.

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If "Point Lobos" relies on fog to take the image into abstraction, "Foothills" relies less on atmosphere and more on abstract bands of color to suggest a landscape. The horizontal orientation of those colorful bands ensures that landscape associations firmly remain in the composition.

One of the watercolors in which Hoeper moves a bit closer to a realistic depiction is "Hilltop." Although the blended shades of orange and yellow in the foreground amount to a study in paint application as much as a representation of a hillside, it's easy to make out the old house at the top of the hill.

Steinacker has a similar interest in dark shades of color that blend together to suggest quietly moody landscapes. Her choice of medium sets her apart from Hoeper, though, because Steinacker deploys pastel in order to make use of its dense tones and chunky quality.

In Steinacker's pastel "Purple Sky," for example, the various shades of purple tend to be do dark that you know night is upon us.

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This seems to be her favorite time of day. Even in the relatively lighter-toned "November Sunset," the light cast by a sunny orb upon a body of water is not bright enough to illuminate the deep purple shoreline.

Just as Hoeper sometimes indicates the human presence in her otherwise unpeopled landscapes, Steinacker lets you know that people live here.

"Between Dusk and Twilight" devotes most of its panoramic view to an abstracted depiction of a lake, trees and sky; however, there is a schematically rendered house on the shoreline whose orange-lit windows indicate that this is somebody's street address.

Likewise, "Saltwater Marsh 2" is primarily a depiction of a dark-hued marsh. Way off in the distance, you see a sequence of yellow dots that presumably indicate the windows in a group of waterfront houses. Although this turns out to be an inhabited landscape, don't look for actual people in this borderline-nocturnal scene.

Deborah Hoeper and Barbara Steinacker exhibit runs through Oct. 31 at the Artists' Gallery, in the American City Building at 10227 Wincopin Circle in Columbia. Call 410-740-8249 or go to http://www.artistsgallerycolumbia.com.

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