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'Singular Sensations' offers 365 gifts of art

Mark Russo, "Myth of the Kraken," acrylic on canvas
Mark Russo, "Myth of the Kraken," acrylic on canvas (Maddi Schoeberlein /)

If you are looking for a unique gift for that special someone, look for artists who would be happy to be a part of your holiday shopping. It's also a nice way to be part of the so-called shop local movement.

The Columbia Art Center's annual "Singular Sensations" exhibit has artwork in various media that is priced at $150 or less. There are a total of 365 works in this exhibit, so you're likely to find something for even the most difficult-to-please special someone.

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As for the diverse artwork on display, only rarely does it have the holiday season itself as subject matter. That's just as well, because these are items that would be at home in your house throughout the year.

One of the few pieces that overtly has the holiday season in mind is Dennis Gilbert's photograph "Candles and Cranberries." It depicts seven lit white candles that are so stubby that they barely rise above the assertively red cranberries scattered across the table's surface. It's a decorative arrangement whose cranberries might well end up on a menu.

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Although other artists in this eclectic exhibit tackle all kinds of subject matter, it's curious that some of them have rather specific subjects in common.

Photographer Meryl Silver explores what amounts to an in-between landscape zone in the exhibit "Water's Edge" in the Himmelfarb Gallery at the Maryland University of Integrative Health in Laurel. That zone is where dry land meets the ocean and the line between them can be rather, er, fluid.

For whatever reason, birds fly through the imaginations of several of the exhibiting artists. Carol Herren Foerster's drawing "Hawk" is a close-up view that calls your attention to its sharp beak and intimidating stare. A stark reminder that these are birds of prey can be seen in Jerry Gettleman's photograph "Hawk with Rabbit," in which the hawk perches on a fence and clutches a dead rabbit that is definitely on its menu; as a gift item, this may not be to all tastes.

Deanna Williford's watercolor "Wisest Owl" features a solidly built owl whose straight-ahead gaze prompts you to lock eyes with it. The owl's formidable talons and long feathers seem even more pronounced owing to how this owl is set against an all-white background, thus ensuring that your attention remains fixed on the owl.

Other animals on view include Diane Dunn's watercolor "Three Cows," in which the title critters are a relatively small presence in the foreground of a landscape whose blended colors amount to a natural haze.

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Speaking of nature, the numerous examples of attractive scenery in this show include Robert Coe's watercolor "Morning Boats." Two small boats quietly float on water so calm that it seems like the boats and nature itself are just starting to wake up to a new day.

Humanity directly presents itself, though in a surreal way, in April Brown's painting "Mature Thoughts." Isolated at the center of the composition is a solid tree trunk that symbolically represents maturity. Vivid colors for the tree, ground and sky guarantee that you will look at that tree, but what really pulls your attention to it is that resting in its foliage is a woman's upturned face. Her hair and the leaves are so thoroughly melded together that there's essentially no way of knowing where her hair ends and the leaves start.

Among the many craft items are some that truly are made for use on your table. Jennifer L. Blake's ceramic "Tea for 4" features a teapot with a distinctively long spout and four small cups that seem destined to be filled and refilled.

"Singular Sensations" runs through Dec. 16 at the Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth in Long Reach Village Center in Columbia. Call 410-730-0075 or go to www.ColumbiaArtCenter.org.



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