It's in her nature for Marian Gliese to depict flowers, trees, birds and other aspects of the natural world in an abstracted and whimsical way. You can see the stylized results for yourself in her exhibit of oil paintings and pastels at the Artists' Gallery. The show marks her 10th year of being affiliated with this downtown Columbia gallery.
Where her stylistic approach is concerned, Gliese explains in an artist statement: "My artwork is an interpretation of the way I see nature, and in my paintings I isolate and simplify natural objects in order to emphasize their artistic value. I strive to paint my subjects naturally and realistic while at the same time adding a touch of abstraction.
"Choosing colors I try to stay within my range that is found in nature, but at the same time emphasizing the passionate expression I am striving for. Many of my paintings are boldly colorful with an organic flow of forms. The style of my artwork is very feminine, but at the same time strong and direct."
It's the sense of organic flow that one finds most often, er, flowing through her variety of natural subjects. In "Tulip I," for instance, there is compositional rigor thanks to the five tulips lined up in a row, but also a sense of flow owing to the gently curving flower petals. Also, the tulips' slender leaves are curving in a manner that complements the floral curves.
You'll notice such things in part because the yellow-and-brown background is completely abstract and hence does not allow your attention to wander elsewhere in the picture.
Such organic curves have a sensuous quality, as can be seen in a "Calla" series that boldly sets these showy white flowers against solid-color backgrounds.
Besides having a number of floral still-life subjects, Gliese also has pieces in which birds and trees are the main attraction. In "Serene Moment," two birds pose on tree branches. One bird is red and orange; the other bird is mostly a vivid green. These tropical hues definitely hold your attention, as do the birds' rounded curves and their more angular beaks.
If the birds are the center of attention in "Serene Moment," they're a much smaller part of the picture in "Whimsical Trees XXII." It features two small birds perched on branches. There is a larger gathering of a different creature in "Butterfly Tree VI," in which many tiny blue-and-white butterflies are calling tree branches their home for the moment.
The tree trunks and branches in such pieces are rarely straight, but instead curve this way and that. It's almost as if a lifetime of breezes has contorted their shapes. A pronounced example is "Tree Mosaic," in which a large tree's curling trunk and branches are like an uneven lattice behind which can be seen slices of blue sky and brown ground.
Standing out in this nature-themed exhibit is a work with a human subject. In "Blue Nude," the tightly cropped female figure is seen from the belly button to the neck. That makes her full breasts the center of attention. Yes, they're beautifully curving organic forms.
The coloration in "Blue Nude" favors very pale shades of blue and white. That makes this subject seem as if she's peacefully posing.
It's such a quiet depiction of a woman that one can't help thinking about the painting that perhaps served as the inspiration for Gliese's title: Henri Matisse's "Blue Nude," which is one of the most famous works at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Matisse uses much deeper blues and whites, has more vigorous brushwork, and emotionally goes for a brusquely primal quality in his full-figure, reclining nude. By extreme contrast, Gliese depicts an upright partial figure that is utterly calm.
Marian Gliese exhibits through July 30 at the Artists' Gallery, in the American City Building at 10227 Wincopin Circle in Columbia. There is a reception Friday, July 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. Call 410-740-8249 or go to http://www.artistsgallerycolumbia.com.