There's a lot of color in the world around us, but sometimes it takes an artist to make us pay attention to it. That's one of the impressions you may get from "Local Color 2014," the seventh annual juried exhibit at the Artists' Gallery.
Most of the artists showing at this downtown Columbia gallery are drawn to nature. The resulting artwork esentially places a frame around natural subject matter.
Some of these artists get up very close to their subject. Marian Gliese's oil painting "Gladiolus I," for instance, offers such a tight close-up of its orange petals that there is nothing else in the picture. This clearly defined realistic image also manages to seem like a quasi-abstract exploration of gently curving forms and glowing color.
Other artists pull back to offer a more panoramic consideration of nature.
Deborah Maklowski's pastel "Morning on Morgan Creek" provides a subdued fusion of green and brown to give a sense of how colors often melt into each other in the landscape. That gentle interplay of colors extends to the landscape as it is reflected in the calm water of the creek.
Colors also melt into each other in Deborah Hoeper's watercolor "Sea Foam," whose merger of blue and white conveys what it's like to stand at the edge of the ocean.
Such impressions of nature sometimes become artistic expressions of pure color. In Barbara Steinacker's pastel "Our Lake, Dusk," the blended shades of purple and blue are so intense and so extensive that they define the entire scene.
Other artists concern themselves with the built environment. Ann Horner's oil painting "Key Bridge" has a crisply defined depiction of that Potomac River-crossing bridge as the center of attention. Also keying you in to the Washington address is the outlined Georgetown skyline in the background. This is a place where the city meets the water, of course, and so Horner is also careful to feature river water that is a lively mix of gray and blue.
The implied human presence in Horner's otherwise unpeopled urban scene is a painterly approach that other artists in the show also follow. Debra Moffitt's oil painting "Orange Glow" features a small boat in dry dock. The boat's exposed orange-painted bottom explains the painting's title. That flashy bit of orange anchors the composition.
A similarly selective use of assertive color can be seen in Douglas Hanewincke's photograph "Red '39 Ford Truck Number 1." A vividly red antique truck is parked in the open doorway of a white wood barn that itself looks like it has seen the passing of more than a few seasons. This sharply conceived image is somewhat softened by the way in which sunlight plays across the surface of the barn and car.
The human presence is more directly presented in Bonita Glaser's watercolor "High Noon," but even here the presentation of people on a beach depicts them as tiny figures in the middle distance of the composition. Instead, your attention is drawn to the four colorfully striped beach umbrellas under which these nondescript people relax.
If much of the noteworthy artwork in this show features outdoor scenes, there also are examples of where nature is brought indoors. Working within the still-life tradition, Karen Norman's watercolor "Key in Red" presents 11 red pears and an antique metal key resting on a vegetal-patterned tablecloth. Although there are enough forms and colors interacting here to hold your attention, what's most striking about this watercolor is that the artist adopts a high overhead angle that makes you consider this tabletop arrangement as if you were standing directly above it.
Besides the paintings, pastels, watercolors and photographs in this exhibit, other mediums represented include stained glass, ceramics and wood sculptures. The exhibited ceramic works by Winnie Coggins include the clay "Points and Lines Platter," whose flat surface is decoratively covered with orange and black linear patterns. This is a platter that makes you draw near even before food is placed on it.
"Local Color 2014" remains through Aug. 29 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.