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Medium and texture all over the map in exhibit at Howard County Arts Council

It's fitting that there is a good bit of mixed medium artwork in the group exhibit "Art Maryland 2014" at the Howard County Arts Council, because its juror, Walters Art Museum executive director Julia Marciari-Alexander, writes in an accompanying statement that she chose work that has "an interplay of texture and material."

This emphasis can be seen quite directly in Annie Farrar's "Barbara." It's a vertically oriented, mixed medium construction made out of several brooms, a mop, rope, a hammer and other objects that are recognizable as such under a thick coating of black latex paint. Although the sculptural assemblage itself does not declare why it's named "Barbara," the tight binding together of domestic tools does convey a rather somber sense of what might be somebody's domestic routine.

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Other sculptural pieces likewise open themselves up to allusion-oriented interpretation without being literal about it. Winnie Coggins' "Pair," for instance, consists of two stoneware clay vases whose earth-toned coloration, relatively lofty shape, and triangular cut-outs give a sense that these are occupied towers of some sort.

Another example of ceramic art, Edwin Gould's raku "Dry Brown Pot — Spirals in Motion" has such a densely braided and otherwise textured surface that it has landscape associations. This impression is enhanced by the occasional leaf and dragonfly motifs set against this brown-toned pot.

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Artists working in other mediums also suggest natural textures. Dominie Nash's "Foliated Calligraphy 5" is a printed stitched textile whose black-and-white-toned leafy patterns encourage you to think about the vein-marked surfaces of leaves.

Freda Lee-McCann's mixed media "Hidden Passage" includes collaged telephone book pages and calligraphic letters suggesting personal identities and forms of communication that remain no more than suggestions. The muted tones of yellow, green and black found throughout this composition include a dark-hued passage that may remind you of Asian traditions in landscape painting.

Ilene Gold gets into natural subject matter by literally cutting into pages from National Geographic magazine and then carefully arranging the resulting paper snippets into "Paper Cut-Out of Monet's Garden." Its elegantly arcing bridge in a pastoral setting does indeed evoke the work of that French painter.

The landscape is presented in a much more straightforward and realistic manner in Daniel Humphries-Russ's photograph "Booth's Mill Bridge." It depicts a stone bridge dating back to 1833 that's located in Washington County in western Maryland. However, the photographer's use of black-and-white makes for an austere image in which you're keenly aware of the detailed texture of both the stonework and the flanking vegetation.

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Similarly, Lorenzo Gattorna's video "Jones Falls" deploys black-and-white to emphasize the elemental interplay between water and shoreline in that Baltimore stream.

For nature presented in a conventionally realistic way, one of the nicest examples is Gail Nickells' oil painting "Lemons." Although these lemons mostly rest in a glass bowl placed on a table, an unwinding lemon peel and a white tablecloth dangle off the edge of that table. These still-life objects are a palpable presence thanks in part to the pitch-black background that makes them seem like illuminated models.

Another still-life display can be seen in S.E. Bentley's oil painting "Tuscan Pantry," in which garlic bulbs and other items harvested from a garden are backed by a rough-textured wood wall at the top of the painting and total blackness at the bottom of it.

Humanity is on display in James Adkins' complexly conceived oil painting "Vanitas." A couple of tightly cropped female nudes rest beside a vanity table, whose surface is covered by makeup containers, a hand mirror and a human skull reminding us that this study of female beauty can be interpreted within the so-called vanitas tradition. Because the top of that vanity table is such a reflective surface, your eyes and your attention tend to bounce around the composition as you try to get your bearings.

If Adkins offers reflections on humanity, Travis Childers is even more indirect. Childers' "Cultures" is a mixed medium assemblage in which images of human faces lifted off of newspaper pages have been embossed onto small discs made out of silly putty. These discs have been placed inside numerous petri dishes that rest with clinical coldness on the shelves of a metal cart.

You might conclude on a metaphoric level that this cart belongs to a social scientist whose research grant money should be revoked.

Also exhibiting are Barbara Talbott, Matthew Hanson, Helen Glazer, Julia Bowden, Douglas Hanewinckel, Sarah Higgins, Don James, Lori Anne Boocks, Zahra Nazari, Stan Wenocur, Alexandra Ford, Sung Hoon Kim, Mary D. Ott, Melinda Fabian, Shelley Meredith, Chidinma Dureke, Anne Marie Williams, Warren C. Chambers, Alicia Ashley Weathersby, Nelson Steele, Kristine DeNinno, Sarah Hood Salomon, Roberta Kine Laric, George L. Smyth, Sydney Hopkins, Melissa Burley, Janet Ibrahim, Bruce Blum, Diana Marta, Steven L. Hargrove and Robert Sibbison.

"Art Maryland 2014" runs through Dec. 12 at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. There is a reception Friday, Nov. 7, 6- 8 p.m., that includes live music, refreshments, and presentation of the Art Maryland Juror Awards. Call 410-313-2787 or go to http://www.hocoarts.org.

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