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Gliese a natural at depicting nature

Marion Gliese, “Bluebird II”
Marion Gliese, “Bluebird II”(Courtesy photo)

When Marian Gliese looks at the natural world around her, she tends to see things in a stylistically whimsical and streamlined way. Her exhibit at the Artists' Gallery, "Natural Beauty," is filled with such immediately recognizable subjects as birds, insects and flowers, but her treatment is more poetic than literal-minded.

In technical terms, her oil paintings rely upon reductive figuration and gently colored fields of color. In other words, she will capture the essence of what a bird looks like and yet not worry about depicting every single feather.

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In several oil paintings in a "Blue Bird" series, for instance, she presents what amount to tightly cropped portraits of evidently well-fed birds. You will see the expected shades of blue, but also hints of gray, orange and other colors. These melding colors prevent the paintings from becoming overly schematic. There are subtle variations in coloration and hence she avoids a Pop Art-type presentation of monochromatic zones of color.

Incidentally, these birds have such beady black eyes that it adds a bit of intensity to an otherwise pastoral image.

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This exhibit also includes an assortment of other bird species. In "Ducklings I," three of them parade across the ground. The artist's slightly downward angle really draws your attention to their yellow-webbed feet. Looking up, you see those trademark beady black eyes. In "Wren I," a stout and solitary bird posing in side profile regards you with a beady black eye.

There's a bit more of the surrounding environment shown in "Light on My Feet," an attractively composed painting in which three birds use their very thin black legs to move across the beach. And, yep, these birds have beady black eyes flanking their sharp beaks.

Animal eyes that are larger, softer and emotionally more likely to make you say something mushy can be seen in "Puppy I," in which this endearing little dog's soulful green eyes make you want to have it as a pet.

Fauna and flora share pictorial space in several paintings. These include "Butterfly III," in which a predominantly orange butterfly has touched down on pale purple-and-white flowers; and "A Scent of Apples," in which a big brown moth has powerfully landed on the delicate white apple blossoms.

Gliese is often at her best when she features closely cropped floral compositions that are slightly abstracted in terms of both form and color. "Ethereal Iris" presents the large purple flower petals against a pale yellow background. The sensual quality of such paintings is evocative of the floral abstractions done by the 20th-century painter Georgia O'Keeffe.

Two paintings in a "Gladiolus" series likewise emphasize the striking colors and shapes found in such flowers.

Generally, the flowers are shown in isolation against solidly colored, non-representational backgrounds. In "Blue Skies I," however, five pink-and-white tulips stand tall against a blue-and-white sky.

As for trees, they have been showcased in many of the artist's previous exhibits. The lone example in the current show is "Whimsical Trees XII." A single tree's bare brown branches twist this way and that way as they proceed upward in a composition that sets them against a gray-and-white background.

This is nature in its essence, with any additional details supplied by your imagination.

Marian Gliese exhibits through Aug. 27 at the Artists' Gallery, 8197 Main St. in Ellicott City. Call 443-325-5936 or go to www.artistsgalleryec.com.



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