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Columbia gallery filled with Maryland photographers

David Terao, "Blue Dasher Dragonfly," photo
David Terao, "Blue Dasher Dragonfly," photo(Courtesy Photo/David Terao)

Artists tend to work on their own, but sometimes there is strength in numbers. The Maryland Photography Alliance Juried Exhibition at the Columbia Art Center showcases a newly-formed alliance of photography clubs from around the state. Photographers from all over Maryland get to share the same gallery walls, and in doing so they also give a sense of the state of photography in terms of subject matter and style.

Looking at this eclectic group show, you can't be blamed for lingering over depictions of the winter season that we are finally entering after a relatively warm autumn. For a blunt reminder of the change of seasons, consider Wendy Kates’ brightly colored photo “First Frost.” It’s a close-up view of several leaves, whose varied shades of brown, red and green indicate a transitional period. The edges of the leaves are trimmed with a layer of frost, as if the frost were making a tentative first appearance.

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For a more panoramic winter scene, have a look at Albert Alexander’s “Watkins Pond in Winter.” Snow covers the ground, a footbridge that crosses the pond, and trees on the far shore. It’s a very calm scene that on an emotional level is warmed up just a bit by the yellow sun hovering on the horizon.

And for a reminder of how much fun it can be to play in the snow, consult Vella Kendall’s black-and-white photo of a dog in the snow, “Dashing Thru the Snow,” whose black-furred subject is in sharp contrast to the surrounding whiteness.

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Many other photographers in this exhibit also look to nature for subject matter, but they generally do so during the other seasons. A number of them photographically get up close to wildlife and particularly to birds. In Earl Deickman’s “Mallard Splash,” its spread wings make it seem as if it is about to take off from a placid body of water. What’s especially striking about this shot is that the bird’s green head and yellow beak are so assertively bright that they seem primed to spring into action.

Another bird in motion is photographically captured in My Phuong Nguyen’s “Perfect Landing,” which offers a tight close-up view of a vividly-hued, tiny green bird shown against a rather blurry, paler green background. It’s easy to understand why this bird has landed on a bright yellow flower, because it does seem quite inviting.

Besides the numerous photos of birds, an assortment of animals and insects are also given the opportunity to pose for a portrait. In David Terao’s “Blue Dasher Dragonfly,” it is seen in such an extreme close-up that its enormous eyes and fiercely barbed black legs make it seem like something out of a 1950s science fiction movie.

Other photographers do not feature the creatures inhabiting the natural world, but instead favor landscape views of either rural or city scenery. These images tend to have a contemplative quality, as in Frederick Brundick’s “Aspen Grove.” Shot from an extremely low angle, it looks sharply up to the tall and thin trees with their yellow leaves high above us. Natural beauty is all around us, and so the implicit message of such a photograph is to look around you and, yes, look up in order to take it all in.

As you would expect in an exhibit devoted to Maryland photographers, some of them depict scenes that are just a short drive away. Robert Sullivan’s effectively stark black-and-white photo “Fells Point” depicts a man walking alone on a dock. Directly behind him is a large ship whose hull mostly fills the background. A rope arcing down the side of the ship and an old-fashioned streetlight on the dock lend a bit of atmosphere to this shot taken in an 18th-century waterfront neighborhood in Baltimore City.

Some of the photographers find their subjects outside the state, as in Jim Voeglein’s black-and-white shot “Golden Gate,” which depicts that iconic San Francisco bridge from a dramatically-low vantage point on the shore; and some photographers go overseas, as in David Fine’s “Tokyo at Night,” which emphasizes the commercial signage that is busily competing for your attention.

Yet other photographers have subjects ranging from human portraits to still-life subjects. It’s a lot to see, but that’s the whole idea.

In a separate exhibit at the art center, Pat Wilson has a show titled “ReFramed.” The artist’s densely-conceived collages give an energetic sense of their subjects. Magazine photographs and other photographic imagery often serve as the source for these collages.

Many of the collages serve as commentaries upon the built environment. In “City Night,” for instance, there are so many skyscrapers in close proximity or actually overlapping each other that the hypothetical human population in this collage is off the charts. And “Wall” similarly incorporates so many overlaid images of brick walls that this definitely qualifies as a built environment.

The Maryland Photography Alliance Juried Exhibition and the Pat Wilson: Reframed exhibit run through Nov. 30 at the Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth in Long Reach Village Center in Columbia. Call 410-730-0075 or go to http://www.ColumbiaArtCenter.org

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