The 35th annual Resident Visual Artists Exhibit on display at the Howard County Arts Council in Ellicott City is an opportunity to once again appreciate the talented artists who in most cases have kept studios there for many years.
In terms of technical skill, a lofty standard is epitomized by David Zuccarini, whose paintings and works on paper look for their subject matter and style to Old Master artists from centuries ago.
For his still-life “Clementine,” Zuccarini uses oil and gold leaf on panel in a manner that’s immediately evocative of traditional compositions and painting techniques. A gleaming whole clementine is flanked by three leaves and also by three clementine slices on a shelf that is set against a very dark background. “Apple” and “Crabapple” are similar in their still-life treatment of single pieces of fruit.
Somewhat different are two pastels by Zuccarini. In “Vine Series - Pear,” a rosary is wrapped around a green pear in a playfully mysterious way; and inVine Series - Arch” a vine has wrapped itself around a stone statue of the Virgin Mary.
Another artist who overtly acknowledges art-historical subject matter is Mary Jo Tydlacka. She has several acrylic paintings that are set in the garden of 19th-century French Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s house in Giverny.
In “Giverny, Woman on the Japanese Bridge,” a woman leans on the rail of a bridge in the foreground of the composition, lending a firm sense of pictorial structure to a painting that otherwise calls your attention to the watery scene she is surveying, which is characterized by the melting greens deployed for the surrounding greenery.
There is an even more pronounced Impressionist-style melting of colors in “Giverny, the Water Garden” and “View from the Bridge.” Look at the water and you will see a lot more than the blue you would expect. The dabbed bits of green represent lily pads, while patches of purple suggest the ways in which light levels and reflections can lend a rich palette to an outdoor scene.
Among the artists with a strong sense of landscape, Joyce J. Ritter has a series of New Mexican landscapes that from a distance might have you assume they’re paintings. Step closer and you realize that instead she has used materials including fabric, thread and batting.
In “Taos Pueblo,” earth-toned fabric has been cut into rectangular pieces linked in such a way that you are reminded of how such villages are built into steep hills. “Taos Pueblo” also bears some resemblance, in art-historical terms, to how cubist artists thought of ways to contemplate the world as interlocking geometric shapes.
Ritter achieves a somewhat different effect with “Taos Pueblo: Reflections,” because this tightly cropped composition essentially reduces the pictorial elements to a ladder placed against the side of a single building.
Also attracted to the Southwestern landscape is Jereme B. Scott. His oil painting “Salt” is a schematic composition in which the foreground is dominated by cacti so tall that they have a totemic presence, a middle distance filled by pink-and-white-toned salt flats, and a background in which you can just see purple-hued mountains that resemble natural pyramids.
By contrast with the tightly controlled brushwork and zones of color in Scott’s painting, Art Landerman lets his brushwork flow in the oil paintings “Water Rush” and “The Heart.” Both of Landerman’s paintings feature white-capped, blue waves that are dramatically curling.
Joan Bevelaqua’s watercolors all explore the reflective qualities of glass vessels that are closely spaced in tabletop arrangements. One of the nice things about this group exhibit is that individual artists are able to have at least a few pieces on display, enabling us to track how an artist such as Bevelaqua explores seemingly infinite variations within a set format.
An artist interested in conveying metaphysical ideas via densely conceived, mostly abstract paintings, Han Jeon combines oil pastel, acrylic paint, oil paint, chalk marker and color pencil. Although most of these paintings only have scattered representational references, an exception is “Arrival of the Thinker,” in which a figure that might be a shaman moves through strands of yellow, green and blue.
Exploring how language and visual communication can interact within the same canvas, Myungsook Ryu Kim has several acrylic paintings that are all titled “Silent Friend.” Poetic texts are written out in gracefully looping words across monochromatic backgrounds. In one painting there are no words, however, just a series of lines and circles that seem to represent a language all their own.
A pleasing aspect of this annual exhibit is seeing how the artists continue to work variations on long-established subjects and styles. By the same token, it’s refreshing to see how an artist occasionally ventures into new territory.
James Adkins has long been known for his impressively realistic drawings and paintings of female nudes. Although his oil painting “Fecundity Community” depicts the female nudes one expects to see, it’s less expected that the composition is set within a shaped canvas that itself is working variations on the conventional rectangular format. Also qualifying as a departure is the painting's title, which is printed across the surface of the composition.
Moreover, there is a second painting, “Fecundity Shapes and Colors,” that functions as a companion piece to “Fecundity Community.” This second shaped painting has a composition that consists entirely of the individual letters of the word “fecundity.” The letters are individually colored in black, red, blue, yellow and green.
The resulting composition in “Fecundity Shapes and Colors” is reminiscent of the commercial sign-referencing paintings by the 20th-century American modernist painter Stuart Davis. Think of it as a sign that the painters at this arts center continue to evolve.
Also exhibiting are Brendan Tammany Nass, Jamie Travers, Diana Marta, Alice St. Germain-Gray and Andrei Trach.
The 35th annual Resident Visual Artists Exhibit runs through June 14 in Gallery I at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. Running concurrently in Gallery II is “No Boundaries,” featuring artists with developmental disabilities; this exhibit is done in partnership with the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department’s Therapeutic Recreation and Inclusion Services. Call 410-313-2787 or go to hocoarts.org.