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Getting to know three painters at Kish Gallery

Lynda Mitic, "Summer's Joy"
Lynda Mitic, "Summer's Joy" (Courtesy photo / Bernice Kish Gallery)

When a group exhibit only has a few artists in it, you can really concentrate on their individual artistic identities. That’s definitely the case with “Three Painters, One Passion” at the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House.

Although Katherine Farrell, Mary Jo Messenger and Lynda Mitic have a shared interest in oil painting, they go their own way in terms of subject matter and style. They also have enough work on display to enable you to see the variety contained within an individual artist’s career.

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Messenger, for instance, makes a strong impression with portraits, still-life subjects and landscapes.

In the portrait “Don Fandetti,” Messenger provides enough pictorial detail for us to get a real sense of her subject. This painting depicts a man whose smile welcomes you to check out the room in which he is seated. His casual wardrobe of blue jeans and a black sweater helps put you at ease. It’s also calming to note the guitar resting next to his chair, the book shelves covering the wall behind him, and a wine bottle and glass off to the side. It’s the picture of domestic tranquility.

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Messenger also gives a sense of the good life in several still-life paintings. In “Red Drape and Fruit,” you will find yourself becoming visually absorbed by the rich shades of red found in a tablecloth in the foreground and curtains in the background. For that matter, there are appealing red tones deployed for the grapes, apples and pomegranates resting atop the table. Several other colors also assertively make their presence known, as in the royal blue used for a couple of candles and a blue-and-white china bowl; and then there is the vivid yellow by which lemons announce their presence.

Mary Jo Messenger, "King's Contrivance in the Snow"
Mary Jo Messenger, "King's Contrivance in the Snow" (Courtesy photo/Bernice Kish Gallery)

Messenger’s versatility extends to landscape paintings, including several that are of seasonal and highly local interest: ‘Summer at King's Contrivance Village Center,” “Fall at Lake Elkhorn,” “Winter at King’s Contrivance Restaurant” and “Spring at the Pond in King’s Contrivance.” The painting of the restaurant is especially appealing, because this old building seems so peaceful at the back of a snow-covered lawn.

And Messenger addresses the painting process itself in “Art Class,” in which a standing instructor points down at a painting being done by a seated student. The studio setting includes art history-related images pinned to the wall and a stack of art-related books off to the side. Clearly, the art lessons are successful here.

Farrell’s exhibited work includes still-life subjects such as “Blue Glass, Copper & Brass,” in which she explores the reflective qualities of those various materials.

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Katherine Farrell, "Ruben's Eggs"
Katherine Farrell, "Ruben's Eggs" (Courtesy photo / Bernice Kish Gallery)

Going from such indoor settings to pastoral outdoor scenery, Farrell has landscape paintings including “Hay Bales in Provence,” “Zig Zag Fence” and “Hay Bale and Farmhouse.” The deliberately blurry paint application is her impressionistic response to rural scenes in which buildings, fences, hay bales and other human interventions are gently nestled within calmly blurred landscapes.

Mitic’s natural subject matter is handled quite differently. She does extreme close-ups of flowers that transform those flower petals into colorful abstractions.

In “Foxgloves,” the white flower petals are set against a very dark background. “Talisman 2” features a lovely merger of pink, orange and yellow; and “Study in Pink” similarly has tightly spaced pink and yellow petals that are like shards of color.

The aptly titled “Summer’s Joy” depicts a coleus whose vividly red leaves amount to a cheerful advertisement for that season.

Katherine Farrell, Mary Jo Messenger and Lynda Mitic exhibit through Feb. 9 at the Bernice Kish Gallery at Slayton House, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Wilde Lake Village Center in Columbia. Call 410-730-3987 or go to wildelake.org

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