"Chase Pier Model" by Paul Daniel at the 38th annual Invitational Sculpture Exhibition at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel.
"Chase Pier Model" by Paul Daniel at the 38th annual Invitational Sculpture Exhibition at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel. (HANDOUT)

The 38th annual Invitational Sculpture Exhibition at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel serves as a lively reminder that contemporary sculptors have gone way beyond the traditional heroic marble or bronze figure atop a pedestal.

Indeed, the current exhibit has only a few figurative references. These sculptors mostly favor abstract forms and mixed media materials.

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What distinguishes the exhibit is several of the artists use glass, not a material generally associated with sculpture. Far from seeming fragile, their treatment of the glass makes it seem as durable as any of the other materials found throughout the exhibit.

Erwin Timmers’ installation “Spoils,” for example, consists of 11 rectangular pieces of thick glass mounted on a wall. The glass itself has a slightly milky texture and rather than the flatness one expects from a pane of glass, these are slabs with raised surfaces and various repeating geometric forms on them.

Using the glass surface for more overtly representational references is another wall-mounted piece by Timmers, “Words Unspoken,” which offers immediately recognizable images including a telephone receiver and a hand making a peace sign.

Besides art that hangs on the gallery walls, Timmers has a floor-mounted piece, “Sitemap,” in which a black base and upright spokes support green-hued, square-shaped glass slabs.

A very different use of glass can be seen in Tim Tate’s “Third Times the Charm,” a wall-mounted glass box into which the viewer gazes. Although the constructed box is actually rather shallow, presumably mirror-reliant optical trickery results in the viewer getting a sense of near-infinite space.

The 38th annual Invitational Sculpture Exhibition at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel.
The 38th annual Invitational Sculpture Exhibition at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel. (Claude Langley)

Another artist using glass, Laura Beth Konopinski, deploys transparent glass bell jars inside of which are minimalist references to organic imagery. In “Her Inner Space Given Out,” the mostly vacant interior contains just the slightest suggestion of branches and vegetation; while “Displacing Your Wishes with Truth” has more distinct landscape references.

Getting away from glass but not from natural references is Veronica Szalus, whose “Permeable” is mounted against a wall. The slender, branch-like wood slats arcing across the wall’s surface also cast delicate shadows.

Moving into other materials and a different aesthetic sensibility, Paul Daniel’s “No. 1” and similar pieces rely upon brass and aluminum to make abstract constructions that manage to seem both solid and graceful.

He makes things more complicated in terms of mixed media and construction method in “Chaser Pier Model.” Its components include an elevated, water-filled basin with four metal columns that rise above it supporting white sails. This piece is a whimsical example of kinetic sculpture.

Eric Dyer’s two wall-mounted wheels are also kinetic, with surfaces covered by colorful, photo-based imagery. The viewer is encouraged to set the wheels spinning. The imagery on the surface of “S.P.O.” is an appetizing assortment of onions, sausage and peppers.

The imagery on the surface of “Flora” is a rich assortment of human figures and flowers. Its title is a reference to Flora Shallcross Muybridge, whose husband, Eadweard Muybridge, was a 19th-century photographer whose technical innovations helped create the transition from photographs to motion pictures.

In addition to the sculpture exhibit in Montpelier’s main gallery, check out a second sculpture exhibit in the adjacent Library gallery. Marcia Wolfson Ray has a solo show titled “archiTERRA.”

Typical of her wood and mixed media sculptures is “Entropy,” in which pieces of tree bark are encased within a delicate, gently curving armature made of twigs.

Ray likes to work variations into this basic construction method. In “Distance,” for instance, the pieces of wood resemble little spears. These spears have charred sections that give this sculpture a slightly anxious quality.

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And there is a third exhibit at Montpelier. Its Resident Artist gallery contains the Montpelier Instructors Showcase. Exhibiting there are Mario Bloomfield, Irene Sylvester, Michelle Arsenault, Richard Zandler, Linda Bernard, Jeremy Wright, Theresa Clack, Roslyn Logsdon, Alonzo Moses, David Brosch, Lindsay D’Andelet and George Kochell.

The 38th annual Invitational Sculpture Exhibition, Marcia Wolfson Ray: archiTERRA and Montpelier Instructors Showcase run through July 28 at the Montpelier Arts Center, 9652 Muirkirk Road in Laurel. Call 301-377-7800 or email montpelier.arts@pgparks.com.

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