It's elemental, my dear, in Laurel gallery exhibit

Artists sometimes find inspiration in places you might not expect. Jannon Baer cites specific acupuncture points as the inspiration for the mixed medium paintings she's exhibiting in the Himmelfarb Gallery at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

If that institutional name does not sound familiar, it's the new name for the longtime Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel. The art gallery in its lobby is located just steps away from offices where acupuncture points are the medical point.


Looking to traditional Eastern medical practices for her thematic material, this western Maryland artist calls her exhibit "Essence of the Elements: Homage to Nature and Healers." The elemental things she has in mind include ancient Chinese medical references to water, wood, fire, earth and metal.

Admittedly, not every gallery visitor will immediately get these thematic, er, points. But there are primal qualities that emotionally come across in paintings that stylistically vary from complete abstraction to quasi-representation.

Also coming across clearly is that these mixed medium paintings often make direct use of actual bits of nature in order to evoke the natural world. Besides the usual acrylic paint on canvas, the artist uses the canvas as a support for selectively applying dried grasses, handmade paper, flower petals, and tree leaves.

Although some of the paintings mostly rely on conventional paint application in order to evoke nature, they tend to unconventionally exist somewhere between representation and abstraction. "Spring Green Canopy," for instance, gives a definite sense of green and yellow foliage against a blue sky, but this painting alludes to a landscape more than it presents an actual one.

In "Cloud Ripple Pond," shades of blue, white and green are deployed in such a way that they suggest circular ripples against the otherwise calm surface of a pond. This is a painting that presents the idea of a pond rather than a real one.

Then there are paintings that go all the way into abstraction. "Singing from the Center" features yellow and brown rings with an orange-red orb at the center. It's an energy field that presumably holds psychic meaning.

And then there are the paintings whose surfaces incorporate an assortment of natural items.

In "Weeping Exhale," much of the painting's surface is an abstract wash of white paint. That paint also partly covers several real leaves affixed to the surface.

Nature also plays a direct role in "Fiery Blooms," whose painterly mix of red, yellow and orange has blossom-evocative associations that are reinforced by the placement of real twigs on the canvas.

"Nurturing Cycle" has arcing lines and zones of yellow, green and blue paint whose natural appearance is given a thematic boost by the placement of actual leaves from five different tree species.

The most striking of these mixed medium paintings is "Undulating Ocean." Thick blue lines are used to suggest several ocean waves. A wave near the bottom of the composition has five real leaves attached to the painted surface. It seems as if the ocean currents are carrying these leaves along.

Jannon Baer exhibits through Sept. 19 in the Himmelfarb Gallery of the Maryland University of Integrative Health, at 7750 Montpelier Road in Laurel. Call 410-888-9048 or go to www.muih.edu.