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Laurel Leader

Where land and water meet at Himmelfarb Gallery

Photographer Meryl Silver explores what amounts to an in-between landscape zone in the exhibit "Water's Edge" in the Himmelfarb Gallery at the Maryland University of Integrative Health in Laurel. That zone is where dry land meets the ocean and the line between them can be rather, er, fluid.

Although Silver's photos generally do not provide the specific locations where they were shot, you definitely realize how much these locations vary. Occasionally, there is a sense of exactly where the beach meets the ocean. More often a wide beach has so many tidal pools that there is a complicated interplay between sand and water. And there also are photos depicting marshy regions in which lazy rivers gently meld into a bay.

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One of the most striking photos, "Oceanside Morning," reflects Silver's tendency to emphasize how complicated the water-meets-shore equation can be. Here one sees tidal pools filling much of a wide beach. The ocean in the background is not entirely open water, because there are three large and craggy rocks rising up near the shore. Moreover, one of those rocky mini-islands casts a reflection into one of the tidal pools. Look up in the sky and you will see that the moon is still up in the sky in this early morning view.

That photo is relatively sharp in focus, but other photos are more overtly atmospheric. In "Foggy Morning," there are similar tidal pools, but in this case the photographic vantage point is facing the shore and so you see hills rising up in the background. Also of note are several tiny human figures in the background who seem to be exploring the tidal pools.

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When people pop up in other photos, they are so small and so much a part of the background that they essentially serve as indications of scale. Consider the two people on a beach in "Tranquillity." This photo's strongly atmospheric sense owes a lot to the blue-ish tint that the photographer gives to the entire image.

Besides the varied treatments of ocean and beach scenes, there are other photos in which the emphasis is on tidal marshes. In "Blackwater Reserve," there are reeds growing in the shallow water along the shore. Tall trees are visible in the distance, and so you realize that this is an area where one goes from marshland to somewhat higher ground within the span of a few hundred yards.

Reeds also appear in "Winter Morning." The reeds' pale yellow coloration is so muted that they barely seem to make their presence known amidst the placid water. The monochromatic tendencies of this photo are even more pronounced in the gray-white tones found in both the water and sky.

These are such visually spare scenes that it's not surprising to see the photographer really getting down to compositional basics in a photo such as "Winter Grasslands," which reduces those grasses to vertical lines set against an off-white background.

Similarly, a series of three "Sea Etchings" has a quasi-anatomical interest in calling your attention to the definitional outlines in isolated plants and also the ripples running like veins across a stretch of sand.

Although most of these photos incorporate both clearly presented detail and more atmospheric elements, this photographer has one photo, "The Beginning," in which the shoreline is a completely blurry melding of blue, white and gray. Maybe this is just a foggy day or maybe it's the creation of the world.

Meryl Silver exhibits through Dec. 17 in the Himmelfarb Gallery at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, 7750 Montpelier Road in Laurel. Call 410-888-9048 or go to www.muih.edu




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