Faculty art show is pleasing, but quiet and traditional


Most non-theme group shows don't leave overall impressions so much as thoughts of single works liked, or others disliked. This year's "Faculty Exhibition" at the Maryland Institute, College of Art (through Nov. 11), is an exception.

Oh, there are single works liked, all right, and others not so much. But there are general impressions as well. As always, the capability of this group is a given, and as always its disinclination to shock -- with the new, the bold, the controversial -- is also evident.

Now, when so many artists are dealing with social and political issues, this show as a whole seems strikingly non-issue oriented. There are exceptions, of course. James Hennessey's "Fenecie" deals with the environment, race relations or both; Valerie Dearing's "The Virgin of Guadalupe in the Persian Gulf" certainly has an up-to-date title, though the image itself is less clear. William Larson's "After Lowenthal" deals with contemporary loss the sense of history and of self. But none of these is particularly confrontational.

And the overall tone of the exhibit seems more toward than away from history and memory, whether it be the self-absorption combined with nostalgia of Jack Wilgus' "Reflections/Luminescence," the suggestions of antiquity in Phil Epton's "Fig Leaves" and Charles E. Flickinger's handsome "Harp/Canoe," or the continued embrace of tried and true subject matter such as Philip Koch's "The Very Red Barn," Michael Economos' tour de force of a double landscape "Imagined Spring," and Phyllis Plattner's still life "Split." Barry Nemett's "An Owl's Tale" and Jan Pierce Stinchcomb's "Flight Cage" could be thought of as having ecological themes, but if so they are couched in terms of gentle hymns to nature, to creativity, to seeking self and the past.

Other symptoms of tradition here are the preponderance of painting, not necessarily in numbers of works but in the impression they make; the fact that there isn't a whole lot of media-oriented art; and the quietness of this exhibit -- nothing screams at you, either figuratively or literally. Abby Sangiamo's "Cats in a Treetop" might be the mascot here; not only is it a well done traditional painting with a traditional subject matter given a fresh treatment, but cats, as everyone knows, are quiet animals.

As in past years, there's nothing electrifying in this faculty show, but (with one possible exception which will not be named) there's nothing awful, and there are many accomplished and pleasing works.

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