Festival's visual arts component appears to be a helter-skelter effort


A viewing of five of the seven shows gathered under the umbrella of the Columbia Festival of the Arts' visual arts component leads to the conclusion that those responsible for the festival ought seriously to rethink this component of it. If visual art.

Consider: The new element of this festival, a visual arts competition show, had restrictions on allowable art (such as no nudity) that caused the resignation of a juror. The show itself was on the whole wearisomely ultra-conservative and banal, and it ended up in a space where it had to close last weekend, before the festival even opened.

Four other shows put on by various organizations are all disappointing to one degree or another. The best of them is the Columbia Association Art Center's "The Eye of the Beholder," photographs by M. E. Warren. Warren's color and black-and-white images -- skipjacks on the bay, birds in flight, the State House dome, etc. -- are excellent photography in the pictorial tradition, but thoroughly familiar: a safe, unadventurous choice.

The Howard County Center for the Arts has a show of its resident artists. Quite a few of these do portraits or figural studies of one kind or another, and while some (such as James Adkins and David Zuccarini) are accomplished at it, the show never comes alive. There's not a wow in it.

Slayton House has an exhibit of two watercolorists, Anne de la Vergne Tefft and Liz Cotterell, a show of flowers, fruit and such conventional subjects. They do what they do well enough, and certainly what they do will offend no one. What Stanley Wenocur calls his "abstract landscape" paintings, at Howard Community College art gallery, make no strong impression.

The Maryland Museum of African Art's double offering, "Treasures of Africa: Art from the Embassies" and "Art Reflections of the Women of Africa," will open on Sunday and was not available for viewing this week.

The show and sale of artisans' work at the Columbia Lakefront will run this evening, tomorrow and Sunday. And at the community arts picnic at Symphony Woods on July 7, children will be invited to contribute to a 72-foot mural of the American landscape created by Mary Jo Tydlacka and C. Alden Phelps. At least that ought to be fun for the kids.

Based on what I've seen, the festival's visual arts component adds up to something of a helter-skelter effort. It looks as if the festival doesn't pay enough attention to the visual arts because it doesn't really know what to do with them. If it's going to do anything, it ought to do better than this.

Times and dates for these shows can be found on Page 4 of Maryland Live.

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