In Chevelle Makeba Moore's "War of the Heart" a tank, a wolf, a dying person occupy the space around the major figure, who contemplates a table on which a human heart pierced by nails oozes blood. It's not hard to make sense of this picture. The tank can represent war or those lost in war, the dying person stands for other losses, the wolf may be hunger and poverty (the wolf at the door) or sexual assault or more generally the cruelties that humans can inflict on one another. All of these pierce the artist's heart like nails.
Quite aside from what she depicts, Moore's strength lies so much in the expressive power of gesture that she can make her pictures hit you with the force of the emotion that went into them.
In the second-floor gallery of Maryland Art Place she's teamed with four other African-American artists in an exhibit curated by Duane Thigpen. Moore, who used to create more generalized paintings about such subjects as rape, deals in the works here with society and race but also, obviously, personalizes these issues. Her paintings become more effective as a result. There's lots of pain in these works, but also hope in "Metamorphosis of Healing," as the figure (painted on the canvas of a butterfly chair) rises from the horrors surrounding her into the sunlight.
Angela Franklin's cloisonne and enamel constructions, including "And You Create and Train Your Flowers Still" and "I Never Travel Light" deal with the layered heritage of African Americans: how it is possible -- and necessary -- to carry with you a consciousness of the African past that is as vivid and immediate as that of the American past, or even more so.
Oletha Devane's installation "The Quest" incorporates disparate elements from text to painting to a platform strewn with coal to a tower covered with names of various deities (Allah, God, Osiris) topped by a statuette of an angel. If Franklin's work celebrates the triumph of a people who preserve the complexity of their past, Devane's searches that complexity for identity.
Arvie Smith is one of the best painters to have graced Baltimore with his presence in recent years; but his major painting here, "Tell Mama All About It," has been seen repeatedly, and his two smaller ones have less to offer. Eugene Coles' paintings are oriented toward exploring formal issues and art history, and while the best ones (and especially "Bird Legs") command attention, they look somewhat out of place in this company.
On the first floor at MAP, the exhibit "A Meeting of Hands" offers the results of five collaborations, each of an artist who works in clay with one who works in another medium. Some of these combinations succeed better than others, and as examples of collaboration two stand out.
Blaise De Paolo and Charma Le Edmonds contribute very different works in clay to "Native Gathering;" the result looks like a party thrown by Edmonds' clan for DePaolo's invited guests. It's a charming, witty assemblage, with a point about accepting others' differences. And Jane Bialek's clay works representing the "Elements" (earth, water, fire, air) fit Stephen Kent's simple and elegant settings for them like hand in glove.
What: "Five Baltimore Artists" and "A Meeting of Hands"
Where: Maryland Art Place, 218 West Saratoga St.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Nov. 20
Call: (410) 962-8565