Joseph Cardarelli was fond of nature, and people were fond of Joseph Cardarelli. That's what comes through most strongly from the Maryland Institute, College of Art's current Resident Artists Exhibit.
The three-person exhibit features the works of faculty members who have been on sabbatical for the past year, including an installation by Pat Alexander and a series of prints by John Sparks.
But it's the works of Cardarelli that draw the attention and the emotion in this show, because he died unexpectedly, of a heart attack, at the end of August.
He was primarily a poet and writing teacher at the institute, and he had to his credit seven published books of poetry. But he was also a painter who expressed his love of nature by painting scenes of the outdoors on such objects as canoe paddles, rocks, pieces of wood, even mushrooms.
In the institute exhibit, there are almost 40 of these works, from pictures of fish and canoes to scenes of lakes ringed with trees.
These are charming works that testify to the artist's simple, straightforward style. They are the very opposite of anything affected or trendy or striving to make an impression, and seeing them, one feels that the poet/artist must have been a down-to-earth, open, likable person.
That he was likable is made obvious from what's happened to Cardarelli's largest work in this show, a painting the shape and size of a canoe and titled "Canoe Spirit Decoy," which has a friendly looking sea monster-like creature represented on each of its sides.
Since the show opened, a few days after he died, people have left things in and beneath the raised canoe -- flowers, coins, shells, candles, poems.
Unplanned, unsolicited tributes are the best, because they're straight from the heart. This is one of those.
What: Resident Artists Exhibit
Where: Fox Building, Maryland Institute, College of Art, Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays), noon to 5 p.m. Sundays
Call: (410) 225-2300