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Artist draws inspiration from the SouthwestThe drawings,...


Artist draws inspiration from the Southwest

The drawings, with their blocky adobe buildings and strongly cast shadows, are distinctly Southwestern. And, in fact, gallery hoppers on Santa Fe's famed Canyon Road probably assume they're done by a member of the large artist community that has adopted that city as its own.

But, in fact, Phyllis Randall lives in Owings Mills, just about as far from the sun-baked inspiration of her work as you can get without crossing an ocean.

"I absolutely fell in love with the area," she says of her first trip to Santa Fe in 1992, "and I told my husband I think I must have lived out here in another life."

After that trip, Ms. Randall was moved to begin painting again, something she hadn't done for about 10 years as she became busier with the graphic design and photography studio, the Image Factory, that she and her husband Gary Baese run.

Ms. Randall, a native Baltimorean who studied at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, began creating vividly colored studies of Pueblo architecture and landscape, first painting in oil and switching more recently to pastels. "Most people seem to think of the Southwest in muted and soft colors," she says. "But I saw it as artistic and bold and dramatic."

She took slides of her work on her next trip to Santa Fe and found a gallery, Oot'i, that was interested in representing her. She's sold about 40 pieces so far, ranging from about $1,500 to $3,600, and continues to work from a studio in her home, #F drawing inspiration from twice-yearly trips to the Southwest. She keeps her pastels separate, literally, from her graphic design work, which is done across the driveway in a converted garage.

"Right now, I need both," says Ms. Randall, whose commercial clients include the Kennedy Krieger Institute, the March of Dimes and Mark Downs furniture (yes, she was behind that infamous billboard on the JFX of the Bawlmer woman advertising HON furniture last year). "One balances the other out." Hugh Rigby and Susan Leibtag seem unlikely collaborators for a coffeetable book filled with colorful and clever advertising art from throughout the world.

Both work at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, an offshoot of the School of Public Health. He came to Hopkins from UNICEF; she has a graduate degree in library science. Not exactly the resumes one expects from the editors of a book on condom art.

But as experts on family-planning campaigns in developing nations, Mr. Rigby and Ms. Leibtag have collected hundreds of such advertisements from throughout the world. The spread of AIDS has led to an intensive public health campaign over the past five years. Some emphasize abstinence. Others preach safe sex, as symbolized by the condom.

"We've always felt we had a one-of-a-kind collection," says Ms. Leibtag, 40. "This is the kind of thing the public never gets to see."

"But we had no money," chimes in Mr. Rigby, 46. "We had to find a commercial publisher and do all of this on our own time."

Familiar with similar books on advertising art, the duo chose Quon Editions, a Canada-based publisher. They then sent a collection of 600-plus advertisements, which then was winnowed approximately 175.

The result is a slick, oversized paperback, "HardWear -- The Art ++ of Prevention," for $19.95. (To order, call [800] 565-9398.) Images range from comic strips to what Mr. Rigby calls "in-your-face" advertisements -- extremely graphic photographs intended for bath houses, for example.

"It's not an issue if it's risque," Ms. Leibtag says, flipping through the book. "We look at this more as scientists. This is what's being done."

Laura Lippman

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