The new millennium may be two years away, but the Howard County Center for the Arts will offer a glimpse of things to come when it plays host next month to an exhibition of high-tech digital media art.
The show, "State of the Arts: Digital Media from Maryland," will showcase the work of 17 Maryland artists who work with computer imagery and digital media to produce animation, color prints, sculpture and interactive artwork on CD-ROM.
David Yager, director of the fine arts division at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is curator of the show, which features the work of several UMBC faculty members, graduate students and regional artists.
Most of the pieces could be described as experimental takes on traditional art forms such as painting, drawing and sculpture, said Symmes Gardner, director of programs at UMBC's Fine Arts Gallery.
"Digital art is really about taking art from other media and transporting it to the computer," Gardner said. "The art doesn't start out in the computer. A computer is just a tool that's used to get to the other side."
One of the artists featured in the show, Julie Simon, began using a computer to print photographs when she was pregnant and was discouraged from using darkroom chemicals.
Two of the digital paintings she made during her pregnancy are featured in the show, both large-scale silhouettes. Simon now works almost exclusively in digital media, creating abstract paintings and self-portraits on her computer.
A professor of video production at the University of Baltimore's School of Communications Design, Simon said computers are another tool for artistic expression.
"Computers are just as valid as a paintbrush or a camera at this point," Simon said. "It's what you do with the technology that's important."
Brooke Singer, a UMBC graduate student in the imaging and digital art program, said computer-related majors are popping up in university curricula all over the country.
"Digital media art is very flexible," Singer said. "It's great for artists because the tools which have mostly been in the commercial realm like advertising and medical research are now open to us. It's great to push the limits and see what the machines can do. They really allow you to stretch your creativity."
Artist Gail Rebhan, director of media technology studies at Trinity College in Washington whose work is featured in the exhibit, says art produced with the help of a computer "won't replace the existing medium. It just wasn't available to people before."
Also on display at the center next month will be artwork by Howard County resident Edward Brown.
"Edward Brown: New Works" will feature a series of large drawings and oil paintings by the 40-year-old Columbia native, including a number of western landscapes.
For the past few years, Brown has been working on a series of rTC drawings and paintings inspired by trees in Ellicott City's Centennial Park.
Brown said he spent years painting abstract and geometric shapes but wanted to move in another direction. "I felt drawn to landscapes, especially to drawing trees without leaves," he said.
He is on the faculty at the Columbia Art Center, where his work appeared in the annual juried faculty show last December. His creations have been shown at the center previously.
Brown said his work will likely stand in stark contrast to the digital art in Gallery One.
"My approach to art is more traditional," he said. "I'm interested in the craft of self-expression and not really interested in technology and what that means to the culture as a whole.
"I hope it works," Brown said with a laugh.
The traveling "State of the Arts: Digital Media Art from Maryland" and "Edward Brown: New Works" will open at the Howard County Center for the Arts on Jan. 15. A reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. is free and open to the public. The shows run until mid-February. Information: Stephanie Guerin, Howard County Arts Council, 410-313-2787.
Pub Date: 12/24/98