GROWING UP in rural Louisiana, Pat Roberie first acquired a taste for observing people during her visits to New Orleans. She discovered early in life that observation is a way to gain a sense of a stranger's character.
"I love looking at people," Roberie said. "The psychology of it interests me."
Fittingly, Roberie's new series of oil paintings on display at the Artists' Gallery in Columbia is titled "Observations." As a member of the Artists' Gallery co-operative, Roberie has at least one work on display throughout the year. "Observations" is the Ellicott City artist's second featured show at the gallery.
Six of the seven paintings in the show were produced during the past two years. The remaining painting, "Corita," is a favorite that Roberie chose to include.
"Corita" is a portrait and a study in color. The figure wears brightly colored clothing that contrasts sharply with the darker and intricately patterned backdrop. The colors of the model's clothing and the backdrop, along with the expression on the model's face, suggest a richly textured personality.
"Thoughts of the Past (Up on the Boardwalk)" portrays an elderly man descending a staircase from a boardwalk to the beach. As with many of the paintings in "Observations," Roberie worked from a photograph of a stranger to create an image in which the figure interacts with the landscape.
"I was attracted to this subject because of the way he was hunched over as he walked," Roberie said.
The figure in "Thoughts of the Past" is painted in profile. His contemplative gaze is fixed downward rather than toward the vast sky that surrounds him.
"Matrimony (Tide Watchers at Fundy)" portrays a man and woman seated at a picnic table overlooking the ocean. There is a meaningful gap on the bench between the figures, suggesting that both are introspectively contemplating the ocean rather than interacting with one another. The painting's title is intentionally ambiguous.
"My husband looks at this painting and thinks that these two can hardly stand one another," Roberie said. "A friend of mine looks at it and thinks they're so close they don't need to speak to communicate. It can work both ways."
"The Three Graces (Artist's Point, Yellowstone)" is an ironically titled work that depicts three elderly women seated on a bench overlooking a sublime scene at Yellowstone Park. The most striking feature of this painting is that none of the women is looking at the landscape. The figures are painted from behind, and their heads are tilted downward, as if they are contemplating their hands or cameras instead of the view.
"Thoughts of the Future (Yellowstone Lake)" and "The Soccer Shirt" feature Roberie's son, Paul. As a counterpoint to "Thoughts of the Past," "Thoughts of the Future" presents a small figure looking out at the lake. The sense of open space in the picture conveys an attitude of optimism and possibility.
Although "The Soccer Shirt" is a portrait, the picture is aptly titled. The yellow in the boy's shirt is drawn out from the fabric to the wall, making the shirt rather than the face the focal point of the image.
"Sanctuary" portrays a woman standing before a stained glass window at the old capital building in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There is a self-reflexive quality in this painting. The bright colors in the stained glass are the dominant force in the picture, while the figure is cast in the role of observer. Roberie worked from a photograph of a stranger for "Sanctuary," although the composition of the painting differs significantly from that of the original image.
Previously, Roberie had worked as a librarian as well as an artist, but taking on portrait commissions has made it possible for Roberie to focus exclusively on her art since she moved to Ellicott City in 1984. While the commissioned portraits are economically important, it is in paintings such as those in the "Observations" series where Roberie explores new approaches and develops as an artist.
"If I live to be 100, I'll still be learning," Roberie said.
The "Observations" series will be on display at the Artists' Gallery through Sept. 29, with a public reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday.
The Artists' Gallery is at 10227 Wincopin Circle in Columbia.
The Miller library branch in Ellicott City is offering a five-week series on Latino literature and culture. "One Vision, Many Voices: Latino Literature in the U.S." will begin Sept. 21 and continue each Thursday through Nov.16.
Registration is required.
Centennial Lane Elementary School will hold back-to-school nights for kindergarten at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; for first grade at 7:30 p.m. Thursday; for second grade at 6:30 p.m. Thursday; for third grade at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday; for fourth grade at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21; and for fifth grade at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19.
In my column of Sept. 5, I indicated that the Elkridge Heritage Society initiated the "Honoring Our Veterans" project. A correction is in order. The Elkridge Heritage Society is among the supporting organizations, and the Viaduct newspaper is the sponsor.