Of water, life and art

The Baltimore Sun

Giant jellyfish, a merman and lots of water ask audiences to question the origins of life.

Two artists' distinctly different yet intimately linked bodies of work will be on display in the exhibit Sub-Merge at the Gallery Imperato tomorrow through Feb. 16. While the motivations of each artist differed, their works share the same overarching themes: water and the origins of life.

"I hope the sense of visual beauty and embellishment will seduce the audience into thinking more deeply about biology, evolution and religion," said Gwyneth Scally, a Tucson, Ariz.-based artist whose paintings and sculptures are part of the exhibit.

Scally's work consists of a series of paintings and two life-size sculptures of jellyfish. For the paintings, she used oil paint on gesso, which was placed on top of mahogany-stained wooden panels, to create a puddle-like effect. Most of the paintings feature humans and sea creatures together. In Newts and Fishes, the head and torso of Newt Gingrich is attached to the lower half of a fish.

The artist used fiberglass and oil paint to create the heads of the two jellyfish. She shredded, stitched and folded various types of fabric to create their fluffy tentacles.

Through her pieces, Scally aimed to create a playful and fantastical vision of evolution. She wanted to give the scientific belief an air of mythology and mystery like that which surrounds creationism.

Visual images created by Laura McClanahan, a high school art and architecture instructor and recent graduate of Maryland Institute College of Art's master of fine arts program, comprise the other half of the aquatic exhibit. Her work consists of videos of waves and vortices, collages containing photographs of water entities and photograms (images created in a dark room by exposing light-sensitive paper to light for a fraction of a second -- 0.6 to be exact).

McClanahan created the photograms by shining light through various glass objects onto paper. She describes the images as showing details of the structure of the glass, which cannot be seen with the naked eye. "They investigate these cellular structures and make them come to life," said McClanahan, whose adoption partly inspired her exhibit pieces.

Through her work, she not only strives to capture the quest for her personal biological origins, but her spiritual search for the beginnings of man as well. The artist also wants to show how water and its patterns evoke brainwaves and how humans tend to think on a superficial level and avoid digging deeper.

"I hope to bring about a sense of awareness of the consciousness of your thoughts and the need to not live on the surface," McClanahan said.


"Sub-Merge" is at Gallery Imperato, 921 E. Fort Ave., Suite 120, tomorrow through Feb. 16. The exhibit is free and open to the public 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays or by appointment. The opening reception is 7 p.m.-10 p.m. tomorrow.

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