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Surveying today's art in 'Art Maryland 2016'

Howard County Times

As a state-of-the-art exhibit about the art being made in our state, "Art Maryland 2016" fills a gallery at the Howard County Arts Council with an eclectic mix. The juror for this exhibit, Baltimore Museum of Art director Christopher Bedford, clearly wants to present a wide range of artwork.

In terms of painting, for instance, you will find both representational and abstract approaches to that medium.

Where the former approach is concerned, there are numerous human figures crowded together in David M. Cassidy's oil painting "The Doors of the Church Are Open." The largest figure is a young black girl whose pink-and-white dress is emblematic of her innocence and also her curiosity as she looks at scenes from slavery, the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights movement.

Where the latter approachis concerned, examples of complete abstraction include Sarah Higgins' acrylic painting "Terracotta Memories." Irregularly shaped zones of blue, red and other assertive colors energetically bump up against each other. Arcing green and black lines are barely able to keep those colors apart. There's evensome black paint splattered about in places, as if all of this energy is on the verge of getting messy.

Besides the various approaches seen in the exhibited paintings, you can see a similar diversity within the photographs on display. Although most have realistic subject matter, these photographers have different ways of seeing things.

A landscape that will be familiar to most Marylanders can be seen in John Wisor's "OC Traditional." It features people strolling along the Ocean City boardwalk at night. Brightly lit commercial signs for everything from body piercing to bowling seem even brighter owing to the pitch-black sky overhead.

Unlike that well-populated scene, Linda Diane Bunk's "Babushka in Autumn" and two related photos are relatively close-up views of an elderly woman whose wardrobe and weathered face make her seem like an Old World figure who is still on the scene today.

Several other photographers offer realistic views that verge on geometric abstraction.

James Lubitz's "Cottonseed Mill, Texas" is a spare depiction of a building whose metal walls and roof make the photo seem like a study in black, gray and white. This effect is even more pronounced in Don James' "Quonset Hut Ribs," a tightly cropped, near-monochromatic composition that makes this building's architectural lines seem like a study in anatomy.

A similar approach pertains to a photo depicting organic subject matter, Karen Crouse's "Hosta," which is an austere and extremely close-upblack-and-white study of the lines found in plant leaves

Other artistic mediums also are sampled within this relatively compact group exhibit.

A nice example of collage, for example, is Ilene Gold's "Carnival," which takes snippets of photographs from National Geographic magazine and expertly puts them together in order to make a new picture depicting carnival rides and attractions.

Much of the art being produced today does not neatly adhere to the traditional distinctions between painting, photography and other mediums. This exhibit presentsa sampling of medium-straddling art.

Prime examples include Penny Jacoby's "Emergence," a wall-hanging sculptural form created by putting acrylic paint onto modeling paste-coated burlap. As it pushes out into the gallery air, you ask yourself whether this is a three-dimensional painting, a sculpture growing out of the wall or perhaps a bit of both. The painter Frank Stella has beendoing somewhat similar pieces for decades, but Jacoby's "Emergence" and a second piece by her, "Ascendant," still have an attention-holding boldness to them.

Although Sara Dittrich's "Grapevine" is a wall-hanging rectangular form made out of polymer clay, it is not a pure and simple example of ceramics. Itssurface has been coated with acrylic paint, and thin strands of wire have been sewn through it in a manner one would more often associate with fabric art than with ceramics.

AnnieFarrar has three mixed medium sculptures whose incorporation of a spoon, a bell, a glass, a clothespin and many other objects makes these pieces qualify as sculptural assemblages rather than anything that has been carved; moreover, these items are bound together nearly to the point of melding together. As if that weren't enough, they are tightly wrapped with twine and also painted all over with gooey black paint.

Disparate materials are showcased in Anthony Stellaccio's "Raw Material #4." It's a Plexiglass box that has two chambers containing talc and a third chamber containing pulverized bricks. Rather than being deployed to construct or otherwise emulate a built object, these are raw materials presented on their own.

And Travis Childers' "Cinderscape" has an actual cinder block serving as the base for a green landscape created with model train landscape material. You won't find this kind of landscape in nature or even in an otherwise fanciful Christmas train garden, but it's the norm for an art gallery.

"Art Maryland 2016" runs through Dec. 9 at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. Call 410-313-2787 or go to www.hocoarts.org

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