Having your portrait painted definitely puts your personality on display. An exhibit by the Maryland Society of Portrait Painters has many personalities on the wall awaiting your inspection at the Columbia Art Center. As you get to know the people depicted in these portraits, you also learn about the artistic personalities that created the paintings. So, get prepared to meet a lot of people in the exhibit titled “Perception: The Artist’s View.”
Artist and subject are the same person in Bryan Zidek’s oil painting “Self Portrait.” The broad brush strokes deployed by the artist give the resulting painting an assertive quality that seems appropriate for the confident-looking artist depicted here. That overall sense of solidity is darkly reinforced by the black paint found in much of the painting. The subject’s hair and beard, for instance, are a mix of black and gray. Although the flesh tones in the face lighten things up, if you will, even that face has such chunky paint application that you realize you are meeting a substantial person who is serious about his painting.
Another person definitely worth meeting can be seen in Evelyn Baskin’s pastel ‘Susan,” which is much lighter in terms of both color selections and brushwork. This subject wears a multi-colored dress that is complemented by an equally colorful necklace. The woman has a smile on her face and looks our way with such an open expression that she essentially seems happy to meet you.
A number of the portraits feature individuals whose occupations are clearly indicated in the composition.
In a second pastel by Baskin, “The Bookseller,” the depicted man seems to have come right out of central casting in a very agreeable manner. His white beard and hair make it clear that he has been in this business for a long time. His glasses seem just right for somebody who spends considerable time around books. Even the pen nestled in his shirt pocket attests to somebody for whom reading and writing are everyday things. As if all of those things weren’t enough, the seated bookseller is backed by stacks of books.
Similarly, Andree Tullier”s pastel “The Composer” leaves little doubt as to its subject’s likely occupation. A woman seated by a window calmly looks down at a piece of white paper on which she is writing with a pencil. She is quietly absorbed in her creative work. It’s such a contemplative scene that the light gently coming through the window lends the entire composition the mood associated with 17th-century Dutch portraiture.
Cultural identity gets explored in pictures such as Anne Singer’s oil painting “Gullah Proud.” It depicts a black woman whose serene face is expressively accompanied by large circular earrings and an orange-and-red turban. Her direct look announces that she proudly represents a culture that still survives in coastal Georgia and South Carolina.
In other cases, the issue of cultural identity is more a matter of modern subjects assuming the costumes of earlier eras. In Bill Mapes’ oil painting “The Zouave,” a seated man’s uniform and red cap attest to a 19th-century-style of military uniform. Mapes backs his subject with such a boldly abstracted red zone that you are sure to stand at attention and consider this fellow.
Revisiting historical periods obviously dovetails with reviving earlier art-historical references and styles. This is the case in “The Composer,” of course, and in several other artworks as well. In Cindy Winnick’s oil painting “Sixteenth Century Jessica,” the color green is found in a young woman’s dress, necklace, eyes and head band. The artist’s skillful repetition of that color is matched by how effectively the subject is placed against a vividly blue background. Throughout the composition, the subject’s pose and the artist’s sharply-defined color choices emulate a style of portraiture that one would, indeed, find back in the 16th century.
A later period in art history gets revisited in Abigail McBride’s oil painting “Bridge.” It depicts a Japanese woman dressed in a purple kimono and holding a pink umbrella as she stands on a tiny bridge that gracefully crosses a lily pad-filled pond. The melting colors deployed for the water and also for the background vegetation further reinforce the sense that we are looking at a scene that captures the aura of 19th-century French Impressionism. It’s yet another example in this exhibit of how such portraits introduce us to people, places and art-historical periods that we otherwise might not meet in a typical day.
The Maryland Society of Portrait Painters has an exhibit running through March 4 at the Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth in Long Reach Village Center in Columbia. Call 410-730-0075 or go to ColumbiaArtCenter.org