A couple of exhibits at Howard Community College present figurative depictions of women that stylistically range from the expressive to the surreal. Just about the only thing not present is straightforward realism.
The group exhibit "Women of Myth, Splendor, and Irrefutable Morals" in HCC's Rouse Company Foundation Gallery and Janice Crum's solo exhibit titled "I hate it when you (Please) look at me" in its Art Department Gallery are equally bold thematically and in their use of various materials.
Visitors to the group show, for instance, are immediately greeted by three acrylic on Mylar works by Joan Cox: "Our Bedroom Hymns," "Lullaby" and "L'Oscillation." Loose brushwork is deployed for these images of nude women involved in intimate pairings, and the fact that the images are painted on suspended, transparent Mylar panels enhances the sense that this personal interaction is, er, hanging in the breeze and awaiting your inspection.
That sort of blunt physicality characterizes most of the artwork in this show. Among the three oil paintings by Cody Pryseski, an especially striking example is the "Girl with Red Stockings" whose fleshy figure is only clad in those attention-grabbing stockings. The sensuously loose paint application and general aura of happy hedonism may remind viewers of the approach to female figuration taken by an artist who is not in this show, Raoul Middleman.
Casually presented nudity also characterizes the three untitled graphite drawings by Tanya Ziniewicz. These all feature bare-breasted women posing for solo portraits.
Assertive female portraiture is also found in the graphite drawings by Ellen Durkan, which express a cyberpunk sensibility; and also Stephanie Schafer's digital photomontage and acrylic on canvas portraits that rely on presenting the female models with dramatic makeup and costuming.
Moving into another medium, Shin Yeon Jeon's ceramic sculptures, among them "Theresa," exert a three-dimensional presence in the gallery space.
Bringing classical allusions to the figurative mix, Christopher Koch's pastel on cardboard "Study for the Graces Meet the Minotaur" and "Study for the Graces in Their Boredom" primarily rely on thinly drawn schematic lines to conjure up mythic references to women.
Things venture into the surreal for most of these artists. Yiyun Chu's ink drawing on watercolor paper and Adobe Photoshop "Where Are You, Darling?" features a woman seated beside a campfire in the forest at night. She's flanked by wild animals that seem comfortable nestling next to her.
Additional surreal landscapes can be seen in Greg McLemore's oil paintings, among them "G.D.," with its placement of a person seen against a dry and barren plain.
Surreal to an extreme degree are Lania D'Agostino's three "Animalia" mannequin figures made out of fiberglass, resin, cardboard, oil and acrylic paint, and mixed media. They have animal heads, brightly colored fur and in general convey a sense that they are female figures of a mythic stature.
In Janice Crum's solo show, the artist makes small nude sculptures of women that also tend to have mythic or surreal attributes.
Somewhat setting her work apart from what's found in the larger group exhibit is that Crum often has religious references that include ornate gilded frames that you would expect to find around portraits of saintly figures; reliquary-evocative boxes containing sculptural forms; and the thematic sense that at least some of these mini-figures have suffered in ways that make them candidates for sainthood.
"Women of Myth, Splendor, and Irrefutable Morals" and "I hate it when you (Please) look at me" run through May 8 at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Go to www.howardcc.edu