Solid photography displayed at new annual show

January 04, 1991|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Photo Show When: Tuesdays through Fridays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays noon to 5 p.m., through Jan. 27.

Where: Maryland Federation of Art's Gallery on the Circle, 18 State Circle, Annapolis.

Call: (301) 268-4566.

The Maryland Federation of Art was created in 1963 as a non-profit organization to encourage art, but it never had a juried national show purely of photography until the "First Annual Photography Exhibition" that opened yesterday. A total of 179 artists from Maryland and elsewhere submitted 507 entries and juror Kathleen Ewing, owner of the Kathleen Ewing Gallery in Washington, selected 197 pieces by 113 artists for the show.

That's an awful lot of photographs to be accommodated in the Gallery on the Circle's two spaces, and the results are sometimes frustrating. Barbara Southworth's "Meander," for instance, which won a second place award in the color category, is hanging so low that it's almost impossible to see it, whereas her "Salt Mash Panorama," which didn't win an award, is much more accessible.

Maybe greater selectivity would have made a more manageable show, but judging by what's included the choice must have been hard. There is a great deal of good solid photography here, and nothing that evokes an overwhelming reaction either positive or negative. It would be awfully hard to eliminate a third of these as the least works in the show, or to select a third as the best.

Similarly, it's not easy to single out works for praise, since many others equally good will have to be left out. For the most part this is straightforward photography, though naturally there are some hand-painted or otherwise manipulated or staged works. Among them, Theresa Airey's three Polaroids of Venice, including "Venice, Waterfront Square," give the city a watery, dreamlike, vaguely fake quality that seems especially appropriate. Becky Test's "Quest of Man" is a surreal, heavily symbolic work about our search for meaning in religion, history and art.

Nearby, Wade Mayberry's "Doorway" is black and white photography as geometric abstraction. Elaine McDonald's "Pears" is a small but radiant still life, and Donna T. Jones' remarkable "Sicily" communicates something real about the island through the textures, shapes and light in a simple picture of a vase on a stairway against a wall.

The color in Ken Ashton's "Front Stoop" is heavy with emotion; the stone looks soaked with blood that rain has failed to wash away. Ron Jones' "Maine Fog" and "Potters Studio" possess a romantic pictorialist aura, whereas Anthony Wilbur's "Bristlecone Pine" and "Faces" are enhanced by their clarity. Harry Tarzian's "Almost Normal" won a prize, but I liked the juxtaposition of shapes in his "At Rest" even better.

If there is nothing really astounding here, it's good to see this annual photography show inaugurated, and to be able to say it's off to a creditable start.

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