Artists lives to share the experience

October 17, 1991|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Evening Sun Staff

IF THERE'S a word to describe artist Camellia Blackwell and her work, it's multiculturalism -- a trendy idea that brings together the world and its varied people to savor the similarities and appreciate the differences.

"I think that it's important for people to live among one another and share experiences," said Blackwell, svelte, attractive and a Baltimore native who now lives in Greenbelt. "I promote those feelings."

Promote them? She lives them. From her circle of friends to the places she's been to the art she's produced, Blackwell is multiculturalism.

"I've just always had this desire to meet different people, to gain new experiences, see the world and experience how people live," she said. "I like to draw from these experiences."

From her travels to such far and wide places as Nigeria, Sweden and Senegal, she's learned printing techniques and has gathered material for her multicultural-themed artwork. Her photographs during visits to Finland and Moscow, in fact, are the basis for a series of artwork on display at the McCrillis Gardens Gallery in Bethesda, a former estate turned into a combination art gallery and 5-acre garden of rare and unusual plants. She will talk about her travels and her art Sunday at McCrillis.

Blackwell's artwork -- photo-lithographs, photo silk-screens, monoprints -- is also part of the Maryland Printmakers' exhibition at the Katzenstein Gallery in Baltimore. That exhibit runs until Oct. 26.

On display at the McCrillis gallery are 23 of her prints, five of which are reminiscences of her Soviet Union trip, which she took as part of the 1990 U.S./U.S.S.R. Emerging Leaders Summit.

"The coloration and the textural qualities of her work . . . showed imagination," said Sarah Stout of the Arts Council of Montgomery County, which chooses exhibits for McCrillis. "When we were looking at many works by many artists, hers stood out as high-quality and interesting."

One of the prints, "Soviet Series 1," is a collage of photographs taken in Moscow and Baltimore, a personal statement about urban decay. She has juxtaposed pictures of Lenin's tomb with Doc's Liquor Store on Baker and Fulton streets in Baltimore with a department store on Moscow's Gorky Street. Crushed among these images of rumbling streets and dirtied alleyways are the words, "I know the reason . . . this world . . . Baltimore."

"The Soviet Union, Moscow, looks like it's been neglected, run down," said Blackwell, a photographer, painter and printmaker.

"The streets and curbs have cracks and need repairs," she said. "The living condition seems to be decaying."

It's a scene, Blackwell says, that resembles Baltimore, where she grew up, as well as other industrialized U.S. cities.

Her artwork's images and themes are a result of the childhood she spent in East Baltimore.

She graduated in 1963 from Eastern High School and attended Morgan State University, majoring in art education. She taught art at Lake Clifton Senior High School. And although she holds a master degree in fine arts from the Maryland Institute, College of Art and a doctorate in art from the University of Maryland College Park, her education didn't stop there. She's taken art workshops, seminars and classes taught by artists in Finland, Senegal and the Gambia.

Now she's an artist in residence at the Montpelier Cultural Arts Center in Laurel as well as a graphic consultant. She's currently working on designing a poster for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and is selling a line of 35 CamBla greeting cards in stores in Prince Georges County, Washington and Baltimore.

She helped form the International Center for Artistic Development, which creates art exchange programs among the diverse people and cultures of the world. Currently she's promoting an art exchange between American artists and Soviet artists from the Khazhakstan Republic.

Blackwell will speak at 2 p.m. Sunday at the McCrillis Gardens Gallery, 6910 Greentree Road, Bethesda. The gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, from noon to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Her exhibition runs until Nov. 10. For more information, call (301) 365-1657.

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