Exhibit displays the artistry of art teachers

February 09, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

While many know the Baltimore School for the Arts exists, some may not know much more about it than that. I, for one. Until I went to the art faculty show a few days ago and talked to Stephen D. Kent, head of the visual art department, I had the foolish idea that the students at this four-year high school took a little of this and a little of that (music, dance, theater, visual arts) in an effort to sort out what they wanted to do.

Not at all. Students enter in one particular discipline, and take 20 periods of that discipline and 20 periods of academic studies a week, for four years. Those who study art get everything from drawing, painting and sculpture to photography, ceramics, printmaking, mixed media, design, watercolor and art history. By the time they're ready to go on to college (and 95 percent or more do), they should have a good grounding in their field.

A school is only as good as its faculty, however, and a faculty art show provides a chance to see what kind of training the current group of visual-arts students are getting.

The show leaves three major impressions. First, these are not simply art teachers. They are also practicing, producing artists, a number of whom will be familiar to those who go to local art galleries. They not only know how to make a work, they know the rewards and difficulties of being an artist.

Second, these artists are well versed in the craft of their disciplines, so their students surely get good technical training.

In terms of art, the impression is more mixed, for some of these works are curiously flat. They don't have a lot to communicate, and they look as if they may be -- in one or two cases I know them to be -- less than the best the artists are capable of.

That is not universally true, however. Kim Parr, for instance, invests her charcoal drawings not only with a virtuoso use of light but also with subtle suggestions of the underside of domestic life -- there's a certain tension between the two reclining figures in "Winter Afternoon," and that's true even of the lone figure in the other two drawings, for the artist has set them up so you know someone else is watching.

Kent's box constructions employ found objects and appropriation of older art, but he also gets a feeling of mystery and a sly suggestion of the occult into his works. It is wise to approach them with care and respect.

Luis Flores needs more space to be at his very best, but


he brings welcome social consciousness to this show. You know his mixed-media works are about something that happened to )) the artist, but you also know that they're about something happening in the world that we inhabit with him, and you feel that that something involves oppression, fear, war and death. Flores isn't overly specific, though; he doesn't give away too much. He knows that the viewer may want to participate too, so he leaves his art open to interpretation.

And Volker Schoenfliess' ceramics display the happy quality of humor. His impossibly obese "Swelvis," pompadour out to there, bursts out of his costume front and back, and holds a microphone in one hand and a stack of chocolate-covered doughnuts in the other. And his "Diva," under her Valkyrie's helmet, is all mouth -- open so wide you can see just about down to her stomach.


What Faculty exhibit.

L Where: The Baltimore School for the Arts, 712 Cathedral St.

zTC When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, through March 19.

Call: (410) 396-1185.

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