Drawings and photos mesh in star-quality artwork

January 11, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

Some group shows have stars, some don't. "Art Howar County 1993," a show of 31 works by 13 artists, definitely has a star in Felicia Belair-Rigdon.

Her mixed-media works on paper combine reproductions of existing works, many of them lush color photographs, with Belair-Rigdon's own drawing.

What results is a non-specific milieu that makes the images look as if they were blowing in on a wind of history.

The point of such works as "From a Long Time Ago" or "They Went Over the Roll Call of His Pretensions" seems to be that men seek satisfaction and salvation from actions in the external world, while women know that true meaning comes from within.

The artist may have intended something else, but her works are invariably provocative and handsome. They are post-modernist in their recall of earlier art, but they present that art in the context of 20th-century abstraction.

While Belair-Rigdon's work stands out, the rest of the exhibit is largely bland. For this biennial juried exhibition, open to artists working in Howard County, curator Steve Lanier viewed 240 slides from 66 artists before making his selections. All of the work is competent, but much of it stops there.

However, Jessica Mendels' "Untitled" installation is an exception. a piece that draws the viewer in and encourages dialogue.

The installation is a series of 26 small boxes hung in a row on the wall.

The boxes contain things such as paper clips, sand, cigars, keys and squares of chocolate. On the boxes' lids are inscribed words, beginning with one letter of the alphabet per box: on the first box are words beginning with the letter A, on the second are words beginning with B, and so on. The words have nothing apparent to do with the contents of the boxes, but many of them -- such as pity, regret, or worthless -- refer to emotions or feelings people have about themselves or others.

There's also an audio component, a soft voice repeating all the words on the boxes' lids. As an entity, the work explores the

dichotomy between external things (the contents of the boxes) and internal thoughts (the words). It explores finite qualities of the object versus the open-ended implications of language, and by extension the differences between the physical and the mental aspects of life.

Mary Jo Tydlacka's paintings and drawings on the subject of family life don't yield much in terms of visual interest. But she does convey something about how involuntary family relationships, such as those of children in relation to their parents, can be hollower than chosen relationships such as marriage.

ART REVIEW

What: "Art Howard County 1993"

Where: Howard County Center for the Arts, 8510 High Ridge Road, Ellicott City

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, though Jan. 28

Call: (410) 313-2787

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