Camden Yards becomes surreal in photo exhibit

March 16, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Scott Ponemone's two series of paintings at Galerie Francoise, "Past Time" and "Double Time," were created from photographs taken at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. But they don't show the playing field or the stands. Rather, they're of people riding escalators amid the behind-the-scenes structure of steel posts and beams that place the crowds in impersonal, geometric settings.

Ponemone uses other devices to further distance these scenes from naturalism. The people in a given image tend to be tinted all one color -- all blue or all orangy brown, for instance. The light is unnatural; it all has the same intensity, as if artificial.

And Ponemone further dislocates the viewer by turning these paintings at angles so that their orientation to us is skewed.

In "Past Time" (a play on pastime), squares have been turned on their corners to make diamonds -- a visual play on the baseball diamond.

In "Double Time," one of the images is on its side, another upside down, and in a third painting the image has been turned within the rectangle of the picture so that the escalator appears horizontal while the steel superstructure takes on crazy angles.

The result of all these manipulations is to make this world of pastime, of enjoyment, seem surrealistic, sinister and menacing.

It is as if we have stepped into a world in limbo, where people have lost their individual identities and become like so many automatons forever riding, with no point of origin and no destination.

Ponemone's works are effective, but there are risks involved in them. They achieve their ends through a series of fairly obvious devices, which if repeated too often will become stale.

But if he can keep his subject matter and his techniques fresh, he may be home safe.

Stuart Stein's paintings and watercolors take their imagery from mass media -- the movies and television.

Part of his point, he says in an artist's statement, is to acknowledge that mass media presentations of history distort it even as they are shaping our image of it. As a result, he says, what we get is often a deliberately imposed misconception, if not an outright lie.

But most of his small images, based on such sources as the film "The Battleship Potemkin," do not really produce the effect the artist strives for.

His two larger oil paintings of faces in close-up, with enigmatic expressions open to various interpretations, are more successful.


What: Scott Ponemone and Stuart Stein: Works in a Series

Where: Galerie Francoise et ses freres, Green Spring Station, Falls and Joppa roads

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through March 29

Call: (410) 337-2787

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