Bold choices make strong, solid show Decisive: BMA director Doreen Bolger culled fresh, skilled works for the Howard County Arts Council's regional exhibit

Fine Arts

November 24, 1998|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Baltimore Museum of Art director Doreen Bolger was the juror for "Art MD '98," the current edition of the Howard County Arts Council's biennial regional exhibit. Bolger, who came to Baltimore earlier this year, is relatively new on the art scene, and this show gives the public some indication of how she interacts with contemporary art.

It took some courage for Bolger to take on this task. To choose 62 artists from more than 200 entrants risks making far more enemies than friends, and many in a position as public as Bolger's would have declined it.

In her juror's statement, Bolger's also candid about her approach. "I have brought to this selection, I hope, a perspective that places the contemporary in its historic context," she writes. In the show, that translates into a preference for fresh expression with traditional means and materials. For instance, three artists create highly original quilts.

Barbara Pietila's quilt "Sold Down South" presents a narrative image from the history of slavery. Sue Pierce uses the traditional form of a multipaneled quilt to tell the amusing story of a teacup and saucer that metamorphose into a space ship. And Kay Pelovitz, in "Auroral Fantasy III," places undulating waves of color on a dark background to create the impression of three-dimensionality in a richly beautiful work.

Throughout the show, strong, technically well-grounded work takes precedence over the merely trendy. Familiar names appear -- probably more familiar to veteran local gallery-goers than to Bolger -- including Ruth Pettus, Edda Jakab, John Ferguson, Andrea Burchette, Tammra Sigler and James Von Minor. But the appeal of discovery tends to draw one to lesser-known artists.

Carolyn Jean's "Mother Jean's Last Iron" celebrates the everyday evidence of a mother's love, and her "Skirt with Golden Fragments" makes a glamorous statement with humble materials. Laverne Miers-Bond bestows personality and individuality on two chairs in "Paired." Carol Cathcart and Jill Berry work with photography on a modest scale but effectively.

Bolger has assembled a show with no big surprises but a lot of solid work.

"Art MD '98" is at the Howard County Center for the Arts, 8510 High Ridge Road in Ellicott City. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. The show runs through Dec. 30. For information, call 410-313-2787.

In Catonsville

Three artists in "Art MD '98" appear in two other area shows, and both exhibits are more than worth a look-in. Sculptor Al Zaruba, represented in "Art MD," joins Luis Flores and Gagik Aroutiunian in the show "Memories Reflections Time" at the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County.

Zaruba's installation "Language and Silence: The Skin Traps" consists of a community of small wooden cages, plus the forms of hands, feet and shoes, all overlaid with words and musical notation. The point has to do with the difficulty of communication. Just as a multiplicity of languages separates people, so too the multiplicity of communication devices in this technological age will separate people rather than bring them together.

Gagik Aroutiunian's "Traveler and his road (to my father)" has to do with humanity's imperfect quest for perfection. His other work, untitled, consists of a film of a bird flying, projected through a cage onto a wall behind, where the bird appears to fly in and out of the shadow of the cage. The work accepts diverse interpretations: for instance, that the cage is only a shadow for it cannot capture the human spirit, or that the cage is within each person and therefore inescapable.

Luis Flores' "Amulets and Blessings," which includes pictures of his grandfather and other mementos of the past, appears to address both these other artists' works: We can be the prisoners of our past or we can use it to our advantage. It's for each individual to decide.

The show is at the gallery of the Fine and Performing Arts Center of the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County, 800 S. Rolling Road. Hours are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 2: 30 p.m. to 7: 30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and by appointment. The show runs through Dec. 18. For information, call 410-455-4429.

In Federal Hill

Painter Ruth Pettus and photographer James DuSel, both represented in the Howard County show (where Pettus won first prize), have a show at Federal Hill's Resurgam Gallery that includes works by both individual artists plus prints on which they collaborated.

This is a wonderful-looking show. These works complement each other in terms of color, composition, size of work and scale of image, and above all there's a sense of quietude that inhabits these works individually and the show as a whole.

Resurgam Gallery is at 910 S. Charles St. Hours this week are noon to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, the show's final day. For information, call 410-962-0513.

Art Under the Bridge

Come Friday 'twill be the season, and bah-humbug notwithstanding, everybody's got to get out there and get those presents. If arts and/or crafts are on the gift list, check out the outdoor art market called Art Under the Bridge in Mount Washington on Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting.

The market's press release promises "jewelry, clothes, ceramics, painting, prints, furniture, music, and more." (That's what I want for Christmas -- more.)

It's located under the Kelly Avenue bridge on Cottonworth Avenue between Fresh Fields grocery store and the Cottonworth Avenue post office, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. For information, call 410-435-9494.

Pub Date: 11/24/98

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