Tribute to an artist and her life

Exhibit: Friends and family of Ellicott City artist Ginny Baier will gather at the Mill River Gallery in Oella to honor her.

October 14, 1999|By Jill Hudson Neal | Jill Hudson Neal,SUN STAFF

This month, friends and family members of Ellicott City artist Ginny Baier will gather at the Mill River Gallery in Oella to memorialize her life and artwork.

The exhibition will feature 25 of Baier's watercolors and sketches. Four large-scale watercolors will be auctioned, and the proceeds will benefit Hospice of Howard County, where Baier died in August 1998 at 67 after a yearlong battle with breast cancer.

But the midday affair also will celebrate the release of "Color: How to Pick, Mix and Paint in Watercolor," a publication of Baier's articles written over a six-year period for Watercolor and American Artist magazines.

The 10 articles that appear in "Color" are a posthumous tribute to the artist, who became a contributing editor to one of the art world's most respected magazines.

Baier had discussed with American Artist Editor-in-chief M. Stephen Doherty the possibility of compiling her stories into a single publication. She died before learning that Doherty had decided to publish them.

Baier's longtime editor and fact-checker on the color series, Robin Longman, died of breast cancer in April. Doherty dedicated the "Color" issue to both women.

"We felt that it was a nice time to publish the magazine both for Ginny and Robin," Doherty said. Baier's articles were "very complicated things, with charts and diagrams and complex text," Doherty added. "The physical characteristics of the [watercolor's] pigment have a lot more impact on the image than appears on the paper, even more so than oils or color charcoals. She was able to write about this in a very practical way."

The current "Color," which was published last month, was the first American Artist-issued publication in which most of the articles were written by one author.

"This is something that Ginny would have really, really liked," said Alice Webb, the former president of the Baltimore Watercolor Society, of which Baier was an exhibiting member. "She was so interested in her articles and would work on them for months at a time."

Jim Adkins, head of the Howard Community College visual arts department, calls the exhibition "a continuing tribute" to the artist. The event is "really a chance for her family to let everyone know how special she was," he said. "It's also a chance to further her career after her death. It's very touching, in a way. Everyone was very fond of her and everyone gained something by knowing her."

Baier and her husband, Don, moved from Northern Virginia to Ellicott City in 1992. After working for many years as a commercial artist, Baier began painting watercolors in earnest in the late 1970s.

She exhibited in national and international juried exhibitions and was a member of the Philadelphia Watercolor Club and the Kentucky Watercolor Society. She also wrote articles about gardening for a local newspaper.

In 1992, Baier got an assignment to interview artists in depth about their creative process and how they choose specific color groups for their work.

Baier worked on each article a full six months before her deadline. She prepared a manuscript and sent in color charts, slides, swatches and transparencies that suggested ways the materials might be used in a magazine.

The idea to hold an exhibition came after Baier's daughter, Rebecca Rothey, and Don Baier began clearing her studio at Oella Mill. Though Baier had been unable to work during the last months of her life, she nevertheless left an incredible amount of work behind.

As many as 230 finished and unsigned paintings, sketches, drawings and notebooks were among the works found in the small studio.

Rothey said the process of inventorying the paintings "put me in awe of what she had accomplished." Bringing people together to celebrate the publication of her writings and her fruitful life as an artist is bittersweet, Rothey said.

"We're really happy that people are going to come out and have a party," she said. "But it's also a little sad that she never knew that her stories would be published. I know that she would have been just thrilled to know that Stephen Doherty was going to be there."

Joan Bevelaqua, the Mill River Gallery director, agreed. "Ginny would have been so pleased and this is just so perfect for her."

But, she said with a laugh, "I've also told all the other artists that the editor-in-chief of American Artist was going to be at the event, so they might want to keep their studio doors open."

The tribute to Ginny Baier will be held at Oella Mill in the Mill River Gallery, 840 Oella Ave., from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 30. Stephen Doherty will present the publication at 2: 30 p.m., and the auction will be held at 3 p.m. The event is open to the public, and artists are welcome. Information: 410-465-6434.

Pub Date: 10/14/99

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