A flood of watercolors

Exhibit: A show of paintings by members of the Baltimore Watercolor Society opens today in Columbia.

January 18, 2001|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

An enduring genre of art has come to the pristine white walls of the Columbia Association Art Center's gallery.

The Baltimore Watercolor Society (BWS), the third-oldest of its kind in the country, has an exhibit at the center that brings together artists dedicated to watercolors.

"I love watercolors because of the transparency and the ease and flow of the medium," said Joan Tarbell, the exhibit's coordinator and a member of BWS. "You can do a lot with watercolors."

The BWS began in 1885 as the Baltimore Water Color Club. Founded by a small group of women, it sought to encourage the development of professional-quality, original works in watercolor.

The organization was, and still is, open to anyone, and it claims painter Andrew Wyeth as a former member. In 1957, the group changed its bylaws and altered its name to the Baltimore Watercolor Society Inc., and has since grown to a membership of more than 450.

Tarbell, who lives in Ellicott City, said members have to pass a challenging jury process to join.

"It's not easy to get in," she said. "There is a lot of talent in BWS."

Becky Bafford, director of Columbia Art Center, said its officials are always thrilled to have an exhibit by the BWS because of the caliber of paintings.

"I knew that I could count on them for quality work," Bafford said. "With watercolors, you get so many different effects with it that the work is very individual."

The show mixes traditional watercolors with more abstract pieces. Yifei Gan, an art professor at Howard Community College, judged the show and said he found it difficult to assign prizes.

"Some pieces reach a professional level, and I never expected that kind of level before I went to the show," said Gan, who judged the pieces based on the ideas, craftsmanship, uniqueness, subtlety and unity that each displayed. "Watercolor is a tough medium."

Bob Coe was awarded third place for his painting "Work Horses." Coe, a designer and illustrator who lives in Perry Hall, said the BWS allows him the opportunity to display his work more often.

"It's all fun," Coe said. "You get to meet other artists and see their work."

Tarbell said the show at the art center "pushes the envelope" of traditional watercolors and gives viewers the chance to see the softer side of art.

"It depicts the beauty around us," Tarbell said. "In a lot of art, you do get the angst, and that's important, but I also like to see the pouring out of beauty."

A reception for the Baltimore Watercolor Society 2001 Exhibit will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today.The exhibit will run through Feb. 11. Information: 410-730-0075.

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