Her photographs take on a new hue


March 26, 2003|By Pamela Woolford | Pamela Woolford,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ON MONDAY, the Artists' Gallery in the American City Building opens Image-Egami, a photography exhibit by Joan Forester. The show features the west Columbia resident's hand-colored black-and-white photographs.

A study in shadow and shape, the series consists of images of folded white paper on white backgrounds.

"I'm always looking to see what I can do with something that's very familiar and move it to a different plane, to a different level," Forester said. "I've just used white papers that I have bent and pushed in various shapes to study how light can vary with white-on-white and what happens when the light hits it and changes the tone.

"[To] some of the pictures, I've added a single flower and watched what happens to the shape of the light, and then I've hand-colored the flower."

"Egami" in the exhibit's title is not a real word, but "image" spelled backward.

"I wanted to be able to emphasize the fact that the other side of the image has an importance. ... Shadows are important," Forester said.

"She's really taking it to new heights," said Paul Marycz, a photographer and member of the Artists' Gallery cooperative. "Her technique is excellent."

Hand-coloring is a process of adding colors - usually translucent ones to maintain the tonality of the image - to silver print photography, using media such as watercolor markers, oil pencils or paints.

"[Forester's work] is really amazing," Marycz said. "She can take a black-and-white image and hand-color it until it looks like a color image. ... Not very many people are that good."

Forester, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Cornell University in 1961, began her artistic career as a sculptor. In her youth living outside Philadelphia, she studied with Marie van Patten, a classically trained sculptor who made several religious figures commissioned by the Vatican. She said she sees an element of that form in photography.

"The reason I think that black-and-white photography is so important is that it's very sculptural and three-dimensional," Forester said.

Forester moved to Columbia with her husband, David, in the 1980s. She served on the board of directors of Howard Arts United, now Howard County Arts Council, as a representative from the Columbia Pro Cantare choral group, with which she sang for 17 years.

A mother of four and grandmother of eight, she began taking photography classes at Howard Community College six years ago.

At first, she thought the technical side of photography would hinder her art, but "when I discovered that it was only film and paper that stood between me and what I wanted to create, I could move beyond that `techie' part, and now it's all very liberating," Forester said.

Last year, Forester retired after 23 years as a special education instructor in the Howard County school system. She had taught at Swansfield and Stevens Forest elementary schools.

"I am now a full-time artist," Forester said.

In 2001, Forester's work appeared in the Road to the Arts exhibit at the Howard County Board of Education.

The next year, she had two exhibits. In June, Image and Ice at Slayton House in Wilde Lake Village Center featured Forester's photographs of natural substances such as pears, mushrooms and flowers, along with work of photographer Peter Wasilewski of Ellicott City.

A month later, Unicorn Gallery in Towson showed Simple Gifts, an exhibit of Forester's work and that of potter Barbara Sterne. Forester talks about wanting those who view her work to see a sense of beauty in commonplace things.

"Sometimes I go down to the lakefront and just the shape of the shadows of the railings on the brickwork can be exciting to me," Forester said. "I respond very deeply to visual things. ... I feel that's a great gift.

"I'm sitting up here, and I'm watching a cardinal that's just sitting in a pine tree, and I'm so touched by that vision. That contrast of the color. The shape of the bird. The implication that life goes on."

"Image-Egami" will run from Monday to May 2. A free public reception will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. April 4. Gallery hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays. The gallery is in the American City Building, 10227 Wincopin Circle, Columbia. The Artists' Gallery is a cooperative gallery with a membership base obtained through a juried entry process. Artists who create various art forms are represented, including pastel artists, photographers, oil painters, stained-glass artists and an artist who hand-paints furniture.

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