Artist depicts chorus in action

Howard Live

December 09, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Artist David Fried spent more than a year capturing one moment in the life of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia in his oil painting Sons of Art.

Starting with sketches of individuals he made during breaks from singing with the chorus, Fried spent more than 12 months assembling the elements into a large, cohesive picture of a group of singers intently practicing while leader Tom Benjamin directs.

"It is the most ambitious piece that I have done," said Fried, who lives in Jessup.

The painting is one of 53 works in the biennial Art MD exhibit, which runs through Dec. 16 at Howard County Center for the Arts. The juried exhibit includes works by 46 artists who live within a 100-mile radius of Ellicott City.

Art MD includes a wide range of paintings, photographs, sculptures and other works. Fried's painting has captured the imagination of many visitors, including members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation who have gone to the gallery to see a familiar scene.

"I think it was very exciting," said Benjamin, a composer and former chairman of the Peabody Institute's music theory department. "I like the way he captured the intensity of the singers working on the piece."

Benjamin, of Ellicott City, said that he joked with Fried about portraying the singers looking at their music, and not at him directing. But, he said, "I think it's wonderful. ... The musical and rhythmic energy is paralleled [in the painting]."

Fried, 63, said he often works from sketches, and that members of his congregation have gotten used to him scribbling during services.

He also has painted several scenes of Baltimore as it was during his youth - using photographs and adding figures to give the works life - as well as some modern Baltimore scenes. And he has painted country scenes and landscapes.

But, he said, he has "never included all of the figures you see in this painting."

The composition was a challenge, he said, requiring numerous revisions. He said he stepped away from the work for periods of time in order to return with fresh eyes.

Fried said his goal with all of his work is less about replicating a scene than about creating a mood. "I want the painting to evoke emotion," he said. "The work may not always be pretty. ... That's not important to me. I am hoping it will speak for itself."

Coleen West, director of the Howard County Arts Council, said: "[The juror] was drawn to [the painting] because of the energy and humanism that is in it. ... It really captures a special moment in the life of a specific community."

Fried, who grew up in a home above his father's tailor shop on North Avenue in Baltimore, was a skilled singer early in life. While studying at the old Baltimore Junior College and earning a bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of Baltimore, he also studied music at the Peabody Institute. But he decided a career in education was more practical and went to earn a master's degree in special education from Coppin State University.

While teaching in Baltimore schools, he pursued his interest in fine art in his spare time. In 1980, he took a leave of absence to earn a master's degree in fine arts at Maryland Institute College of Art.

Fried taught occasionally until he retired last year. Now, he says, he has more time to paint in oils and in watercolors. He is also interested in pursuing sculpture, and has bought a piano and started taking lessons.

To earn a place in Art MD, Fried's work was chosen from among 540 pieces submitted by 194 artists

In addition to selecting the works for the show, exhibit juror Stephen Bennett Phillips, curator of the Phillips Collection in Washington, also chose four Juror's Award recipients for their outstanding art.

The honorees are James Adkins of Ellicott City, for his oil painting Girl With Tipped Vase; Nora Sturges of Baltimore, for her oil painting Marco Polo Forced to Eat Moths; Joanne Miller of Silver Spring, for her photograph Light Attraction; and Christina McCleary of Baltimore, for her clay sculpture, Brick Baby.

Art MD is at Howard County Center for the Arts, 8510 High Ridge Road, Ellicott City. Admission is free. Information: 410-313-2787.

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