An artist's `visual journal'

Local favorite Shawn Lockhart's latest works reflect her time in Ireland

September 18, 2005|By Katie Martin | Katie Martin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Sitting with her eyes closed, Shawn Lockhart sketched images from her imagination onto a blank piece of paper with a colored pencil. Then she opened her eyes and finished crafting the multiple, overlapping, bird-like figures.

Lockhart created a multitude of drawings using this new technique while living in Ireland several years ago. She also experimented with painting on wood panels.

Fifteen of the drawings and eight paintings will be on display in Westminster this week in an exhibit that shows a different side of Lockhart, a local artist well-known for her stark black-and-white prints.

Entitled Other Visions, the show features work that is different from anything exhibited by Lockhart before, said Lou Chang, who owns Gallery 31 and the custom framing shop Ain't That a Frame, where the show will be held.

"The pieces have very soft color, and there's an absence of the black altogether," Chang said. "It will be a surprise to those who have followed her work."

Lockhart, 52, of Union Bridge, said all but two of the pieces on display were created while she lived in Ireland.

"I was basically just influenced by my seclusion and having the time to do it and by the incredible beauty all around me," Lockhart said. She lived on the west coast of Ireland in County Clare, describing it as a protected area with lots of rock and unique plant life along the Atlantic Ocean.

The paintings were all created from photographs taken by Lockhart of places she visited there. One focuses on the stone wall of an 11th-century church, while Lockhart's favorite depicts the stones of a tomb.

An intensive process

Lockhart said she created the paintings by cutting plywood panels, sanding the edges, priming the wood, and finally applying a background color using acrylic paint.

"It's not thick or textured acrylics; they are more like watercolors, which is in contrast to my prints," Lockhart said. She said the paintings range in size from 5 by 7 to 18 by 24 inches and took anywhere from a week to a month to complete.

Lockhart said the subjects of the drawings aren't as easy to explain because "they are drawings that are inside of me and a part of me." She described the drawings as a "visual journal" that she kept during her time overseas.

Art shows journey

Lockhart's work holds messages for the viewer, illustrating her journey, said Chang, who owns five of her pieces.

"You can see as her life has changed, you see it through her work and how it's evolved, you see color added," Chang said. "It's a huge transition from the work before. ... It's almost like she has come into the light and a happier time."

Lockhart, who signs her work "Mara," said most Carroll County residents know her for her prints, which she creates by carving images in reverse on wood blocks or linoleum, covering the engraving in ink, and then printing the image on heavy paper. She has been making prints for more than 35 years.

She said being in Ireland inspired her to spend more time drawing and painting, partly because she didn't take along her printmaking materials.

"I didn't have access to all of my studio supplies because I basically went over with three suitcases and myself, and I was there for 15 months," Lockhart said.

A `pilgrimage'

Lockhart first traveled to Ireland in 1995 on a "pilgrimage of the heart." The County Clare region where she stayed was home to her great-grandparents.

Since returning to the United States in January 2004, Lockhart has continued painting, drawing and creating handmade books - one of which will debut at the show.

Burren Haiku is the newest of seven self-published handcrafted books Lockhart created with her illustrations and words. The book features haiku poems related to seasonal shifts in the Burren region of County Clare.

Five copies of Burren Haiku, as well copies of her other hand-bound books, will be available for purchase. Visitors can also purchase the paintings and drawings and some reproductions.

`Baring my soul'

Lockhart said she is anxious to see people's reactions to her work because it is the first time most of the pieces have been displayed.

"Here I go baring my soul again; I never get used to this," Lockhart said.

"I like [the pieces] - they're like children, and you want other people to like them, too."

Lockhart's show will open Wednesday and be on display through the end of October at the gallery, 31 W. Main St. in Westminster.

Lockhart will attend the show's opening reception Saturday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and Port Righ, made up of musicians Jo and Wayne Morrison of New Windsor, will play harp and pipe music.

For more information, contact Ain't That a Frame at 410-876- 3096.

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