Columbia exhibit speaks to the spokes

A passion for mountain biking is the inspiration for `Bikes,' now on display at the Columbia Art Center Galleries


Howard Live


The latest exhibit at the Columbia Art Center Galleries started with one word - Bike - and ended with works by 46 artists.

More than 100 artists from across the country submitted paintings, photographs, collages, sculptures and other works involving bikes to a four-member jury.

Among the final selections, there are realistic and interpretive scenes of bikes and riders. There is also a life-size bicycle made of crocheted yarn, a large sculpture of a fish with poker chip scales built around a bicycle and several vibrant paintings of motorcycles.

"The diversity of the works just blew all of us away," said Rebecca Bafford, director of the art center.

Bafford's adventures on two wheels inspired the show, which runs through Nov. 20.

"My passion in life is mountain biking, besides art," she said. "I thought this might be a good way to see what people came up with."

Bafford said she used the word Bike as the title of the exhibit, rather than "biking" or some other phrase because "I figured it would be open to interpretation."

Denee Barr of Columbia stood in the middle of a street in Oxford, England, in October 1992 to capture her photographs of bicyclists.

"I've just been developing these visual diaries," she said. The two photographs she has in the show are part of an "urban study, ... what it was like to be in Oxford and looking at how people interact and how people travel in an everyday setting."

Barr said she used filters to add color to the prints, which were taken on black-and-white film. She wanted to interpret how light is refracted, diffused and reflected in an urban environment.

Four photographs from her 24-print Oxford series toured Europe in 1995 and 1996. This is the first time any have been shown in the United States.

Jerry Gettleman created his own scene in his digitally enhanced photograph showing two bicycles leaning against a small, plain, brown building in the desert.

The bicycles fit the picture's scale and appear to cast shadows on the ground, but they still look somewhat unnatural.

"I added the bikes to the background image just to raise some questions," Gettleman said. "It was a fun thing to conjure up a question mark in the mind of whoever is looking at it."

Gettleman, who lives in Columbia, has an art-framing business and regularly takes artistic photographs. He captured the simple restroom building that was "just sitting there" as he drove through Death Valley in January, and he was inspired to add the bikes after he heard about the Columbia exhibit.

Other artists in the show expressed a personal attachment to bicycling in the statements they prepared.

"It is important to me to share my passion and perhaps inspire others to try mountain biking," wrote Jae Hoon Choi, a painter from New York.

Brad Quartuccio, a Pittsburgh photographer, wrote that "cycling has been my doorway to life, and I hope to express that through my photography."

Joe Whitehair's statement said, "The intention is not meant to simply document, but to capture the spirit of the machine, the rider and the environment as a unique point in time."

Whitehair, a computer programmer from Arbutus, said he was a cyclist first and then decided to take his camera with him on rides.

He has not had formal training as a photographer and has not exhibited his prints before, but his passion for cycling proved to be a perfect fit for the show.

"It's very exciting," Whitehair said. "It's great to be in a show like that ... because that is a large part of what I like to take pictures of."

He added, "There is a feeling you get [that] every time you go out is different, and it lends itself to creativity well."

Sally Murray of Parkville took a whimsical approach to creating two sculptures in the show.

One uses the miniature divers and tennis players taken off her childhood trophies to represent the role of sports in Murray's life. The figures, painted yellow, are mounted on two wheels that spin with the use of bicycle gears and a chain.

The sculpture was a chance to put the pieces to use, she said. "Maybe my children would be more excited about having a piece of artwork than 30 ancient trophies."

Another sculpture uses part of a Barbie-themed bike that her granddaughter outgrew as the base for a figure juggling tennis balls.

Murray said she has become an avid bicyclist, taking bike tours in the United States and Europe.

"I'm also an artist," she said, "so to have all this come full circle, it's just fun."

The Columbia Art Center Galleries, 8100 Foreland Garth, Columbia, will host a free reception for the "Bike"exhibit from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow. Hours and information: 410-730-0075.

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