Exhibit draws artists of all stripes

Eastport show's main feature is a collaboration that focuses on edge -- no boats or crabs. The four-day event ends today.

November 19, 2006|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,Sun reporter

It isn't easy to expect 15 artists who pride themselves as independent, as rebels against the Annapolis art establishment, to be team players.

For the "progressive painting" they created last week for the four-day "Art Between the Creeks" show that ends today, that meant playing nice and taking turns.

Used to solo work, a handful privately expressed fears they'd find a "mish-mash" or something "pseudo" before they picked up a brush.

There was even some debate about which way was up on the finished 3-by-4-foot canvas.

Perhaps that's why the show, which also features about 50 individual pieces for sale, was aptly titled Discourse. The name was selected by picking a page from the dictionary.

Starting as a dreamy creek scene with streaks of magenta, the collective work ended up as a "festive" harlequin checkerboard pattern, said Cindy Fletcher-Holden, a local artist who founded the show in 2002.

"It's very carnival-looking, with an ochre glaze," she said.

Whether it illuminates the creative process, as intended, will be up to the market to decide.

The progressive was going up for public auction. Proceeds from the sale of the collaborative work, a first-time experiment, go to Eastport Elementary School.

First housed at the Annapolis Maritime Museum, battered by Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003, the "Art Between the Creeks" show has since migrated to a metal shed on the Eastport side of the Spa Creek Bridge.

It's nothing fancy, a "butler" building for storing boats on the Annapolis Yacht Club property, but it's free.

Changing the space virtually overnight into a gallery with rigged lighting and white walls was part of the challenge -- and the fun.

For the group of invited Annapolis artists, ranging in age from their 20s to 50s, accustomed to working alone, it was a chance to enjoy some camaraderie as they hung their paintings on the eve of the show.

While they got acquainted -- some had never met before -- they awaited their turn at the easel of the unfinished work.

"I was voted to be the anchor, the last one to paint," Holden, 45, said as fellow artists gazed, dabbed and added fanciful shapes.

"There are no rules, but we know we're not going to make it ugly."

Artist Michael Matthews, a native of Eastport, hoisted a pink ethereal painting and bluntly explained the aim of the show -- to cut against the currents of city art.

Edge is what they're selling in a picturesque capital city long on colonial charm and bay imagery.

"We don't do mainstream Annapolis art," Matthews said.

"No boats, puppies, ducks or crabs. If we were in New York, this would be in the meatpacking district."

Yet a few exceptions were spotted on the wall. Jason Duden, a self-taught artist, brought an aw-shucks painting of two dogs that appeared to violate the guidelines.

Others artists had studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Phil Gurlik attended the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and is an artist-in-residence at Maryland Hall Center for the Creative Arts.

Gurlik, 48, brought an abstract work, Equipoise, which he described as an "improvisation of colors ... a flattened perspective of landscape."

Channing Houston, 48, painted a lofty mountaintop scene in Colorado, Drop-off, after scaling a peak there.

"This is meant to be vertiginous," he said. "It's a sacred Navajo site, Peak Blanca."

At the other extreme from the large landscape oil paintings were the minute watercolors depicting domestic scenes by Rosemary F. Williams.

Dishes drying on a rack in sunlight, for example, acquired a certain still-life beauty in her art, which, she said, is considered "representational."

"I like shadows, stainless steel, plays of light near a window," Williams, 47, said. Her path to becoming an artist was different from the rest: She worked at NBC News until a few years ago, she said.

One of her pieces is playfully titled Dishcourse, inspired by the show's theme.

While the group work was in progress, artist Matt Stone summed up his creative process: "I try to see a moment, like a Spa Creek sunset," he said, pausing "and I want that moment."

The show, at 523 Severn Ave., is free and open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. . Paintings and sculptural works are priced from $100 to $2,100. 410-216-9449 or www.artbetweenthecreeks.us

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