Joanna Kos's "Immersed in Autumn" is one of… (Courtesy of the Howard County…)
You really get to know the local artists exhibiting in "Art Howard County 2011" at the Howard County Arts Council. Unlike group exhibits, which only display one artwork by each artist, this show has more to offer from each participant, inviting further examination into their respective styles and subject matter.
Curator David Gracyalny, who is dean of professional and continuing studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art, has picked a truly diverse assortment of works. As he observes in his juror's statement, some of these works call your attention to the role that light can play in a composition.
This is certainly the case in Pat Dillon's four-panel oil painting "String Quartet." Each panel depicts a performer in such a tightly cropped arrangement that all you see are instruments and the hands playing them.
What's especially notable is how light spills across the performers' hands and the already-gleaming wood instruments.
Light is an even more overt part of the compositional strategy in Jeff Wilson's watercolor "Evening Light." He depicts a couple walking toward us on a quiet street that's lined with old homes. Bright white light assertively hits the street and architecture, and it also casts the occasional long shadow.
Besides light-filled representational paintings, there are some abstract paintings that also have light in mind.
Joanna Kos' oil painting "Arctic Landscape" relies upon the cool interplay of blue and white forms to evoke that sharply lit and largely barren northern terrain. Another oil painting, "Space Landscape," features celestial spheres and other starry forms. And Kos' oil painting "Immersed in Autumn," while defined by seasonal browns and yellows, is such a fluid composition that it seems light rather than heavy; it's appropriate that leafy forms seemingly float through the assorted triangles, orbs and other geometric forms.
Al Bishop is another abstractionist whose work seems to glow. His watercolors "Red Cosmos" and the purple-, orange- and yellow-hued "Warm Over Cool #1" rely on closely spaced dabs of vibrant color. There is not any subject matter other than the colors themselves, so it's mainly a matter of how you emotionally respond to these colors.
Although most of the other artists in this exhibit do not rely so literally on light-related qualities, they manage to be bright in other ways.
One oil painting that is certainly worth lingering over is Richard Niewerth's "Travelers." It features a group of people waiting on a train platform, with each person lost in his or her own thoughts. If light is a consideration here, it's because that light is so hazy that it emphasizes the slightly melancholic sense that these people stand near each other and yet are alone with their private ruminations.
Also likely to make you pause and ponder is Patricia R. Corbett's pastel "Cherry Cheesecake." This dessert is depicted in such an extreme close-up that all you can make out is a gooey red surface. This particular near-abstraction arguably seems appetizing, but you try it first and let me know.
Among other mediums included in the show, the examples of photography include L.R. Howard's three black-and-white photos from an aptly titled "Storms" series. Storm clouds almost completely fill the photographic frame, with just a glimpse of trees at the bottom of the image. There is so much darkly swirling energy that these skies are a striking contrast to some of the light-filled works hanging nearby.
Also exhibiting are Heidi Praff, Aline Feldman, Mark Coates, Roberta Kine Laric, Nelson Steele, Linda Press, S. Mark Cates, Cathy Z. Sawdey, Ginger Peloquin, Suzanne M. Nelson and Karen Lynn Gray.
"Art Howard County 2011" remains through Dec. 16 in Gallery I at the Howard County Arts Council, 8510 High Ridge Road, in Ellicott City. Running concurrently in Gallery II is "Modern Mythologies," featuring work by Sarah Wegner and Tracey Clarke. Call 410-313-2787 or go to http://www.hocoarts.org.