While winter’s stark landscapes of gray and white offer their own frozen forms of beauty, the colors on view in “Bright Concepts” at the Arts Barn are both a reflection of the holiday season and a welcome respite from the cold. The exhibit “brings together four highly talented artists that share a common love for color and texture,” said Shellie Williams, the City of Gaithersburg’s arts administrator.
Former gallery coordinator Jaree Donnelly planned and designed the exhibit. “It is a really beautiful exhibit, definitely not to be missed! All the artists have very unique styles, but their use of bright color helps bind their work together,” she said. “Everyone walking in just loves the upbeat vibe.”
The artists—Mark Altrogge, Tony Glander, Nellie Chao and Bobbi Shulman—were chosen in the City’s annual juried competition in April, Williams said. All except Altrogge are Maryland residents.
A pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, Pa., Altrogge paints with oils and acrylics in a post-impressionist style that he said is influenced by van Gogh, Monet and Klimt. He applied to the show at the Arts Barn “at the urging of one of my good friends who lives in Gaithersburg. I have a lot of friends in the area.”
Altrogge believes his work is appropriate for the show’s theme on two bases: “First, I love to use intense colors and love the interplay and juxtaposing of those colors. Also, I want my paintings to reflect the beauty of creation—the brightness, if you will—of the creation.” His interest in light is reflected in “images like bright skies, or sunlight casting shadows through birch trees or the lights of a cinema at night.”
Pastor Altrogge gravitates toward painting trees, rural scenes featuring barns and farm animals, and umbrellas in urban settings “because I like color and texture and loose brushwork,” he explained. “Repetition and variation,” he added, are “keys” in his work. “I like what happens when fuchsia clouds blaze against an azure sky. Or a blue chicken against, say, a red barn.”
Closest to home, Tony Glander, of Fitzpatrick Glass Studios, has been a resident artist at the Arts Barn since 2002. “The glass work in this show is perfect for the title, ‘Bright Concepts,’” said the artist that has worked in stained glass since 1989. “First, the colors are bright and eye-catching and second, the techniques were ‘bright concepts’ other artists taught me.”
Among his pieces on view is “Cracked,” a bowl that began “with a process of wetting down glass powders to create a crackled texture and then firing clear glass on top of it.” There’s also “Silver Weave,” an intermix of glass strips, created in several steps. The glass goes “through the kiln a number of times to first create the bend of the glass, followed by a weaving of the gold glass with straight glass strips … (and) firing to lock the strips together and then again to bend it to shape.”
Two small swirled bowls, “Blue Nebula” and “Screen Series #1,” Glander said, “were created by melting glass through a metal mesh, laying out the cold glass pieces on a metal mesh in a particular pattern, then heating them so they melt though and create a more swirled look.” Surprisingly, regardless of how “much planning and attention” his pieces get, he said, “these designs will come out different every time.”
PoMo, Chinese calligraphy and brush painting, are Chao’s forms of expression. “PoMo, which literally means ‘splash ink’ or ‘splash colors,’ is an ancient Chinese technique, though the results look contemporary,” Chao observed. The technique involves working wet in wet, throwing or pouring watercolor and ink on rice paper, canvas or shikishi board and then completing the painting with traditional brush work.
Born in Shanghai and educated in Hong Kong, Singapore and the U.S., her early art instruction came from her father Jimmy Liang, a well-known Singapore artist, followed since the early 1990s by studies with various master brush painters and calligraphers. Chao is member of the Sumi-e Society of America and Potomac Valley Watercolorists.
Potomac painter Bobbi Shulman returned to her childhood fascination with color and light in 2003 after a career in journalism and public affairs. In what she called a “gestural abstract expressionist style,” she “manipulates color, shape and intensity into a coordinated whole,” mostly in acrylics, but also using mixed media and collage. “I love color …its lushness, richness and exuberance,” she wrote in her artist’s statement. “I love to see what happens when I put one color next to another—how the new color enhances, changes or quiets the original. It was color that brought me from plein air and still life painting to the energy and resonance of abstract expressionism.” Her method, she said, is to “carefully build up layers of paint—creating tension, history and mystery.”
Shulman confessed that her abstracts are “not of anything recognizable, (but) they have meaning to me.” Her goal is for viewers to “develop (their) own interpretation” to make her art their own.
Gallery assistant Lauren Porter advised getting to the Arts Barn before “Bright Concepts” closes on Jan. 1. The exhibit, she said, “is just what we need during these cold winter days. It’s so refreshing to walk into the Arts Barn gallery and see such a vibrant and exciting collection of work. Each artist has really captured the essence of the theme in a stimulating, but peaceful way. This has been one of our most popular exhibits with many visitors to the gallery and quite a few sales.”
Gaithersburg’s Arts on the Green presents “Bright Concepts,” at the Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg, through Jan. 1. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Call 301-301-258-6394 or visit www.gaithersburgmd.gov. View this exhibit on CultureSpotMC here.