As autumn unfurls, the Arts Barn and Kentlands Mansion will welcome the Baltimore Watercolor Society’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Watercolor Exhibition. It’s thrilling not only for the honor of showcasing a regional exhibition in Gaithersburg, but for the seasonal color, luminous technique and exquisite variety that the watermedia medium reflects. A highly competitive juried exhibition with quality ranking a tier just below the highly prestigious annual shows of the American Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society, juror Alexis Lavine selected 97 representative works from 370 submitted by 218 artists in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, DC, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. The exhibition has roots going back 100 years and will run from October 6th through January 15th with a reception on November 12th from 2 to 4 pm.
Since 1885, the now 725 member Baltimore Watercolor Society is the third largest organization in the country devoted to the use of watercolor. Watermedia encompasses watercolors and watercolor pencils, inks and crayons, and gouache, tempera and acrylic paints that are diluted with water when used and applied in a transparent fluid manner consistent with traditional watercolor. Jim Sandford, the Show Chair for the Society’s Mid-Atlantic Exhibition, elaborates, “Watercolor is a very accessible artistic medium. Materials are relatively simple and economical compared to others. Anyone can take a class and paint satisfying works in a matter of months. One of the messages of the Mid-Atlantic Exhibition and similar shows is that such simple, accessible materials and techniques generate such grand, impressive works of art.”
Accomplished painter, instructor and member of nine watercolor societies, juror Alexis Lavine noted, “Judging a large and prestigious competition such as this one is always exciting, fascinating and humbling. Faced with the task of choosing fewer than 100 paintings from nearly 400 entries made my job very challenging to say the least. The entries encompassed just about every possible subject, technique and allowable materials. I tried to choose the strongest body of work, and to recognize and include all of those marvelous variations on the theme of watermedia.” A juror’s task is tricky indeed, but perhaps the best way to present a cross-section of talent. To that end, Sandford offered, “The works selected for this and any other juried exhibition of course all have to be good, but beyond that the juror has the responsibility and desire to put together a show which works overall, and which reflects his or her artistic sentiments at some level. Consequently, there are always going to be established professional artists who don’t get accepted into the exhibition as well as capable but unknown amateurs who do. That’s a big part of what keeps these exhibitions new and fresh.”
Collage is often incorporated into watermedia tableaux as evidenced by the work of popular Gaithersburg abstractionist Linda Slattery Sherman and her piece Just a Starling, Not a Gangster, a collage on watermedia paper that depicts a collection of nature oriented images. “The title references the gang of loud and unruly starlings that show up at my husband’s backyard bird feeder,” Sherman said. A long-time graphic designer, Sherman works in a variety of media, primarily acrylic painting and gelatin printmaking, and has been an award-winning member of BWS since 2012.
Gaithersburg watercolorist and Yellow Barn at Glen Echo instructor Julia Rosenbaum’s creation Dreamy is based on a photo of her daughter at a local restaurant. “The light coming in from a large window right next to her was perfect,” Julia explained. “I’ve painted her dozens of times over the last decade, and I’m lucky that she’s always willing to act as my model.”
“Watercolor has the reputation of being difficult and it’s true that it has a mind of its own,” mused Germantown artist Janet Belich. “But with the right tools, a keen sense of observation and, I hate to say, practice, the rewards and results are limitless. I don’t know of any other medium that is as exciting!” Her work Corncentric is one of the latest in her series featuring Indian corn. “I began several years ago. Most of their titles are “pun intended”, for example Cornundrum, Cornsternation and Cornona. The initial paintings were predominantly of the kernels which were enlarged to take up the entire paper. I was mesmerized by the color variation of each kernel and the recesses of the spaces in between. As time passed, each painting evolved to the subject being less of the kernels and the focus became the husks. The interest to me now became the play of light on the individual leaves and their twisting and turning adding an abstract element to the composition. I don’t see the series ending soon!”
That’s Using Your…Shutters, the work of North Potomac artist Deb Cohan, was inspired by the awesome creativity she witnessed travelling in Vietnam. “This person had built a home of found shutters that even included nooks and shelves for cooking supplies. I saturated the colors to highlight the many layers of peeling paint.”
Jim Sandford, whose work is also represented in the exhibition, is in his first year as Mid-Atlantic Chair, a year-round volunteer job to plan and direct the show. He encapsulated the endeavor and the joy of creating: “The best part of doing this work is being able to communicate with the artists, see their work, help them through the application process and see the results in the final exhibition. Every artist, from amateur to seasoned professional, brings a different story and perspective to their effort and I can’t imagine a better seat from which to see it all!”
Don’t miss this highly anticipated exhibition. At the November 12th reception, 20 awards will be given including gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention medals and cash awards totaling $12,000. Check the visual arts page on the City of Gaithersburg’s website for more information: https://www.gaithersburgmd.gov/recreation/visual-arts.