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Lonesome Town

By Mike Giuliano | Posted 2/13/2002

Baltimore Juried All Arts Festival Exhibition

Creative Alliance through Feb. 23

The old woman quietly sits in a chair, as if reflecting. The somber gray, black, and white palette that predominates in Nancy Linden's charcoal, pastel, and oil painting "All the Voices" suggests melancholic thoughts. The painting incorporates collaged newspaper pages from a 1949 issue of the defunct Baltimore American Weekly. One of the yellowed articles contains wedding-anniversary notices and other social items involving people who lived just blocks from where the work now hangs in the Creative Alliance's gallery in Highlandtown.

Although most of the artists in the Baltimore Juried All Arts Festival Exhibition--selected by Peter Dubeau, director of the School 33 Art Center--don't specifically reference Baltimore in their paintings, photographs, and works on paper, some of them do share Linden's contemplative outlook. Jean Razulis' acrylic painting "The Wedding" is anything but celebratory. Mostly empty canvas surrounds a sketchily painted portrait of a woman in her wedding dress. The woman's face has an intent expression, so perhaps the accompanying flickers of springlike yellow and green reflect fragmented, perhaps not entirely joyous thoughts. Helen Freedman's subtly realized collage "Forlorn" presents yet another lonely figure, a brownish silhouette of a standing woman. And if you wonder where such thoughts may be headed, check out Stephen Dallmus' untitled black-and-white photographs of cemetery monuments and crosses.

There is a contemplative tone in some of the unpeopled artwork too. Kathy Bergren Smith's untitled color photographs from her "Drydock" series were shot at General Ship Repair in South Baltimore and call attention to rusted hulls, chains, and other massive bits of metal. One of Smith's shots resembles an abstract painting, as a photographic closeup prompts thoughts of the side of a ship as a metal canvas: Red paint covers part of the hull, while other areas are marked up with black lines and white drips.

Matthew Schenning's portraits, such as the charcoal and ink "George," are as spare and sad as you'd expect from this show, but his compositions also include gridded patterns that encourage thoughts about how artists order pictorial space. And this well-installed exhibit enables you to go immediately from Schenning's works over to Tom Scott's spray-paint-on-plywood "Green Field" and "Blue Field," total abstractions whose only subject matter is vividly colored linear patterning.

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