Abstract Lives at ‘Big, Bold & Beautiful’ at Bohrer Park

Photo | Marylou Bono (L to R) Carl Yonder, Irina Koren, Steve Grossman, Howard Clark, Stephen Dell’Aria, Sheryl Massaro and Tony Mel gather in front of Tony Mel’s “Breakfast with Duchamp” at the July 11 artists reception for “Big, Bold & Beautiful” at Bohrer Park.

Photo | Marylou Bono
(L to R) Carl Yonder, Irina Koren, Steve Grossman, Howard Clark, Stephen Dell’Aria, Sheryl Massaro and Tony Mel
gather in front of Tony Mel’s “Breakfast with Duchamp” at the July 11 artists reception for “Big, Bold & Beautiful” at
Bohrer Park.

Abstract art is a passion. It is occasionally underrepresented and shunned, but the grand pieces in the city’s “Big, Bold & Beautiful” show affirm that the genre is alive and well locally. Curated by Mary Weiss-Waldhorn, the exhibit features large format abstract and stylized pieces selected from those responding to the annual call for artists. Size immediately attracts as well as the forthrightness of subject matter and strong color. Bohrer Park provides a spacious, non-traditional venue particularly well suited for larger works that can be spread out with room for perspective and contemplation.

Germantown artist Carl Yonder works in communications full-time and paints the rest of the time, primarily abstracts and posters. He is a frequent exhibitor and collaborator at the Best Medicine Rep Theater in Lakeforest Mall. The striking colors and figures in his “Lighthouse” greet at the entrance to the exhibit. “Lighthouse” is actually two separate paintings; Yonder put them together after he realized they were mirror images of each other. Emotionally expressive, “Thoughts & Prayers” is Yonder’s response to the many mass shootings in the US. “There are three stories—that of those inciting the violence, those experiencing the violence and the media’s portrayal of the events,” he said. “I’m not addressing gun control, but what we are saying about it. It is its own cycle,” he explained. “I didn’t want to take a stance on grief processing, so it represents universal themes and is not specific to any one incident.”

Stephen Dell’Aria’s geometric play with shape and line on white, “Thrown to the Curb,” reminds him of “pulling up to a stop sign and looking in the gutter at all the trash and things people throw out.” I saw influences of Kandinsky in his approach to what he said was a random process. The Germantown artist, who is retired and paints full time, said, “I enjoy dealing with abstract images; they have reached a classical stage.” Dell’Aria previously worked in watercolor plein air but has moved on to more abstract work, photorealism and time lapse videos. He noted that he does not paint the edges of any of his work or frame them as he feels these are barriers to form and shape; to do so “emphasizes the painting as an object,” he said.

Urbana artist Sheryl Massaro’s “The Last Stage of Grief” features a white background with multi-color gradations symbolizing the ebbs and flows of grief’s stages and the traversing in-between. Said Massaro, “I was attending workshops by (Frederick painter) Johan Lowie on abstract theory. I was thinking about grief and how in Japan white is the color of mourning rather than black—melding Western and Eastern.” Lines through the color were made with the end of a paintbrush, Massaro said, to represent the continuous flow of emotion.

My “best in show” is Frederick artist Tony Mel’s “Man Out of Time.” It spoke as an amalgam of emotion to man’s current state of flux—dealing with a world where you may feel you don’t fit in, as if from another time and place. Mel said, “The young man thinks he’s young, but isn’t anymore. What happens when you reach a certain age … the heaviness, weight of the world, impact—where do I go from here?” It is a theme most of us can identify with. The huge canvas’ shadows and daunting silver figure bring out a haunting quality that reveals a complex story of ideas. “Breakfast with Duchamp” is an homage to French painter, sculptor and writer Marcel Duchamp who was a prime influence on 20th and 21st century art.

Local photographer Howard Clark’s “Crystal Cathedral” in Garden Grove, California, is a panoramic of what is considered to be the largest all-glass building in the world. Clark travels extensively and has a keen eye for clarity and a sense of history. Constructed by the ministry of late televangelist Robert Schuller 30 years ago, the cathedral is comprised of 10,000 rectangular tempered glass panes and was built to withstand an earthquake of up to 8.0 magnitude. Following bankruptcy and community dynamic changes, the cathedral was bought by the Catholic church. Clark’s fascinating capture is a compilation of eleven separate vertical images.

Moscow native Irina Koren’s “Mood” has an impressionistic style and a landscape feeling. “Everybody will see something different,” she said. “It is an escape.” The Kentlands artist and owner of Irina’s Art Studio studied to be an art teacher and has always loved painting. “What inspires me is music,” she said. “If music has a color, it is in my paintings!”

Step out of the heat and refresh at “Big, Bold & Beautiful,” on exhibit at the Activity Center at Bohrer Park through Sept. 2. See more here: www.gaithersburgmd.gov/about-us/city-facilities/activity-center-at-bohrer-park/activity-center-gallery#ad-image-2.