The word “diversity” conjures a myriad of definitions, expression and variation of meaning. “Building Bridges: Connecting Our Global Roots,” the current exhibit at Bohrer Park, uses art to celebrate cultural heritage in the context of Gaithersburg’s rich international population. Twenty-five artists from multicultural backgrounds showcased their work at the reception on Jan. 30. Featured artist Magruder Murray exhibited mixed media work representative of African and Caribbean cultures.
Diverse artist backgrounds make for diverse themes in their work. Vibrant color, perspective, customs, celebrations, daily life, clothing, freedom and world peace permeated.
Judy Anderson’s tender graphite portraits of her grandchildren radiate love with their simple and delicate shadows and expression. A self-taught artist who wanted to draw ever since she can remember, Anderson said, “I picked it up seven years after retirement. I’m experimenting. I don’t really want to sell. I want to show my work and my talent.”
Rockville artist Elizabeth Steel’s “E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One” features the Statue of Liberty.
Gaithersburg photographer Howard Clark’s view of “The Staircase” at the Boca Raton Club sets a mood reminiscent of a Moroccan alcove with its rust-colored shadows and high ceiling. His “Himeji Castle” was taken on a trip to Japan.
Peruvian performer, horseman and painter Edward Johanson showed likenesses of a Peruvian Paso horse and a Peruvian Andean family. A plumbing contractor by day in Rockville, he is a self-taught artist who indulges his passions of painting and traditional dance at several events in the area. He began exhibiting last year and has been in the U.S. for 20 years.
Emil Markulis’ “Lithuanian Folk Dance” and “Jazz Festival” acknowledge his love of music. For the latter, he frequented the nine-day long Rochester Jazz Festival and painted artists on 6×6 canvas blocks. “I would sell these at the festival,” he said, “but then had the idea to fasten a number of them, representing as many instruments as I could think of, into a frame.” The result is approximately 24×36. Markulis has been painting for about 20 years and works in all media, including collage. A pen and ink from his totem series, Katras Totems, was done after those he saw in Vancouver and Alaska.
Originally from India, Trisha Gupta’s “Rising Wave” is an immense dark, representation of the entrance to the harbor in Mumbai, the gateway to India, she said. “I try to find ways to relate what is happening here to what is happening in India. Many of my pieces are based on memories of landmarks that were affected by personal experience.” She previously counseled PTSD patients and now is a full-time artist, which was a long, hard fight for her. “Bright Star” and “Winter Wind” are also notable personal statements.
Featured artist Magruder Murray dazzled with nine of his mixed media expressions. “Real Cubans” shows huge cigars; the artist explained, “This couple were in the square in Havana. … They are a fixture there. They don’t smoke the cigars!” Colorful “Carnival” evolved from an event in Santiago. “I used a cut-out mask, old jeans and lace for the dress and feathers for decoration. It was 110 degrees and they were dancing. … I don’t see how they did it!”
On his travels, Murray sketches and takes photos so that he can reflect and research as he recreates images at home. He favors acrylic and colored pencil and sometimes oil. “I love to draw,” he said. “I started out drawing and progressed to pen and ink. Then I went to a Colored Pencil Society of America convention and joined about 20 years ago. What intrigues me now about acrylic is that they have pens. I can use them. … I’m always trying something new.”
Another talent is for carpentry and woodworking. These come through in his carved masks “Maasai Pride” and “Asante Contradiction.” Masks were carved from beechwood and embellished with colored pencil and gold leaf. He used a pointillism technique for “Maasai Pride.” The Maasai are proud of their red garments and beadwork and are active today in what is now Kenya.
“Asante Contradiction” depicts the Asante’s involvement with both sides of the slave trade. Murray features a copy of the Declaration of Independence and a slave trade announcement as background to demonstrate this duality. The mask’s features were fashioned after those of a waiter from the tribe that he met in New York. He took pictures of him and did research to flesh out the piece. His family had a printing company and printed old newspapers, so he was able to access these to illustrate.
The exhibit is thoughtful and represents a slice of our world that is growing ever smaller. Visit and let the art help you find your way of celebrating the cultures highlighted. The Activity Center at Bohrer Park is open daily. “Building Bridges” runs through March 30.