Fine Work by the Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association
Award-winners were celebrated May 10 at the Kentlands Mansion during a special reception for the Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association (GFAA) 32nd Annual Juried Exhibition. Sandra Schraibman, GFAA show chairwoman, said that 90 works had been submitted, and juror Allen Bentley selected 50.
Bentley, an accomplished painter and drawing instructor at Montgomery College, said that he considers mastery of form over what he may personally like. He looks for pieces with artistic integrity. “Exploration of form rather than rendering of form … that kind of hunt is so much more exciting!” he said.
Awards were presented in four categories—watermedia, oil/acrylic, dry media and mixed media/other. Bentley commented on each winner, highlighting the artist’s strengths of representation. Awarded Best in Show was “Flower Fun” by Jeanne Powell, which Bentley described as an exploration of marks.
It takes thought and time to evaluate each piece and consider the subject and technique that is individual to each artist. When absorbing any exhibit, I always find myself drawn to one specific piece and this evening it was Elizabeth Steel’s “Abstract I.” It pulled me in with its whirling explosion of color, movement and energy on raw canvas. An experienced artisan, Steel began her career post-retirement creating sculpture, metal work and welding at Montgomery College. “I loved welding,” she said. She experimented with various media and techniques before switching to painting exclusively after some shoulder problems. She currently experiments with wet canvas, raw canvas, pouring and manipulation of paint, always favoring the abstract. Her enthusiasm for artistic creativity is truly joyful, and I look forward to seeing more work in her studio at Artists & Makers in Rockville.
Cecelia Laurendeau, Steel’s studio-mate at Artists & Makers, showed me her serene “Waiting.” Inspiration came when she was leaving a Hilton Head beach after 5 p.m. one evening and began to take photos. “There was nobody there. I thought, ‘I gotta paint this!’ The shadows were just like that.”
I recognized artist Sandra Fretwell’s work immediately as we had met when we both exhibited our work at the Montgomery Village Art & Photography Show earlier this year. “The Fire Within” is a dramatic and personal piece inspired by a sacred ritual at an herbal conference.
Also upstairs in the mansion is Bill Mapes’ striking and expressive “The Zouave!” “The model is Howard Smith, a favorite subject,” Mapes said. Both are members of a Civil War reenactment group. Zouaves were part of volunteer fighter groups in the Civil War patterned after French light-infantry corps that were originally formed by Algerians, retaining the oriental uniform. The likeness won honorable mention in the oil/acrylic category with Bentley calling out the richness of color, light brushstrokes and sense of abandonment. Nearby was Mapes’ “The Fahza’s Son,” a take-off on Austin Powers’ expression in a playful rendering of his son looking especially fierce.
Other favorites were the commanding blue heron in the water color “Fresh Fish!” by Sally Davies, which was awarded honorable mention in the watermedia category for its outstanding shadows, lightness and delicacy; a pen and ink drawing, “The Bir Hakeim Bridge” by Susan Bradley, taking honorable mention in the dry media category and praised by Bentley for the small but intricate and dynamic marks; and the dramatic “La Femme Musketeer” by Matt Baker.
The GFAA exhibit was organized and hung by Mary Weiss-Waldhorn and Venice Harris of the City of Gaithersburg and runs through July 6.