Watercolor painting is a distinctive medium, heavy on technique and unforgiving in nature, which produces lovely delicate color, form and shading as well as bold and rich expression and hue. Paint pigment is suspended in a water-soluble medium and typically applied to paper or canvas, sometimes wood and fabric. Its uniqueness caused contemporary artist David Hockey to say, “With watercolor, you can’t cover up the marks. There’s the story of the construction of the picture, and then the picture might tell another story as well.”
You’ll find the finest area example of the medium at the 134th Annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Watercolor Exhibition currently on view at BlackRock in Germantown. Sponsored by the Baltimore Watercolor Society, a group founded by five Baltimore women in 1885, it is the most competitive juried watercolor exhibition in the region with 95 works selected out of 400 submissions created by artists in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, D.C. and West Virginia.
Renowned watercolorist David Lobenberg was this year’s juror presenting about 25 awards. Entry was limited to original paintings created using water-based (aqueous) media (mainly watercolor, acrylic, gouache and casein) on natural or synthetic paper or board. This was the first year artists were not required to submit work under glass. Paintings could be unframed, and collages were to be of hand-painted papers.
Local representation came from Artists on Market member Deb Cohan whose streetcar scene “Clang, Clang, Clang” was inspired by a photograph taken while travelling in Lisbon, Portugal. The sizeable work displays a street scene with a primary palette bold with shading and shadow. Cohan used fluid acrylic as one would watercolor on synthetic waterproof Yupo paper and experimented with tape resist to add line and texture. “I’ve always liked art,” she said. “I needed something to relieve stress and took an adult ed course in painting as ‘therapy’ about 18 years ago and loved it.” Many of her paintings are inspired by photographs of extensive travels with her husband. She began painting on silk but, due to the expense, started design on paper with watercolors and then transferred the proven results to silk afterwards. The more she got into watercolor and water media, away went the silk!
Cohan retired 15 years ago from a special education teaching career and has been concentrating on her art since. “I love being with people who enjoy the same things I do and making that community connection,” she revealed. She creates about two paintings a month, each taking 40 to 50 hours. The majority of her work is 20 x 24. Cohan is active in many local art groups, including Artists on Market where she has new work in their show, “Oceans of Creativity.” In November, she will exhibit at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of a Washington Watercolor Association show. “The joy is in producing—taking a blank piece of paper and creating,” she said.
The large windows and expansive light of the Kay Gallery at BlackRock highlight the watercolors, and this is a beautiful and expressive show. A few of the many impressive works are Judy Antico’s “Pinwheel,” a lively abstract with blues, mauves and purples reminiscent of origami, and Joanna Barnum’s personal “Within/Without” featuring a multi-layering collage of pensive mood. Matthew Bird’s male figure in “Looking Forward” is full of startling, deep expression, and Diane Cannon’s “Hopi Territory” is a glass-like collage of muted desert colors. F. Dennis Clarke’s “Safe Harbor” portrays a rustic, cubist-inspired seaside view, and Kay Fuller’s abstract “Sacred Energy” shows off earthy-colored angles and curves. Michiyo Mizuuchi’s “Ascend” is alive with texture and shape surrounded by a golden light, while Beverly Purdue’s “Many Voices” has an enchanting and mysterious mythological antique look. Bruce Woodward’s “Barred Owl Moonlight” puts one in the desolate cold of a Wyeth-inspired winter landscape. Jeremy Pearse’s “Mid-day Sun” is the story Hockney was referring to—what may be a
window to some is overflowing with shadow, light and an unknown within that is totally captivating.
Stop by and view the exhibit through July 13 and vote for your favorite painting to help select the winner of the People’s Choice Award. See more of Deb Cohan’s work at Artists on Market, www.artistsonmarket.com, and more on the show at www.blackrockcenter.org/galleries/current-exhibits.