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Artscape and Ingres at the BMA

from Observation deckIt must be summer if Baltimore's Artscape Festival is beginning. Although the festival won't begin until July 22nd, the Baltimore Museum of Art is hosting one of the exhibits, Observation Deck, curated by aerial artist extraodinaire, Gary Simmons.

Renowned artist Gary Simmons has selected a dynamic range of contemporary works by artists in the mid-Atlantic area who examine the theme of vantage point. Observation Deck encompasses works that suggest maps and aerial views paired with those that suggest the microscopic by Geoff Grace; Ellen Ross; Calla Thompson; René Treviño; Renee van der Stelt; and Nick Petr, Nick Wisniewski, and Scott Berzofsky. This show is presented at the BMA as one of the featured visual art exhibitions of Artscape, Baltimore's premier arts festival.
A huge map, a satellite image of Baltimore (shown here), is the focal point of the exhibit. It's quite a powerful image as you enter the gallery, composed of hundreds of inkjet prints mounted on foam core. There are binoculars on hand to view the piece, giving you the feeling that you're hovering over the city: it's very effective. Three artists, Scott Berzotsky, Nicholas Petr, and Nicolas Wisniewski, created this and call it Pirate Baltimore.

Geoff Grace likes long poetic titles for his work. For a very large paint-by-numberish tree in browns and beiges, he painted directly on the wall with what he says is clay and whiskey; it's titled Our songs will be carried by the water. In the center of the room facing the tree is a wooden lifeguard stand entitled Bless me indeed, enlarge my territory that your hand may be with me. Is it a call to the wilds from a place of safety? A third piece of curled acetate, For the support and celebration of total awareness, is delicately pinned to either side of the entrance to the smaller gallery space.

In this space, Ellen Ross's Long Distance Love Affair, an ink on vellum chronology of an affair which took place between New York and L.A., with credit card records and phone logs as our visual proof. A second piece is a travel primer, Easily assembled at home, and for use by those who have never traveled to lands beyond, which beckons us to step beyond our safe boundries. Also in this small space is Rene Trevino's mixed media on mylar, The propaganda series part I, which seems to be a historical documentary of male love and bonding from the time of the Incas through Rock Hudson.

The theme has great potential and this exhibit makes a fair, however uneven attempt. Where do we fit into this world? What is my place on this planet and how does that shape my individuality? It's a simple premise which asks for very complex responses. It's the luck of the draw: where you are born, where you live, and what culture you identify with will have everything to do with your perceptions.

Getting the BMA to show with local artists is a rarity, unfortunately. There are many excuses, but none can really excuse their lack of support for artists of this region. It's a long, often difficult process for an artist to build a career, and the support of the local arts organizations is critical. It wouldn't be a charitable gesture either: there are very good artists working here. Maybe this is the beginning of a renewal of that relationship. I hope so.

Another exhibit just opening at the BMA, "The Essence Of Line: French Drawings from Ingres to Degas, is a joint effort from the collections of the BMA and the Walters Art Museum. With simultaneous exhibits, this show highlights the strong drawing collections of each institution and the collecting preferences of some of the founding benefators. I haven't seen the Walters portion yet, but the large Shepherdess pastel by Millet and Berthe Morisot's Child with Hat, make this a worthwhile trip.

Tuesday I am going to the press preview for the new Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. We've been watching it grow for some time. The exterior looks very interesting, and I should have a post by mid-week.

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