Tuesday, August 22, 2006

International Landscape Show at the Art League

A lot of art critics, because of their perplexing arrogance, would never open their eyes to an All-Landscape show such as the Art League’s annual International Landscape Show has been year after year for as long as I have lived in this area.

And yet the eternal optimist in me, often wonders what would happen were they to set foot in the salon-style packed house that is the Art League’s annual show; hoping that perhaps a little of their elitist armor could be breached, and they would see, what I see.

For the last 13 years or so, I have been visiting this show, and have seen it become international in focus, and have also seen it grow in both size and quality, but the one things that has never changed in my perception of it, is how artists continue to bring forth new visions of what is landscape, or re-invent the perceptions of what others have done before them.

The 2006 version of the International Landscape Show at the Art League was selected by Mark Leithauser, the Senior Curator and Chief of Design at the National Gallery of Art, who selected 178 works of art from 708 entered. The exhibition was sponsored by Donald and Nancy deLanski with the deLaski Family Award, which was given this year to Kim Steinberg. Other award winners were Thomas Dembeck, who won the Risser Award, Christine Lassey, who won the Potomac Valley Watercolorists Award and Nancy Reinke, who won the Washington Society of Landscape Painters Award.

So what did I like?

I was quite taken by Edgar Boshart’s very blue photograph "Sur Surreal", which caught my eye from the moment I set foot in the gallery. As defined in our collective minds by Ansel Adams, this photo is very far from what we conceive in our collective minds as Big Sur, and yet it is such a great new vision of that amazing California area that we accept it as a new and distinct contemporary vision of Big Sur.

I also liked Christine Cardellino’s tiny diptych titled “Landscape with Red Shadows,” and Michelle Cook’s even tinier watercolor “Snowy,” which I feel, in spite of its size, is one of the best watercolors in the show, reflecting the medium’s ability to make great visual record regardless of size.

Andrea Gettings' etching “Como” was also one of my top choices, as was perennial favorite Susan Herron’s “Tilghman Island,” a powerful acrylic painting by one of the best landscape artists in the Mid Atlantic.

Turkish-born painter (and Alexandria resident) Isil Ozisik proudly flexes his artistic muscles and has masterfully reproduced his native city in a wet-on-wet watercolor titled “My City Istanbul,” which is a lesson to watercolor artists who want to know to what extent that most difficult watercolor technique can be used by a master watercolorist not only to deliver technical tricks but also to capture the soul and historical footprint of an ancient and proud city.

I have previously called Jackie Saunders one of the best figurative artists around, and that title comes after years of seeing her amazing watercolors and ink drawings of the nude mode, hundreds, if not thousands of them; I mean, this artist has the nude figure figured out from all angles, and through years of doing them, has perfected her approach and yet has kept it fresh and exciting. And what is Saunders doing in a landscape show? I love it when I am surprised by an artist whom I thought I had figured out. And Saunders surprised me with "Lido Beach, Sarasota," a watercolor of that beach.

I happened to run into Saunders at the Art League while I was there and I quizzed her on the subject matter of the watercolor, which was a really fresh and loose and fun watercolor of beach people. She informed me that for years, when she goes to the beach with her family on vacation, she paints the beaches and its browning people.

Typical uh? The artist goes to the beach and paints the beach, because the beach is there. The watercolor is one of the best in the show, by the way.

Finally, I also liked Pamela Viola’s “North Shore Inlet,” a mixed media piece full of movement and a gorgeous watercolor and gouache by J. Smith titled “Chalmette Oaks,” which was unfortunately vastly overpriced.

The show runs through September 4, 2006.