The Glenview Mansion Art Gallery, which is comprised of the upstairs rooms of this gem of a historical house set in exquisitely manicured parkland, is hosting a large group show this month.
Pastel artist Patricia Hilton is represented by a large number of small scale works, primarily landscapes, in a loosely realist style. Occasionally charming, they are generally uninspiring. A group of digital photographs by Richard Weiblinger is considerably more interesting and varied. The hot colored close ups of “glowing” flowers unfortunately border on the kitschy, but a photo of “Paper Rolls,” tinted pink and resembling a close up of human skin, was strangely compelling. There are a number of nautical/maritime scenes. Among these “Pipe Jetty” is an evocative and beautifully composed view out to the water with misty sky, sand and ocean spray in softened colors. The bright green of the beams attached to the pipe on the beach stands out without looking artificial. The artist — who is a medical researcher by day — writes that he wants to create images with “chromatic strength,” and these photos clearly show that intent.
Dominating the galleries, however, is sculpture in different media (and quality) by five members of The Friday Group — an informal association of sculptors from the area who have been regularly meeting at an advanced sculpture studio offered at Montgomery College in Silver Spring. This is not a homogeneous group of artists, and their backgrounds vary greatly, but the work does have a connected feel both in approach and in content. With a few exceptions, almost all the work has an organic character of some kind; rooted in natural form but not necessarily descriptive of it.
Among the five is Jackie Martin who contributed three works in different media to the exhibit. The most memorable is an intriguing piece titled “Fetal.” Two leaf or pod-like forms made of copper face each other. A complex network of copper wire fills the space between them, culminating in curves at the top almost like waves. The wire comes out from along the top of the leaf forms and is pressed to their exteriors. While the artist has said that she was inspired by a dogwood seedpod, the title suggests seeing these wires as veins in the womb, the curving forms alluding to the protection of the fetus inside. Martin’s carved soapstone sculpture, “The Days that Are No More” (a quotation from a Tennyson poem), also appears to allude to the mother/child relationship, and the inevitable passage of time. A head on one end is transformed into a wing on one side, a hand on the other. At the end is the face of an infant. While the symbolism here is to some extent dependent on reading the title, the work has a powerful effect, and although small (only 12 inches wide), has a monumental character.
A group of sleekly elegant carved marble pieces by Jan Acton all have the organic sensibility mentioned above. “Gesture I” stands like a stem or a leaf in grey-veined white marble, while “Red Vein” seems to configure itself into a swan-like form, with a fanned tail. “Curled Up” is a simple shell or pod-like form that also resembles a fetal shape, and in pink toned marble makes an interesting comparison to Martin’s copper womb.
George Wedberg’s works are in wood, with forms that appear to reference plants more specifically. My favorite was “Grotto” in which curving elements intertwine in a way reminiscent of tree branches emerging from the trunk. Along one outside edge the artist has made tiny droplet-shaped marks, possibly by burning, that create an interesting texture. “The Gathering” is a small work featuring three leaf forms, each set on a stepped base. The insides of the leaves are not sanded, and the contrast of textures adds a tactile dimension to the work. The smooth surfaces of “Wave Form” add to the rhythm of its shapes.
Gordon Lyon and Paul Steinkoenig are more experimental, and work in more than single media. Still, Lyon’s “Shell with Cladding” and his other shell-like welded steel pieces share with most of the works of this group, an organic formal basis. Lyon also works in a semi-abstract figurative style (“Torso,” welded sheet steel) as well as in modernist assemblages of welded found metal as in his “Monitor,” which (apart from the bright blue base), was his most interesting piece in this show. Steinkoenig is even more disparate in his approach. His “Something Bad,” that fairly occupies an entire room, was genuinely unsettling. A heavy chain hangs from the center of a huge frame of burnt beams put together with enormous screws—the whole looking like the remains of some horrible incident involving fire and hangings. The same artist created the smooth and rather intellectual “Pair of Jacks: Cubic Jack and Evolving Jack” made of highly sanded and mechanically cut natural wood. On the other hand, his welded and painted metal “Sphere” stands on spindly metal legs. While it might evoke an armillary sphere, the effect is more sci-fi than astronomical. If it also looks a bit like a giant spider, there’s more humor here than horror film.