County courthouse unveils exhibit of contemporary art

Thursday, June 8, 2006

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Christopher Anderson⁄The Star
Artist Bret King, a sculpture teacher at Bowie High School, was one of three artists who dedicated new artwork in the Marbury Wing Expansion of the county courthouse in Upper Marlboro on Tuesday. King used copper recovered from last year’s fire of the DuVall wing to create the piece entitled ‘‘Guidance.”

Nick Woodfield wasn’t sure what the concoction of colorful bamboo decorating a second-floor wall in the Prince George’s County Courthouse symbolized.

But the attorney said that he found the contemporary artwork refreshing.

‘‘Very often you get these really creepy portraits of old judges that look like they were painted by a first-year art student hanging on the walls,” said Woodfield, of Alexandria. The arrangement of uneven bamboo ‘‘wouldn’t look nice in my home,” Woodfield said. ‘‘But it adds a nice touch” to the courthouse.

The bamboo display, which was designed by Alonzo Davis and titled ‘‘Judicial Balance” was among three pieces of artwork unveiled during a ceremony Tuesday at the courthouse. Artist Bret King’s ‘‘Guidance,” a window-sized flat sheet of copper decorated with stones and copper piping, and a piece designed by the Washington Glass Studio that included 40 individual rectangles of glass decorated with two-dimensional figures, titled ‘‘A Testimony of Community,” were also honored during the dedication.

Each of the three pieces of art was constructed with copper recovered from the historic Duvall Wing, which was ravaged by fire in 2004.

The three pieces of art are placed in the Marbury Wing of the courthouse on the first, second and third floors. The Marbury Wing of the courthouse debuted in October.

The projects were commissioned by the county agency Art in Public Places. The art program was created in 1990 by the county council as a way to decorate new county facilities with unique artwork, said Lauren Dugas Glover, director of Art in Public Places.

‘‘It was important for us to bring the history of the old courthouse into the new wing,” Glover said.

Administrative Judge William D. Missouri said that art has traditionally been a useful storytelling tool. The new pieces, he predicted, would continue that tradition.

‘‘There’s nothing harder than trying to grasp what message an artist is attempting to convey. This is not the artist fault but mine,” said Missouri, to chuckles from the audience gathered for the dedication ceremony.

E-mail Lester J. Davis at