Works by Howard and Mary McCoy on View at Adkins Arboretum

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A young boy on a preschool field trip at Adkins Arboretum thought it was a dinosaur nest. A man riding by on a bike remarked, “If that’s a bird’s nest, it must be a mighty big bird.” The “nest” they were talking about is actually a sculpture created in the Arboretum’s forest by environment artists Howard and Mary McCoy of Centreville.

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“Accumulation” is among the works of Centreville artists Howard and Mary McCoy on view through Sept. 30

On view through Sept. 30, Unnatural Nature is the McCoys’ ninth outdoor sculpture show at the Arboretum since 1999. Using only natural materials collected in the woods, they have created ten site-specific sculptures, each inspired by a particular place in the forest. The artists will lead a sculpture walk during the show’s reception on Sat., June 6 from 3 to 5 p.m.

“Accumulation,” as the nest sculpture is titled, was inspired by the way pine trees tend to let their lowest branches die back as they grow upward through the forest canopy to catch sunlight. The McCoys were fascinated by how many of the Arboretum’s pines have stubs of old branches protruding from their lower trunks. It seemed to them to be an invitation to make a sculpture, so they gathered fallen pine branches and laid them across the broken stubs along a pine tree’s trunk, creating something resembling an enormous nest.

“It’s a little mischievous,” Mary McCoy said. “We like to make you smile.”

There’s humor in many of the McCoys’ sculptures, particularly “Toppled.” The two artists noticed part of a tree trunk stuck upside-down in the earth next to the gently winding stream of the Arboretum’s Blockston Branch. Realizing that it had broken off and fallen from high up in a dead tree still standing nearby, they decided to call attention to what had happened. They inserted branches gathered from the forest floor into the main tree trunk, pointing them upward as if they were growing there, but to show that the tree’s top had flipped over as it fell, the branches they inserted in that section point downward.

The show’s title, Unnatural Nature, comes from the McCoys’ practice of altering what they find in nature just slightly so that you often have to look twice before you realize you’re looking at something that’s not quite what nature would do. A woodpecker wouldn’t drill holes in a straight line and certainly wouldn’t make them all a uniform diameter. Vines wouldn’t grow in the shape of a cloud around a tree trunk. Consequently, their sculptures are gentle, low-impact works that will decay and disappear naturally with the passing of time.

The two artists started creating their works in March.

“It’s cooler then, and you don’t have to worry much about ticks and poison ivy,” said Howard McCoy. “And it’s especially good because the understory plants haven’t grown up yet, so you can see way back into the woods, plus there’s less chance of harming things underfoot.”

“By the time the show opens, the woods are full of new growth,” Mary McCoy added. “Which, of course, is one of the fun things about making sculpture here. Whenever you come to visit, the sculptures and the forest around them will look a little different. They just keep changing.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on through Sept. 30 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or for gallery hours.

Cutline: “Accumulation” is among the works of Centreville artists Howard and Mary McCoy on view through Sept. 30 at Adkins Arboretum. The artists will lead a guided sculpture walk during a public reception on Sat., June 6.

Image of The Day by Bill Thompson

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Skimming the Water Clouds by William Thompson

Skimming the Water Clouds on the Choptank River by William Thompson



The Art of Erin Murphy Set for Adkins

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Erin Murphy finds worlds within a patch of sunlight or shadow. On view through May 29 at the Adkins Arboretum Visitor’s Center, Quoting Nature, her show of paintings, drawings and monoprints, draws the viewer into deep, atmospheric space.There will be a reception on Sat., April 4 from 3 to 5 p.m. to meet the artist.

“The Field” by Erin Murphy

“The Field” by Erin Murphy

Murphy’s works are full of sensuous, subtle colors and rich textures. Inspired by landscapes from Baltimore to South Africa, her poetic abstractions often hint at vast swaths of sky and earth but might just as easily be intimate close-ups. Mysteriously shining through velvety shades of darkest blue, the luminous radiance of “The Field,” a large monoprint, suggests a twilight sky above a meadow and distant tree line, but it could be many other things.

A young artist who graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 2011 with a BFA in painting, Murphy is an avid hiker and traveler with a fascination for varied landscapes. She studied at MICA’s Summer Study in Sorrento, Italy, and atCentral Saint Martin’s College, University of the Arts London and has had artist residencies at Salem Art Works in Salem, N.Y., and the Bijou Studio in Cape Town, South Africa.

While studying at MICA, Murphy made copies of Old Masters paintings, a practice she sometimes still uses when she’s looking for inspiration. In working on these close studies of major works of art by artists such as Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, J. M. W. Turner and John Singer Sargent, she would often find herself fascinated by a small area of a painting and use it as a jumping off point for creating her own painting. This is the same process she uses when working from nature.

“I take in bits of sky or patches of light streaming through the trees or filtering onto a crumbling rock face into darkness,” she explained. “I try to isolate that moment, which is abstract but very alive. I’m an extreme editor of nature.”

Murphy’s works imply thresholds into subtle worlds of changing shadow and light. These are images of possibility and revelation. A brushy streak of bright yellow flashes across the lush brown surface of “Glimmer,” a small oil painting created while Murphy lived in Baltimore. It is as if in a moment, a sunbeam, an open door or a huge mountain will come into focus.

Occasionally, Murphy’s titles refer to specific places. In “Mist on Table Mountain,” a raw pigment drawing made during her residency in Cape Town, a curl of blue-white edges over the top of a dark triangle in a reference to the mist that can often be seen flowing over the dramatic horizontal peak of the mountain that soars up behind the city.

“There wouldn’t be any cloud cover,” Murphy said, “and it would literally be the mist pouring over the mountain. They say that’s how you can tell a storm is coming.”

Currently living in Nashville, Tenn., Murphy uses her artistic skills in her day job creating window displays for Anthropologie while pursuing her studio work at Fort Houston, a communal creative work space for artists and craftsmen that features a print shop, wood shop, photography studio and other facilities. Adding to her skills in painting and printmaking, she is learning woodworking techniques there and constructed her own frames for the works in the show.

“I feel like it hones my observation skills to take on a new project in a new space,” she said, “And I’m excited to think about what my work will look like in a year!”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on viewthrough May 29 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or for gallery hours

Working Artists Forum Set for Chesapeake College

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Chesapeake College will host the Working Artists Forum (WAF) for their annual Spring Show at the Todd Performing Arts Center from Wednesday, April 1st through Thursday, April 30, 2015. Member artists of WAF will be presenting recent works in oil, watercolor, pastel, pen and ink, and mixed media. Each artist will bring their own style, technique and subject matter to this yearly event.

“Juan” watercolor by Donna Winterling

“Running Before the Storm” watercolor by Sandy Alenko

The Working Artists Forum is a non-profit organization of more than 90 professional artists living and working in and around the Eastern Shore who meet monthly at the Academy Art Museum in Easton for discussions, demos and critiques. Membership is established by a jury composed of fellow artists. This show is free and open to the public, Monday through Friday and during specially scheduled weekend performances. Matthew Hillier, an internationally acclaimed wildlife and landscape artist living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, will be the judge for this show.

For more information about the Working Artists Forum, please see their website:

The Art and Science of Greg Mort


With exhibitions of his work at both Chestertown’s Massoni Gallery and Easton’s Academy Art Museum taking place at the same time, the popularity and interest in the artist Greg Mort’s watercolors, oil, and pastel images have never been greater on the Eastern Shore nor in the world of contemporary art these days.

The self-taught artist and astronomer gained unique visibility for his work in the late 1970s after Joan Mondale, wife of Vice President Walter Mondale and a big champion of the visual arts in America, took special interest in Mort’s unique blending of science and nature with his art. That friendship with Mondale continued for several decades leading to a one-person exhibition in Tokyo, Japan while Mondale’s husband served as US ambassador in the 1990s.

In his interview with the Spy, Mort talks about his work at Massoni and the AAM, his use of science and the reoccurring theme of the earth’s fragile nature.

This video is approximately four minutes in length

Carla Massoni Gallery
“Body // Water” through March 22

Academy Art Museum
The Art of Greg Mort: Selections from the Hickman Bequest through April 12

“Brush with Nature” Exhibit Opens at Centre for the Arts

Owl Shaw

Owl ShawQueen Anne’s County Arts Council’s Centre for the Arts hosts an art exhibit beginning on March 13th. Jonathan Shaw and Hai-Ou Hou are featured in the first shared exhibit of these distinctly unique artists. The show “Brush with Nature” runs through April 15th with a public reception on Friday, March 13 from 5:30-7:00 pm.

A wildlife artist and avid outdoorsman, Jonathan Shaw is a familiar sight at area wildlife festivals and plein air events, often accompanied by one of his falcons.  Whether painted in oils, acrylics or watercolor, Shaw’s sensitive portraits of wildlife are rendered with exquisite detail.  British-born, Shaw lives on an historic farm in Wye Mills where he keeps Paso Fino horses and several birds of prey.  Shaw is an avid falconer who hunts on horseback, a practice dating at least to medieval times in Europe and the Middle East.  He has had a passionate love for nature since childhood, and his love of animals in their habitat is evident in this show.

Hai-Ou Hou lives on Kent Island where she has recently opened a wonderful gallery space offering classes and exhibits.  She was born in Beijing China where she received a B.A. from the National Academy of Fine Art and Design. Following her immigration to the United States, she received her Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Towson State University. Hai-Ou has received numerous awards for her landscapes, portraits and figurative oil paintings. A noted outdoor painter, she has traveled to plein air events from California to the East Coast. Hai-Ou is a member of Oil Painters of America, American Impressionist Society, American Women Artists, Washington Society of Landscape Painters and the Mid Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association.

Visitors can see the exhibit during the Centre for the Art’s regular office hours, Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or Saturday by appointment. For more information please visit us at


South Street Gallery Features Basham, Howard and Nuss in March

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For the month of March, the South Street Art Gallery in Easton will feature the work of three new Gallery artists. “New Artists, New Voices” will include the work of Jill Basham, Debra Howard, and Barbara Nuss. Opening on March 4th and running through March 28th, the show will reflect the artists’ unique individual sensibilities, each quite different from the others. There will be a reception held during the First Friday Gallery Walk on March 6th from 5-8pm.

Jill  Basham "Aloft" 12x16 oil

Jill Basham “Aloft” 12×16 oil

Jill Basham most loves painting landscapes. “I am particularly intrigued by how light creates mood. The landscape can be a country, city or ocean/water scene.” Her goal is to try and get the emotion of the scene across to the viewer by matching the mood with brushwork, color palette and value/temperature range. “I enjoy painting outside, often times in a large format. I paint in the studio as well, where I have more time for reflection and can produce larger works.” Much of her most recent work focuses on atmosphere, with simple design elements and a moody color palette. This recent atmospheric work will be included in the show, “New Artists, New Voices”.

Basham is an award winning artist. Honors include 3rd Place in Plein-Air Easton in 2012; “Best Landscape” for the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Association; The Salmagundi Club’s Thumb Box Exhibition Award Winner, as well as other honors and awards. Artwork hangs internationally, including the US Embassy in Sri Lanka, through the US State Department’s “Art in Embassies” Program.

Articles and biographies about Basham’s work include American Art Collector and the book 100 Plein Air Painter’s of the Mid-Atlantic, by Gary Pendleton. Basham’s work has been featured in PleinAir Magazine’s “Why This Works”, an analysis of what makes a particular painting successful. Basham is an artist member of the historic Salmagundi Club in NYC. Other memberships include: The American Impressionist Society, Oil Painter’s of America, The Working Artist’s Forum and The Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association.

The Tree Farm by Debra Howard

The Tree Farm by Debra Howard

Debra Howard has been an artist and adventurer her entire life. She spent her childhood in Miami, Florida, where she first discovered her love affair with color, light, painting, and sailing. She studied at Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, and began her art career in San Francisco, where she opened her first illustration studio. After 17 years as a successful illustrator, she closed her studio to concentrate on fine art painting. “I realized that the career I had found so satisfying was being taken over by the computer. I missed the feel of the brush on canvas.”

In response, she provisioned her Peterson 44 sailboat with art supplies, her old dog and her 4 year old daughter and began cruising. After almost 27 years of traveling, sailing and painting aboard, Ling Ling, she has come ashore and has turned her creative focus to painting the Eastern Shore.

Her introduction to the Eastern Shore came by way of Tangier Island. She lived there for 2years, as the artist-in-residence and then as the Executive Director for the Tangier HistoryMuseum. She accomplished the task of painting a painting a day to document theseasons and changes on this disappearing island. Her work was featured in The American Scholar Magazine. The experience changed her; “I paint now with more energy, passion and immediacy,” Howard says, “which coincidentally reflect the very nature of the island. The island is raw.”

Living and working in Crisfield, Maryland she has turned her attention to the Eastern Shore: the vast open farmlands, the growing seasons and Assateague Island. All of these subjects, featuring her distinctive and rich color palette, will be represented at the upcoming show at the South Street Art Gallery Debra is a noted award winning plein-air artist with a passionate collector base. You can

Debra is a noted award winning plein-air artist with a passionate collector base. You can often see her on location with her easel and paints. She was voted “Best Visual Artist,” forCharleston, SC in 2007.

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Yellow Roses 18×14 oil by Barbara Nuss

Barbara Nuss is recognized nationally for her oil paintings of landscapes and still lifes. She is known for romancing the light whether on a peony, a clarinet, a picturesque creek, or an historic lane. “I attempt to give a contemporary response to the landscape with consideration to the environment in the still undeveloped areas that reveal the essence of my home state of Maryland. To achieve this, I use oil as the medium to create expressive and inviting paintings that will last a lifetime or more.” She paints from her heart.

Nuss began her career as an illustrator, immediately after graduating from Syracuse University with a BFA degree. Her journey encompassed many side trips including studying at The Schuler School of Fine Art in Baltimore, Maryland. The National Arts for the Parks exhibited many of her paintings, which launched her landscapes that have been in many other national exhibitions and won her much acclaim. She has participated in many plein air competitions, winning Best in Show and several Juror’s awards.

Barbara Nuss’ book, 14 Formulas for Painting Fabulous Landscapes published by North Light Books was recently reprinted in paperback under the new title Secrets to Composition.

Nuss’ paintings have been exhibited throughout the United States and are in collections worldwide. She is a member of the Salmagundi Club in NYC and other professional art organizations. As President of the Washington Society of Landscape Painters for 10 years, she was instrumental in the Society embracing the 21st century.

The “New Artist, New Voices” show will be an opportunity for art enthusiasts to get a firsthand look at some of the fresh work of the newest artists to South Street Art Gallery.

Please go to for more information.

Spy Pic of the Day: Bald Cypress


Surprisingly, bald cypress may be found this far north. Photographers Dave Harp and Bill Thompson went paddle-boarding recently in Delaware’s Trap Pond State Park, the northernmost extensive stand of bald cypress on the Eastern seaboard of the US, according to Wikipedia. It is located near Laurel, Delaware, between Seaford and Salisbury.


Photo is by Spy contributor Bill Thompson.




“Viewpoints” at QAC Centre for the Arts

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Queen Anne’s County Centre for the Arts invites the public to “Viewpoints”, an exhibit featuring artists Robert Ciesielski, Ann Crane Harlan, Joan Hart, David Terrar and Judy Ward. There will be a public reception on Friday, September 12th from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the Centre in Centreville, Maryland.

The diversity of their approaches leads to an interesting show. David Terrar has been painting for over 35 years. “My paintings come from observing rural Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. Many of my paintings have Bay work boats in them. They represent the struggle of life and of going out on the water day after day to get food on the table and support a family. My paintings memorialize that struggle.” Terrar and his family live in Gaithersburg.

Crabbers Time for Prayer, Oil Painting by David Terrar

Crabbers Time for Prayer, Oil Painting by David Terrar

Joan Hart says “My first love as a painter is to be outdoors in the weather and changing light, trying to capture some spirit of the land that has moved me. I am experimenting with pushing shape and color to a more abstract, elemental level while maintaining an emotional connection with my subject.” Her art has appeared in shows and won awards throughout the area.

Ann Crane Harlan has been an artist all her life. She taught and raised a family all while using art as a creative outlet. Now retired, Crane’s recent work includes whimsical collages using glued paper for color and design. Shows of her collages and watercolors in the area include Kent Island Federation of Art, and a one woman show at Quiet Water’s Park.

Judy Ward works mainly in oil, employing a style of disjointed shapes in a color-block style that lets the painting surface show through between blocks of color, similar to stained glass. “This affords me the opportunity to emphasize the essence of my subject – its minimal shape, its maximum color and its most basic attributes.” Says Ward. Her recent exhibits include the Oxford Art Fair and a show at Maryland Federation of Art.

Robert Ciesielski enjoys painting cityscapes, landscapes and water. He has spent considerable time in Ireland and loves the constantly changing weather and cloud formations there that provide variety for his landscapes. Whatever the subject in his paintings, he uses light and shadow and color contrast to catch the viewer’s interest and create the mood of a scene. Ciesielski lives and paints in Centreville.

The exhibition begins September 11th and will run through October 30th. Queen Anne’s County Centre for the Arts is located at 206 S. Commerce St., Centreville, MD. 410.758.2520 or

The Queen Anne’s County Arts Council, Inc., is a non-profit organization committed to promoting, expanding and sustaining the arts. We connect artists to audiences and the community to the arts. Visit us on the web at

Earth Matters, Collages by Fran Skiles, on View through Sept. 26 at Adkins

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There’s so much to look at in Fran Skiles’s abstract landscapes that you’ll want to linger over each and every one. On view through Sept. 26 at the Adkins Arboretum Visitor’s Center, her mixed media collages are bold and energetic and full of fascinating intricate details. There will be a reception on Sat., August 16 from 3 to 5 p.m. to meet the artist.

CUTLINE: “The Order of Nature” is among Fran Skiles’s works on view through Sept. 26 at Adkins Arboretum.

CUTLINE: “The Order of Nature” is among Fran Skiles’s works on view through Sept. 26 at Adkins Arboretum.

With a masterful eye for composition, Skiles focuses on earth tones with occasional flashes of bright red, blue or purple as she deftly layers photos, paint, paper and fabric. She is deeply influenced by nature, especially the lush landscapes of Shepherdstown, W. Va., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where she lives. As she works, her images evolve, just as nature evolves. And just as landscapes are formed from a range of geological forces, seasonal changes and human activity, her collages incorporate many sources.

“It’s intuitive,” Skiles explained. “I don’t start with an idea. I follow my instincts as far as color and shape, but my work is landscape based.”

In the early 1990s, Skiles was creating art quilts. Intended to be hung on a wall, they were stitched together in a patchwork of different fabrics, some printed with photographs, some painted as one would paint a canvas.

One of these quilts, “Blue Fish,” is included in the Adkins Arboretum show. A large fabric panel of glowing blue and shadowy black, it brims with activity. There are veils of color, scribbly marks and sweeping gestures of creamy paint along with a wonderfully mismatched variety of textures. Some are visual—a photo of a fish with delicate scales, patterns of stenciled paint— while others are physical—neatly stitched seams, unfinished fringed edges of fabric stiffened with paint, and a section of coarse netting with metallic glints showing here and there.

The process of piecing quilts together naturally led Skiles to work with collage on paper, fabric or board. Although these multilayered works are abstract, they’re full of animated movement. It’s as if you had just caught a glimpse of the graceful slope of a hill, a bristling tangle of weeds, or an animal darting for cover. And they are full of mystery. Deep dark blacks give way suddenly to surprising patches of vibrant color or unidentifiable fragments of photographs. Semi-transparent Japanese rice paper half hides the washy stains and brushwork underneath. Everywhere, there’s a feeling of solidity but also a sense of change that seems to speak of seasons and time passing.

When she works, Skiles has paint and drawing materials at the ready, but she also relies on a collection of what she calls “parts,” different kinds of paper that she has already painted, printed or sketched on, along with photographs and pages from old books.

“I could spend a month or more strictly making parts,” she said. “A really basic part of the work is to have this collection.”

Pointing to a collage with a piece of semi-transparent Japanese rice paper spattered with ink marks, she continued, “I didn’t create that for it. I went into my box of parts and found it and put it there. It’s part no plan, part plan, but mostly no plan. I wait and hope the piece develops its voice so it will direct me what to do with it. I really depend on that, the piece itself asking for what it needs.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view through Sept. 26 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or for gallery hours.