There’s mystery, beauty and food for thought in Discovering the Native Landscapes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Adkins Arboretum’s 20th annual Juried Art Show. On view in the Arboretum’s Visitor’s Center through March 30, this exhibit was juried by Julie Wills, Assistant Professor of Studio Art and Interim Director of the Kohl Gallery at Washington College. Both she and the artists will be on hand for a reception on Sat., Feb. 16 from 3 to 5 p.m. to talk with visitors about the work in the show.
From 135 entries submitted for this show, Wills chose 21 works that she felt offered an opportunity to consider not just the beauty of the Eastern Shore but also the ways we humans encounter and interact with the natural landscape.
“As it started to come together, I began seeing a more nuanced approach to landscape as a genre that goes beyond the idyllic or pastoral and acknowledges human occupation or mixed uses of landscape,” she explained.
The show has a fascinatingly wide range of work—from Takoma Park artist Joyce Jewell’s dreamy “Star Swept Sky,” with its splintery forest and row of shadowy barns, to the whirling animation of a pair of sculptures made of twigs and driftwood by Marcia Wolfson Ray of Baltimore. Including oil, watercolor and gouache paintings, there are also works made with a variety of photographic and printmaking techniques.
Wills awarded the annual first-prize Leon Andrus Award, named in honor of the Arboretum’s first benefactor, to Liz Donadio of Baltimore for her elegant digital print, “Tributary.” Second prize went to “St. Michaels Road at the Bypass: Easton Edit,” a combination drawing and photograph by Joe Minarick of Easton, and Honorable Mention to Baltimore artist Karen Klinedinst for “Frozen Marsh,” a tiny, exquisitely detailed photographic print on vellum and silver leaf.
Wills was intrigued by how “Tributary” sensuously evokes watery movement and reflections while remaining largely abstract. Invitingly mysterious, the roots and stalks of a ghostly plant float amid amorphous shapes, creating a gentle dance in subtle shades of pink and gray that suggest both water and earth. Created outdoors in Rock Creek Park during a residency at VisArts in Rockville, it’s part of a series of lumen prints Donadio made by arranging plants, earth and water on photosensitive paper that she exposed to the sun and later scanned to produce digital prints.
Minarick’s work is also mysterious, but in a very different way. The photograph shows a quiet marsh, its water reflecting a pearly gray sky, but drawn in with bold strokes of black marker are two long, oval shapes inexplicably hovering in the grasses. It’s a surprising image that caught Wills’s attention.
“I particularly liked the sort of obstruction or obscuring of what would be the more classic view,” she said. “They’re blocking out who knows what—human occupation, ugly buildings, just more marsh—blocking in how things might get altered by human occupation. You don’t really know. I like that ambiguity about it.”
Most visitors come to Adkins Arboretum to enjoy and learn about its natural landscape, but with this exhibit, Wills saw an opportunity to expand on those experiences with artworks that present diverse ways of looking at the natural world.
“There are a lot of venues in the area for exhibiting gorgeous artworks,” she said, “but I felt a more interesting way of engaging with this particular space would be to consider the relationship between human occupation and nature, rather than simply presenting another view of what we can see outside.”
This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view through March 30 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Rd. near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or email@example.com for gallery hours.
Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum is the region’s resource for native plants and education programs about nature, ecology and wildlife conservation gardening. For more information, visit adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.