MFA Celebrates 40 Years with a Rich Mix
of Old and New
The effect is like visiting a large family on Christmas day.
There are gifts everywhere.
by Sonia Linebaugh
Maryland Federation of Art is 40 years old, but its MFA Circle Gallery in Annapolis shows art that is perennially fresh. In a town self-conscious of its history, member-artists remind viewers that theres much more to art than images of workboats, sailboats and views of the State Capitol from City Dock.
The anniversary show at the intimate loft space on State Circle is not a leisurely experience. The brick walls and white panels are crammed with some 100 beautifully rendered paintings, experimental digital prints, studies, drawings, etchings, awkward photo-derived works and a few finely crafted three-dimensional pieces.
The result is a delightful clash of old and new art ideas. Abstract vies with realistic. Cynthia Alderdices giclee print Gems Reveal a Sacred Language explodes bold, symbolic red against impenetrable green and black. An absorbing self-portrait by Juliana Anzalone emphasizes a pale, ardent profile against a black ground, creating subtle tension between her command of the old-fashioned richness of oil paint and her contemporary self-determination.
|photos courtesy of MFA Gallery
Paul Overholsers Hard Times (oil & acrylic).
Geraldine Czajkowski creates a visual poem built of painted, torn paper luminous with metallic dust in the aptly named Robin Nest Clockworks. Across the way, Nora Carrols fine, small figure drawing provides a moment of quiet lyricism with exquisite contour lines outlining female nudes with white and blue on black paper.
MFA, inaugurated in 1963 with 40-some members, has been invigorating artists and viewers in its State Circle gallery since 1968.
I was studying with Margaret Farmer, one of the founding members, and she encouraged me to become a member. Soon I was recording secretary and I just stayed on, says 38-year member Vivian Chojnowski. I didnt make art my life, but I still paint in acrylic and watercolor.
Adds Josephine Thoms, another long-time member and past-president: In my day, the biggest boon to the gallery was when we got MasterCard. Once we had that, people could buy the art they wanted and we could get paid.
Circle Gallery manager Joel Persels can think of no landmark to match the coming of credit cards. But he finds great strength in the Federations ability to support both emerging and mature artists. MFA creates a great platform for emerging artists, he says.
Prospective members dont need to show a portfolio, but membership is no guarantee of getting work into MFA Gallery shows. Solo and small-group shows proposed by members must pass a review committee of fellow MFA members. National shows, juried by one or more independent artists or curators, can attract as many as 1,200 submissions for as few as 20 slots.
Even this anniversary show required submission of up to three works. The selection committee chose no more than one per artist. The effect is like visiting a large family on Christmas day. There are gifts everywhere with the eye drawn to one and then another.
Anne Bradshaws Mt. Vernon Square lights up a corner. Nearby Celia Pearsons Ilfochrome print Shell Collection II enchants with its tight, close look at texture and subtle color.
Gary, a narrow pastel nude by Gail Higginbotham, is an illusion of solidity made of small precise marks, while Ritze Millers oil sketch Jenny brings the sitter to life with the casual, sure brush strokes of an artist with years of practice. In contrast, a sense of isolation is created by the singular placement of figures in Paul Overholsers Hard Times, where subjects sit unbowed in brown-gray poverty.
These artists are among MFAs current roster of 400. The Federation tends to lose and gain 50 to 70 members each year, according to Persels, himself an artist-member.
Unique among Annapolis galleries, MFA is entirely member-driven. Our organization depends on member volunteers to keep us running, says Persels. We ask members to contribute three hours of their time during the course of a year. Volunteers working behind the scenes are really the backbone of the MFA.
MFA relies not only on gallery sales but also on small state and county grants, membership fees and entrance fees from artists across the country who pay to have their work considered for shows and donations. There are also two well-attended annual fundraisers. For Arts Sake combines live and silent auctions of members donated works. Collectors Choice buys ticket holders a chance to win an art work of their choice, again from donated work of members.
Get a taste for the possibilities. Take out your charge card and take a short walk up the wooden ramp off State Circle that leads to MFAs Circle Gallery. Prices in the 40th anniversary show range from $150 to $3500.
Showing thru July 27 from 11am-5pm Tu-Su @ Maryland Federation of Art, 18 State Circle, Annapolis: 410/268-4566 www.mdfedart.org.