'Two Views' displays brush, blowtorch work

March 20, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Mutual admiration led a pair of artists to mix their media in the Washington County Arts Council Gallery's latest exhibit, "Two Studios - Two Views."

Jeffrey Smith, of Boonsboro, is a sculptor. Ed Ramsburg, of Frederick, is a painter. The two met at Frederick Community College, where they had their first show together a decade ago, according to Ramsburg.

One wields a brush and the other welds, but they have a lot in common, including abstract inclinations. Both admire modernists such as Paul Klee and David Smith. While they work, each listens to music and gathers inspiration from it.

Ramsburg enjoys jazz, especially Miles Davis. A free form seems reflected in the vivid splotches of color dominating his 14 works in the show. "It's like a jam session," said the 32-year-old painter.


The first six contain primitive geometrical figures with a gradually more complicated application of acrylics, he said. The following series of eight works represents a return to form.

In each piece, numerically titled with "Port of Entry," bright squares and dots border his paintings, fill them like confetti and obscure each other. Representational shapes such as a circus tent are easily recognizable along with many other scratched and subtle lines.

In his artist's statement, Ramsburg writes of trying to marry draftsmanship with color. "Perhaps you will feel what is for me a celebration of the stories and images the lines may suggest and reveal dancing in and about the colors," he wrote.

Smith enjoys classical baroque music, though his works of wood and steel are not overly ornate as that style. "It's really important to me," he said. "It allows me to open up."

The 41-year-old adjunct FCC professor assembles objects he finds, such as pieces of wire or screen. He gathers wood and metal and starts each work with a pile, assembling objects without a predetermined idea of how they should fit together.

"It's an intuitive thing that I can't explain," he said. "My approach to art is to become a child again. The adult comes out when it's finished."

Smith draws on early childhood memories and European fairy tales. Several of his 10 pieces in the exhibit have an architectural quality. "Bullet's Through the Church" and "Weismuller Pointing to God" resemble buildings with spires.

Smith was a welder for 12 years, a trade that he used to put himself through the Maryland Institute Center for the Arts. Before entering art school, he was inspired by a Washington gallery's exhibit of works by David Smith.

Both Smiths were trained as blacksmiths, and the Boonsboro resident sometimes uses his forge to burn or blacken his work. In art school, he found it a challenge to combine industrial skill with fine art sensibility.

Titles are very important to him. In works such as "The Shoemaker's Suicide," they frame a kind of gothic parable. But Smith wants people to make their own interpretations of his work.

"Hopefully the viewer comes up with a story. He has to figure it out. It's not a puzzle, and sometimes it's fascinating when what I didn't have in mind comes through," he said.

"Two Views" contains complements and contradictions between the two artist's work, but both have a music of their own. The exhibit is open through April 8. Call 301-791-3132 for more information.

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