Popping outside the box

June 16, 2002|by KEVIN CLAPP

Lois Shale needs time to embrace the artistic process, and lately her time has been fleeting.

Too much work to be done to pay the bills. So, she works at an architectural firm, drafting images by hand.

At night, when not unwinding, her basement workshop has kept her busier still framing images for friends and family.

Occasionally lost in the shuffle is the easel in another corner of Shale's Boonsboro basement, which explains her modest output.

An artist since childhood, she'll average a piece per month if she's lucky.

Which is too bad, because when the mood strikes and hours are plentiful she will craft dynamic images that quite literally leap (Pop!) toward the viewer.

Encouraged to try something new when her Pollack-inspired drip paintings failed to catch on locally, Shale turned to collages, slightly three dimensional paintings where flowers - she loves painting flowers - are mounted off the canvas.


"I knew how to build up surfaces in framing, so it was a pretty easy transfer to take my art," says the 55-year-old, a Cincinnati transplant. "The framing and the art almost become one. You can keep playing with it, you're not stuck. You can keep moving it around until you get what you like."

Shale's "Sunflowers at St. Eugene," an acrylic-pencil-collage composition, impressed judges enough to warrant inclusion in the Cumberland Valley Artists Exhibition, continuing through July 28 in the Groh Gallery of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

The piece also won the Museum Cash Award for Outstanding Graphics Entry.

"I think people are drawn in by that, by the dimension," says museum Associate Curator Amy Metzger. "And that there is actually a background and a foreground and a middle ground. There's a tangible space to the painting."

The work's presentation serves to engage the viewer. The same can be said for Shale, an avid gardener whose favorite subjects include the flora in her yard. A hands-on approach extends into her professional life, where technology may make life more efficient but is too sterile for her taste.

"I have to have a pen, a pencil, a knife. I need to have a piece of equipment in my hand and I don't mean a mouse," she says. "When I'm doing it on a computer, it doesn't feel like I'm doing it. But when you're sitting down in front of a blank board, you have to fill it and that feels good."

The same satisfaction applies to the recognition of Shale's Cumberland Valley piece, inspired by photos of sunflowers taken at the home of friends in St. Eugene, Ontario.

Just so long as she isn't rushed into working.

"It's not that you don't have the time but I need blocks of time where I feel relaxed enough to get into the creative process," she says. "If you've got the stress of your job - 'Oh, I have to do this' - you're not going to be able to create. At least I can't."

If you go . . .

70th annual Cumberland Valley Artists Exhibition

Through Sunday, July 28

Groh Gallery

Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

City Park


Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.

For information, call 301-739-5727 or go to on the Web.

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