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Appreciating art in its own context

Four artists exhibit in Frederick, Md., art co-op gallery

Four artists exhibit in Frederick, Md., art co-op gallery

August 15, 2002|by KEVIN CLAPP

kevinc@herald-mail.com

As a student at Shepherd College more than a decade ago, Don Ramirez was steeped in the work of the school's professors, including Rhonda J. Smith and Sonya Evanisko.

With gallery space at his fingertips, Ramirez decided now was a good time to say thanks for their influence by shining a light on their art.

Shepherd professors Smith, Evanisko and Barbara Chapman have work on display at The Blue Elephant Art Center through August 25. Shepherd graduate Kristy Cherry collaborated with Evanisko on some of the 40-odd pieces at the Frederick, Md., gallery.

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A photographer, Ramirez says he has always gravitated to work in other media, and has admired the art of Evanisko and Smith since his introduction to them.

"I think that their work is in the universal language of art," Ramirez says. "I think there is something all these artists are doing that speaks to everyone."

The four artists' work, Evanisko says, is similar, though each deals with different situations.

Smith has called the process of creating art a kind of therapy. Chapman's pieces tend to deal with family issues, while Evanisko and Cherry worked to cast various images in a different light.

"It takes items out of their original context and puts it in a new context," Evanisko says.

So one image juxtaposes large dandelions against a background of clouds with moths and an airplane also in the picture. Hopefully, the varied imagery, developed during two week-long creative sprints, will feed viewers' imaginations.

"We let the viewer bring their own association to the work, and based on their own experience in their life determine what they see," Evanisko says. "It's interesting how they bring new things to the work. ... Sometimes, people bring something to the work you never think of."

Entering its fifth year, Blue Elephant is an artists' cooperative that rents studio space to a dozen artists and has a gallery space.

Each month, another artist in the collective is granted access to the gallery to do with as they please. For Ramirez' second exhibition, he felt it only appropriate to offer the space to some of the Shepherd professors who have impressed and inspired him.

"What I always look for are artists whose artistic voices are (not only) different from mine but whose artistic devices I can respect," he says. "The work transcends the every day. It's not a common representational painting."

Instead, the artists in this exhibit use multiple media to present meditations on life and its many layers.

Though Blue Elephant is often described as an alternative art space, Ramirez says he and others at the gallery resist the label; in their view they are within the mainstream of the art world.

And since they receive no financial support from local, state or federal arts organizations, he says the collective is free to pursue art that is likely to veer in any direction, make any statement.

"It frees us to pursue art as we deem fit," Ramirez says. "It is definitely an art space created by artists for artists that is artist run, artist managed and completely artist controlled."




If you go . . .



An exhibition of works by Rhonda J. Smith, Barbara Chapman, Sonya Evanisko and Kristy Cherry

Through Sunday, Aug. 25

The Blue Elephant Art Center

4A W. 5th St.

Frederick, Md.

Gallery is shown by appointment only. To schedule a viewing, call Don Ramirez, 1-304-724-6566, or Skye or Allison Valois, 1-301-694-3657.

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