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Drawing on perfection

June 20, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Two hundred six slides were submitted for first-round consideration by a panel of jurors for the 71st annual Cumberland Valley Artists Exhibition at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. The artists - professional and amateur - all are from Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Jurors Sam Noto, Joe Kabriel, full-time members of the faculty at Maryland College of Art and Design, and John Winslow, emeritus professor of art at The Catholic University of America, narrowed the field to the wide variety of 73 paintings and 15 sculptures that will be on display through July 20.

There are watercolors, paintings done in acrylics and oils. There are bronze, wood, stone, steel and copper, and lucite and bronze sculptures. There's a pen-and-ink piece, there are pastels and works in colored pencil. "Preemptive War #1" is a collage of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of pieces of images cut from the pages of National Geographic magazines, says Amy Metzger, curator at the museum.

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The exhibit's Best of Show was awarded to "Cemetery & Cornfields, IV," an oil painting on canvas by Ski Holm of Chambersburg, Pa.

All works were scored by each of the jurors, but another round of judging determined the Best of Show, Metzger says. There's discussion to decide which work best represents the exhibition, she adds.

"It was a tussle," Noto says, adding that he and his juror colleagues tended to gravitate to the works with higher scores. But additional factors - best quality, best idea, innovation - also were considered. The decision had to be unanimous, he adds. Noto says he wants a work to surprise him in some way.

He liked Holm's painting because of its selection of elements that are unusual in a landscape, its colors, its originality.

Holm says he's known as a landscape artist, but his painting doesn't fall into any one genre. "I suppose it would be realism." But he quickly qualifies - not photorealism, or super- or hyper-realism.

Holm's colors are bright, clean and clear. "I try to keep things very simple," he says. Holm uses only seven colors in his palette, choosing the brightest he can find. Mixing paints to get the hues he wants forces him to make a choice for every stroke of the brush. He says he's not tempted to use a close-enough color out of a tube.

The cemetery and cornfields of his painting are real, not far from his home. He took a group of students to the site because he likes it, and, he laughs, "there was great parking."

Holm, 45, also has been a private art instructor since 1992.

His best-of-show painting is one of a series of corn paintings. In 1997, he painted "Corn Stalks," a small landscape that became a study for the larger - 6 by 7 feet - works that "had to be done."

Holm says he noticed corn's perfect design while watering his own garden. No matter where on the 6-foot cornstalks he sprayed the water, it would always end up at the roots.

"It's so miraculous," he says.

Among Holm's corn paintings are a package of three shucked ears wrapped for market, a bowl of creamed corn, a bowl of "Those Corn Holder Things."

"I don't think I'll ever be done with corn," he says.

Another Holm painting made the Cumberland Valley Artists final cut. "Third Floor," a view of the top of a Waynesboro, Pa., street scene, is part of a series Holm calls "Up." It began as an exercise in perspective. Taking the horizon out of the picture can remove the viewer's comfort and steadiness, Holm says.

His paintings and the 86 other pieces of work will be on display through July 20.

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