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Global perspective

October 24, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Hilmar Gottesthal's complex artwork evokes a life filled with spiritual awakenings, fruitful acquaintances and rich cultural and natural experiences in his native Europe, Greece, Turkey and the United States.

"A lot of his work feels like it has energy starting in the center and exploding outward," said Eli Pollard, curatorial director at the Washington County Arts Council Gallery in downtown Hagerstown. "I think his work is very spiritual. It just exudes life. That's what drew me to it."

Twenty-five of Gottesthal's creations - including sculptures in wood, sandstone, marble and stained glass, oil paintings, watercolors and pen and ink drawings - are now on display at the arts council gallery. Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant owner Charles Sekula is sponsoring the "From Europe to America" exhibit, which runs through Saturday, Nov. 6.

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"I am drawn by nature. I think everything in my work relates to nature. I also do a lot of spiritual work," said Gottesthal, 61, an Austrian-born artist and sculptor who now lives and works in Flintstone, Md. "My paintings are full of details and very compact. I try to express my thoughts in my paintings."

Raised Protestant, Gottesthal said a move to Turkey in 1967 opened his eyes to other religious beliefs and to the long-uninterrupted tradition of Byzantine-style art - a tradition that the artist embraced. He adopted vibrant tones and a mosaic-like style for some of his paintings, which also demonstrate pointillist, cubist and surreal elements.

"I was overwhelmed by the Byzantine world, and also the Muslim world impressed me a great deal for the sincerity," said Gottesthal, who recorded ancient ruins, myths and icons during his tenure in Turkey and later in Greece. "I was fascinated by the Byzantine world, the techniques and the colors. It's just a fabulous world."

Gottesthal's admiration for the Greek Orthodox Church grew during his decades of residence in Greece, where he painted icons and restored churches. He traveled in the steps of St. Peter, Paul and John along the coast of Turkey to Ephesus and other sites touched by the saints' early missions, he said. During this time, Gottesthal also began making his own ink from squid for his renowned pen and ink drawings.

Gottesthal moved to the United States in 1993, settling along the banks of the Potomac River in West Virginia. After the death of his first wife and subsequent marriage to photographer Penny Knobel-Besa - whom he said "paints with a camera" - he moved to Flintstone, Md.

His work has drawn worldwide acclaim, including a Greek National Television documentary about his life in Karista near Mount Olympus and an invitation to a 2002 White House artists' reception to honor the stained glass ornament he created for the national Christmas tree.




If you go ...

"From Europe to America," works by Hilmar Gottesthal

Washington County Arts Council Gallery
41 S. Potomac St.
Hagerstown
Free

Gottesthal also welcomes visitors to Sanctuary Studios - a work space he shares with his wife, photographer Penny Knobel-Besa - at 13910 Scofield Road in Flintstone, Md. Take Interstate 70 west to Interstate 68 west. Follow I-68 over Sideling Hill to Exit 68, U.S. 40 west. Turn right on Green Ridge. Go two miles to church on left, then turn right on Scofield Road. Call 1-301-478-2735.

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