A big-time show in Hagerstown

March 24, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

Ann Elise Sauer's patience has paid off - and not just for her.

When Sauer first saw Jean K. Gill's watercolor "Palm Sun Day" in an Alexandria, Va., art gallery, the painting "stuck" with her for a week until she went back and bought it, only to find out she wouldn't be able to take it home until the end of the show in four weeks.

Sauer, of Virginia's Mount Vernon area, had the painting of the sun casting shadows on coconuts for about five weeks when Gill called, asking if she could enter the painting in the prestigious exhibition from American Watercolor Society. If the painting was selected and chosen for the traveling show, Sauer would have to part with it for more than a year.

Maybe it was worth it.

Since the painting was chosen, winning the Mario Cooper and Dale Meyers Medal, it has gone on the tour where it appears in the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts with 39 other selections through Sunday, May 8.


The museum in City Park is the last stop on the traveling tour for the 2004 American Watercolor Society's international exhibition so Sauer could have it hung over the fireplace in her piano room by the end of May.

"I'm just impressed. It is the highlight of that room. I will explain to everyone that it's famous," said Sauer, who works in government relations for Lockheed Martin Corp.

Gill said being in the show is the highlight of her art career.

Society members chose 108 paintings for a New York exhibit from 1,577 submissions entered by members, associate members or nonmembers, said Herb Morris, director of operations for the American Watercolor Society. From those, 40 pieces were selected for the traveling show.

A small group of selected signature members of the society first narrowed the entries by voting with raised hands, Morris said. They were not permitted to speak to one another until the second round of consideration, when they argued which paintings should make the show.

The museum shows the society's traveling exhibit about once every five years, said Christine Shives, an administrative assistant at the museum. The museum is the only East Coast stop on the traveling tour.

"It's just a great variety of styles and techniques, a lot of the loose type of painting and some tight, meaning soft edges and hard edges. (They) have realism, abstract. It just kind of covers the whole spectrum of what watercolor can do," said Bob Wantz, a local watercolor artist who teaches watercolor painting at the art museum.

"It's a big-time show and I think Hagerstown is very lucky to get it," Wantz said.

Gill, of Oak Hill, Va., used golds, magentas and violet in "Palm Sun Day" instead of the mostly greens and browns in the true scene she saw while in Acapulco, Mexico.

She described her technique as unusual. Rather than lay the paper flat on a table, she keeps it vertical so the paint can run down the surface. This allows the painting to "evolve" as she is working, she said.

"I found I enjoy the action of the water and letting that be visible to the viewer in the end," Gill said.

The result is that the left side is very abstract, while the coconuts are more representational, Gill said.

Encino, Calif., artist Ed Weiss used thicker watercolor than most people use, making his "Goose Girl" look like a photograph.

Watercolor is usually an immediate medium, but the thickness of the paint allowed Weiss to take several weeks on his painting of a South American woman carrying, on her head, a basket containing a goose.

Weiss said the painting is a culmination of images from his visits to South America and pictures from travel magazines. He actually did see someone carrying a basket containing a duck or goose, he said.

Scott Zupanc of Baraboo, Wis., created "Tethered" after pulling a photo that had sat in his stack for six years. There was something about the color quality of the photo that led him to keep it, he said.

He combined it with another photo and then the image evolved to where the central lily pad is tethered in a cattail marsh.

For Sonoma, Calif.-painter Dick Cole, timing led to "Cold Empty Bed."

Cole was visiting the family ranchhouse in southeastern Idaho and peered into what was once his wife's grandmother's room. At that moment, when the sun came in and hit the brass bed.

He sketched the image with pencil, then paint before creating the finished painting.

While the painting seems inviting with the open door and evening sunlight coming in, Cole said the summer nights get cold as the sun sets, hence the title.

"It just struck me as that," he said.

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