We Are MAAG! A Celebration of Mt. Airy Art Garage Members

Many artists, with a focus on photography

We Are MAAG! A Celebration of MAAG Member Artists, the last exhibition of Mt. Airy Art Garage (MAAG) in its current location, reflects the artistic and cultural diversity of the community in which the art center is located. The works of over 40 artists include jewelry, textiles, wearable art, photography, ceramics, collage, painting, and mixed media.

Artist Kathy Robinson (on right) discusses her work with Ruth Joray. Both live in Mt. Airy. (Photo by Mary Ann Domanska)

Because this is not a juried show and MAAG is a community art center, the scope of the work ranges from award-winning professionals to “Sunday artists,” with plenty of room in between.

Through the lens

The strength of the show is its photography, which displays not only mastery of the medium, but also divergent points of view. Frank Burd’s small photo “In the Window” presents the haunting image of a female nude, her back to the viewer, face hidden, framed by a rough-hewn open window in what seems to be an abandoned structure. It begs the questions, “Who is she? Why is she there?”

In the hands of a less talented photographer, this would be no more than voyeurism. But Burd has skillfully adjusted the lighting to give the woman’s flesh a sculptural quality, reducing the color palette to subtle tones, as if the photo were hand-tinted. The effect is captivating and timeless.

Ellie Seif’s photos demonstrate an unusually wide range, from “Down The Parkway,” a black-and-white archival print of traffic swirling around Eakins Oval, to “Fall Reflection,” a color print of a pond in which the image takes on the impressionistic quality of a Monet painting. Phoebe Murer’s photo, “The Watery Depth of the Icelandic Geyser,” presents an underwater world that resembles a geographic map. Large black-and-white prints by Lisa Haun, “Seahorse” and “Goldfish,” capture extreme closeups of aquatic life, resulting in surreal, dreamlike images. Patricia Smith’s stunning “Antelope Canyon” transforms the deep crevices of Arizona's Navaho land into color-saturated abstract forms that call to mind the imagery of Georgia O’Keefe.

I had to look twice at Michael Zalkowski’s “Silk Meadow” print on watercolor paper to assure myself it was a photo and not a meticulous rendering of a Chester County barn in the hyperrealist style of Andrew Wyeth. Its resemblance to Wyeth’s “Christina’s World,” without the female figure, is remarkable.

Carlos A. Gil’s “Reflejos” takes digital manipulation to the next level by turning a photograph of a simple fern into an ecstatic display of color and light. Similarly, Kenneth Crineldi uses plant life to create optical illusions by reducing a tree to a shadow on a brick wall in “Tree Shadow.” In "Lines of Force," he takes an extreme closeup of a single leaf and turns its fine veins into what appears to be the trunk of a tree.

Speaking of digital manipulation, I applaud Andrew Walker’s photo “Valley Green Drawing” for doing what its title implies, turning a view of Wissahickon Creek into what seems to be a drawing or painting, flush with the kind of color intensity I haven’t seen since the hallucinogenic 1960s.

Toward the back of the gallery is a postcard-sized color photo whose image belies its small size. Entitled “Springfield, Illinois,” this seemingly innocuous photo by Nathalie Borozny shows turbulent storm clouds headed toward the State Capitol, conveying not just bad weather but a premonition of political disaster. (How timely is that?)

Other works

While photography dominates, there are other standouts in the exhibition. “Lady in the Park,” a figurative oil painting by Robert Finch, offers a view of a woman in a mysterious garden in which objects seem to float (think Rousseau meets Matisse). Although the figure is clothed, it exudes eroticism and sensuality.

Kathy Robinson’s “Going to the Flower Show,” a watercolor batik on rice paper mounted on canvas, portrays a colorful gathering of three female figures attired in colorful African garb.

Collages mounted on wood by Frank Sargent combine photos, newspaper clippings and Scrabble tiles to tell tongue-in-cheek stories. In “Martha’s Trip to Moscow,” Joseph Stalin sits in close proximity to a cartoon character. (Just think what Sargent could do with today’s front-page news.)

There’s no shortage of tied-dyed silk scarves, crocheted garments and jewelry if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m not. But I plan to return before the show closes on August 21st for another look at the excellent photography.

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