Group exhibits tend to feature an assortment of subjects treated in several different mediums. The "All Member Holiday Show" at the Artists' Gallery in downtown Columbia showcases local artists who instinctively seem to favor the mediums best-suited for their individual messages.
Bonita Glaser's watercolor "Deep Into Winter," for instance, is a landscape that is compositionally anchored by a barn. What really makes this watercolor hold your attention, though, are the blue shadows cast against a snowy field. The watercolor medium lends itself to the gently impressionistic, blue-tinged effects achieved here.
Another medium with softening tendencies is pastel, which Barbara Steinacker deploys in "Nantucket Surf." This atmospheric picture has a yellow sky atop pink-hued waves and shoreline. There is even more pronounced melting in Deborah Maklowski's pastel "Aquifer," in which the landscape amounts to the melding together of various colors.
Just as Maklowski flirts with abstraction, another artist in the show nearly leaves realism behind. Kathleen Schuman's oil and gesso "Ancient Forest" is a densely worked painting whose various shades of brown make it resemble a forest floor whose leaves turned to compost a long time ago.
The artists here who are working in oil generally make paintings that take advantage of the representational clarity that can be achieved with this medium. Even when they deliberately blur portions of the picture for strategic effect, there is a straightforward presentation of the subject matter.
Nancy Lee Davis has a selection of oil paintings whose small size encourages you to pull up close to see subjects including a child in a "Yellow Dress." The title is significant in terms of this artist's intentions, because that dress is much more assertively defined than the indistinctly rendered child wearing it.
Davis works within the venerable still-life tradition in paintings including "Two Cherries" and "Orange," which both seem good enough to eat. She also proves that a painter can make a portrait out of just about anything in "Lurking Cow."
Painted portraits have a way of making you feel as if you are meeting somebody eye to eye — and we're not just talking cows here. One of the best examples in the exhibit is Pat Roberie's oil painting "The Jazz Man," whose gray-haired subject has done some serious living.
By way of contrast to such direct figuration, Myung Kim's ink on rice paper "Floating People" only alludes to the human presence via the scribbled, thin black lines that schematically represent tiny people. The abstracted humans float against a pale green and blue background.
Among photographers in the exhibit, some of the best work comes from those who take full advantage of that medium's crisp and colorful attributes.
John Stier's "Yellowstone in Winter" calls your attention to the craggy details of a snowcapped peak. Ann Eid's "Evening" invites you to peer through a window at a house's lamp-illuminated interior. And Jerry Weinstein's "Rust" presents an old car whose metal body is so completely rusted out that it seems like a 20th-century fossil nestled within a weed-filled yard.
The "All Member Holiday Show" remains through Jan. 27 at the Artists' Gallery, in the American City Building, 10227 Wincopin Circle, in Columbia. Call 410-740-8249 or go to http://www.artistsgallerycolumbia.com.