Miracles on display at Gaithersburg Arts Barn and Mansion

Kentlands PhotoNatalya B. Parris in front of her painting ‘Passages of their Lives.’ PHOTO BY MATT HOOKE  GAITHERSBURG — A forgotten black-and-white photo intended for the landfill was transformed into a timeless work of beauty at Thursday’s reception for “Natural Wonders” and “17 Summers” at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn and the Kentlands Mansion.

The two exhibits featured 120 different pieces by 31 artists. “Natural Wonders” showcased the work of the fall 2018 Arts Barn teaching faculty while “17 Summers” brought in artists from Gallery 322 in Frederick.

Michael Douglass Jones from Gallery 322 takes forgotten scraps and makes them shine. His 3D works resemble letters and postage that make them look like an old family heirloom or a part of an old collection, with a timeless vintage quality. Jones began as a painter but developed his unique style due to the storytelling elements of the medium. His art resembles everyday objects used by real people; they become more relatable to the viewer, and the viewer creates a backstory behind them.

“I rely on the viewer to do a lot of the work for me,” said Jones.” I can make all the art that I want, but if no one completes the story, there’s no point.”

“First Pages,” one of Jones’s works, had at its centerpiece an old black-and-white photograph of a girl that Jones received from a friend who planned to throw it away. He used the photo for an alphabet and numbers workbook, complete with brown rust fitting to the aged print.

“Even a little thing of rusted metal, if you look at it, can be as beautiful as a flower. I can’t go outside my door in the morning without seeing a miracle,” said Jones. “Most people have blinders on and don’t see anything ‘cause they’re in a hurry. It takes me a long time get anywhere because I’ll see a warped card on the ground and I’ll have to pick it up and look at it. There are miracles everywhere.”

His other pieces resembled postcards with a bright, vibrant quality, in comparison to the weathered rundown look of a children’s book. The postage displayed vibrantly-colored birds, like a naturalist’s workbook sketches.

Gallery 322 is an artist-owned co-op in downtown Frederick. The nine artists from the gallery focused in their exhibits on scenes from nature, and the summers that people experience in their youth. Artists ranged from sculptor Homer Yost, who exhibited playful brass reliefs of dogs, to painter Roberta Staat, whose “Three Graces” poked fun at the original concept, of three beautiful Greek gods, by displaying three cows grazing on grass in all their splendor.

“For my master’s, I worked on a farm for three years, painting and drawing; when I got out of grad school I painted this,” said Staat. “My grandfather had a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and I spent a lot of time at the farm on holidays. The whole three years I worked on that farm was a very personal interaction with the subject matter. I would be painting what I saw, in the barn or [on] the field. It conjured up memories.”

Natalya B. Parris, an artist teaching classes at the Barn, featured her unique “Emotional Counterpoint” style. Her technique is based on creating works out of layers of round dots. Her paintings make heavy use of vibrant bright colors, layered on top of each other to create images and designs. “Dayglow Flower” and “Passages of their Lives” show two different ways to use the technique. The first painting is of a flower, where the dots make the flower appear three-dimensional, while the latter picture is more abstract, with the dots functioning as symbols for human lives.

“This is the story of how people on the roads of their lives cross and then go in a different direction. We are all traveling with our own missions, and, at some stations, we can meet, we can create,” said Parris. “We make a circle of friends and live, spread us all around like my dots. They are very colorful and unique cause people are very interesting and different. Life is not just one color.”

Jaree Donelly, the arts education coordinator at the Arts Barn, showcased her own work. Donelly proved herself to be a “triple threat,” with watercolor miniatures of everyday objects, painted under a magnifying glass, framed next to her metal works and massive 48x60 paintings.

“I think as an artist you go through phases. I’m not going to say every artist does, but an awful lot of us do. We go through periods where we want to explore something. Something new, something different,” said Donelly, explaining why she began painting miniatures.

“Natural Wonders” and “17 Summers” continue until September 10 and 14, respectively. Both are open to the public, but the latter exhibit requires an appointment with the mansion, due to frequent rentals of the space for private events. For more information, visit



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