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Strong technical composition, personal stories portrayed

Patuxent Art League Juried Exhibit features variety of works by local artists

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Photo by Wanda Jackson. Mary Jo Messenger’s oil painting “Lucy’s Hydrangea” received the PAL (Patuxent Art League) Award in the exhibition at Montpelier Arts Center.

Photo by Wanda Jackson. Mary Jo Messenger’s oil painting “Lucy’s Hydrangea” received the PAL (Patuxent Art League) Award in the exhibition at Montpelier Arts Center.

Published on: Wednesday, January 02, 2013

By Wanda Jackson

In the midst of daily negative news, College Park-based artist Kristrinah Ayala’s watercolor portraits broadcast volumes about “man’s humanity and the resilience of the human spirit.”

The 21st Annual Patuxent Art League’s Open Juried Exhibition at the Montpelier Arts Center in Laurel featured one of Ayala’s portraits, “Dr. Shanmugam.”

The exhibition showcased 52 works by artists 18 years and older, living in Maryland, Virginia or the District of Columbia, and included painting, drawing, photography, sculpture and collage. The exhibition was displayed through Sunday in the center’s Main Gallery.

Ayala’s portraits begin with a photograph, which she “systematically separates and distills into smaller patterns, shapes, parts and colors in order to grasp the person’s essence.”

Ayala said that she wants viewers to see more than just a visual appearance. She wants viewers to catch a glimpse of each person’s unique spirit.

“‘Dr. Shanmugam’ portrays the doctor who saved my life,” Ayala said. “I wanted to capture Dr. Shanmugam’s magical healing powers.”

In 2009, Ayala endured more than 10 failed surgeries by doctors unable to diagnose and successfully treat a debilitating mystery illness.

In 2011, a doctor who Ayala describes as having a “great bedside manner” cracked the case. That doctor was Dr. Shanmugam, who was the principal investigator for a federally funded research study called WE-HEAL, which involves patients with autoimmune disorders — Ayala has Lupus — and chronic wounds that won’t heal.

Dr. Shanmugam’s correct diagnosis and treatment set Ayala back on a path toward health.

As for the doctor’s portrait in the Patuxent Art League Juried Exhibition, Ayala said, “I really value the chance to share a part of me with fellow artists and the public.”

The exhibition was juried by two regional professionals Patrick Craig and Emily Conover, art professors at the University of Maryland and artists in their own rights.

“As jurors,” said Craig, “we were looking for unique visual statements, innovative approaches, mastery of technique and expressive quality.”

“We found a broad variety of both media and stylistic approaches, with a majority of works falling into the illustrative/realist category,” said Craig. “A minority of artworks fell into the abstract and expressive categories.”

The works that Craig and Conover selected for the exhibition are diverse and reflected in the award winning pieces.

First Place was awarded to Joan Tarbell Plato for “Shelter From the Storm,” an ink and acrylic work. This work “combined innovative use of aqueous media on a relatively new type of synthetic paper (Yupo),” according to the jurors.

It is “sophisticated, layered and multi-referential” said Craig and “spoke to a broad range of poetic interpretation.”

Second Place was awarded to Harvey A. Duze for “C&O Canal Railroad Bridge-Williamsport Maryland,” a photograph. Third Place was awarded to Karen Norman for “Another Dimension,” a watercolor.

The PAL (Patuxent Art League) Award was given to Mary Jo Messenger for her oil painting, “Lucy’s Hydrangea.” Perfect light and artistic details in this floral still-life communicate the intrinsic energy and feeling of a peaceful place.

Honorable Mentions were given to Michael Spears for “Prologue To Rhythm,” a mixed media work; Thien-Kim Pham for “Long Night at the Soup Kitchen,” a charcoal work; and, Bruce Blum for “Three Houses,” a photograph.

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