“The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It” Opens Friday at the Garfield

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The Curate Shakespeare

As You Like It

a comedy by Don Nigro as directed by Earl Lewin

“Being the Record of One Company’s Attempt to Perform the Play by William Shakespeare.”

This sparkling comedy presents the tribulations of an itinerant band of amateur thespians, led by a dotty cleric, in their attempt to present Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Seven actors valiantly create thirty-odd different parts, as they frantically switch roles and costumes. By turns pushed, pulled, exhorted, inspired, and browbeaten by their curate, they often want to quit, endure countless humiliations, and make a near hash of the precious and holy words of the god Shakespeare. But now and then, to their own considerable surprise, they stumble across moments of beauty and integrity. It’s a hilarious send-up of all things theatrical (with jabs at our own 2018 production!) from one of the modern   stage’s funniest playwrights, Don Nigro.

The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It is directed by noted Chestertown playwright and director Earl Lewin.  The cast features company co-founders Avra Sullivan and Chris Rogers, along with members Max Hagan, Kathy Jones, Christine Kinlock, Brian McGunigle, and Troy Strootman.  Original music and choreography are by Greg Minahan, and costumes by Barbi Bedell.  Stage management is provided by John Feldman.

January 11th – 20th, 2019 

Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm.      Sundays at 3:00 pm
The Garfield Center for the Arts       Chestertown, Maryland
General Admission $15

The company is delighted to be partnering with The Garfield Center for the Arts to present The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It.  Be sure to call the box office at 410-810-2060 to make reservations for this delightful spoof of one of Shakespeare’s greatest hits!  Or send an email to boxoffice@garfieldcenter.org.

Get complete info HERE.
The Curate Shakespeare As You Like It is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC

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The Road of Photographer Constance Stuart Larrabee: A Conversation with Author Peter Elliott

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For those who remember Constance Stuart Larrabee, particularly those living on the Mid-Shore, it will always be gratifying to know that at the very end of her life Constance knew there was a high degree of attention paid to her photography.

While the native South African had been living on the Mid-Shore for more than forty years, she was intentionally reserved on talking about her work as a documentary photographer in the years before marrying a former military attache, Colonel Sterling Loop Larrabee, in 1949. If locals knew anything about Larrabee, it was for her reputation as a successful breeder of Norwich Terriers, not as South Africa’s first female World War Two correspondent. She clearly preferred it that way for reasons still not entirely known.

It was only when she was seventy that a close friend, Ed Maxcy, convinced her to share her portfolio of images from her visits to rural South African villages, the war, the streets of Johannesburg and, later, Tangier Island on the Chesapeake Bay. She began working with such distinguished institutions such as the Corcoran Gallery, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, Yale’s Center for British Art, Washington’s National Museum of Women in the Arts, as well as our own Washington College and Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, through much of the eighties and early nineties on several well received exhibitions. All of which gave Larrabee the certain knowledge that her lifetime contribution to photography had been well-noted before she died in 2000.

But for those who have never heard her name, or seen her stunning images, there is good news to be had. Almost twenty years after her passing, fellow South African and author Peter Elliott has just completed a new biography of Larrabee after two years of extensive research.

Elliott, retiring to the South of France after a distinguished career as a London-based corporate attorney, began his new vocation as a writer on history and art, and had stumbled on Larrabee’s war photography while researching South Africa’s role in World War II.

Awed by their composition and warmth, Peter has meticulously tracked down every one of Constance’s documentary projects as well as applied a critical appraisal of her work, including a few myths she created along the way on her technique, in the newly released Constances: One Road to Take: The Life and Photography of Constance Stuart Larrabee published by Cantaloup Press.

Through the wonders of technology, the Spy interviewed Peter via Skype from his home in Languedoc, France to talk about Constance, her photography, and the lasting legacy of her work.

This video is approximately twenty-eight minutes in length. Constance: One Road to Take: The Life and Photography of Constance Stuart Larrabee can be purchased at the Book Plate in Chestertown or on Amazon here.

 

 

Hush Now: A Poem by Stan Salett

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Hush Now

Hush now, listen to the moment,
Hear the silent sounds of memory,
Do not speak, do not think, just listen.

And what may come to you,
After the trumpets and salutes,
After the crowds and hurried movements,
Is the silence.

The moment when past and present
And future are one,
When Aha! has become Ahh.

Swallow deeply, close your eyes,
You are here, you are alive,
You are one.

Stan Salett has been a policy adviser to the Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton administrations and is the author of The Edge of Politics: Stories from the Civil Rights Movement, the War on Poverty, and the Challenges of School Reform. He now lives in Kent County, Maryland. 

Mid-Shore Arts: Composer and Singer Barbara Parker on Being the New Kid on the Block

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It is hard to think of another community where such a shockingly large number of people who live here can name at least five of the most outstanding female vocalists in the area. Remarkably different in their gifts and generous in their support, these professional artists have set a high bar for any newcomer.

That is what visual artist and writer Barbara Parker realized when she decided to take her love of words and combine them with music around 2005. That may seem like a long time ago, but in her Spy chat, she still feels she is still just catching up to these masters who she has admired since arriving in Kent County in 1982.

Collaborating with pianist Joe Holt, another great Kent County master, Barbara has started to perfect her performance style. Using a repertoire of her compositions which were developed with Joe’s arrangements, the twosome has steadily grown a following on the Mid-Shore. Many of whom will no doubt be there when the twosome headline a reception and concert at the Brampton Inn on January 19.

In her Spy interview, she talks about her love of lyrics and music, the awe she has the local talent this small rural community has to offer, and how grateful she has been for their influence and guidance.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Additional video generously provided by Steve Payne.  Tickets and information about the Brampton Inn concert can be found here.

 

Mid-Shore Arts: The Case for Entering Plein Air with Diane DuBois Mullaly

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This is a particularly intense time for painters deciding whether to enter into the Plein Air competition that takes place every year on the Mid-Shore and sponsored by the Avalon Foundation. That’s because they only have a few weeks to decide before registration closes on January 25.

Entering this event is not a decision to be taken lightly. Artists are signing up for a very demanding international competition, which all takes place, rain or shine, in some of the Eastern Shore’s hottest conditions in July. It also requires painters to do their work in only five days with a minimum of two finished pieces to be presented for review.

And yet, artists like the accomplished Diane DuBois Mullaly make the argument that without those unique demands, they would not have produced some of their best work. To decide locations and paint quickly, is all part of the challenge for Diane.

To help those local artists that haven’t made up their mind yet, the Spy sat down with Diane to talk about why she loves Plein Art, the fun of pushing one’s self, and the great joy of socializing and learning from her fellow painters each summer.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. To enter Plein Air Easton – 2019 please go here.

 

 

Art Review: Review: 60th Anniversary Members Show at the Academy Art Museum by Mary McCoy

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There’s a double celebration going on at the Academy Art Museum. Formally marking the culmination of a year-long celebration of this flourishing community museum’s 60th anniversary, its Annual Members’ Exhibition, on view through January 13, is very much a celebration of the vitality of art on the Eastern Shore. With works by 184 artists, an impressive number for our rural area, it’s a lively, colorful show and if the cliché may be excused, has something for everybody.

As might be expected, there are many beautiful Eastern Shore landscapes with shimmering water, quiet marshes and farmlands. Some of these paintings and photographs are realistic, some are more abstract or even cartoonish, but together, they sketch a rich portrait of this region. Towering clouds dwarf a cluster of barns in Gail McConaughy’s lush “Storm Building,” while sunset’s afterglow casts a blush of pink on the calm water around a small boat in Diane DuBois Mullaly’s “By the Light of the Moon.” There are boaters, crabbers, clammers, docks and a lighthouse, as well as herons and ospreys and even a slightly cynical chicken in “Grandma Poses” by Irene Aspell.

Gail McConaughy, “Storm Building,” oil

But in addition to landscapes, there are portraits, ceramics, jewelry, fiber art, sculptures, still lifes, and an impressive array of floral art. Some of the most memorable are Katherine Allen’s elegant fabric collage with its sooty paint stains spritzed with hand-stitching and French knots, Pamela Into’s unusual pair of vases molded from bok choy leaves, and Abby Ober Radford’s understated “Roses, Roses, All the Way” with its luscious brushstrokes just barely fleshing out rose petals and glints of light on a stack of teacups.

Katherine Allen, “My Year of the Dragon,” fiber collage

Several of the works will tease at your thoughts even after you’ve left the exhibit. Matthew Moore’s photographs of three empty pedestals, each surrounded by grass and fallen leaves, is strangely haunting and conjures questions of what memorials they may have held and how they came to be missing. Startlingly alike with their shaggy white hair and irascible expressions, two self-portraits by twin brothers, David and James Plumb, will make you wonder about sibling relationships and the nature of individuality. And while Kevin Garber’s tiny rhinoceros sheathed in colorful postage stamps from around the world seems at first to be a cheery little sculpture, a closer look turns it worrisome. The stamps covering its body depict exotic animals and plants, while those on its pedestal show symbols of the countries that produced them. Given the rhino’s dangerously falling population, poaching and endangered species leap to mind, as do politics and nationalism.

Kevin Garber, “Endangered,” mixed media

To help commemorate its 60th anniversary, the Museum suggested artists might submit works with 60 as their theme, resulting in several depictions of its picturesque exterior (still topped by its 1820 school bell tower), as well as a number of works incorporating the number 60. These include Peter Hanks’s painting of a gigantic crab weighing in at 60 on a scale that spells “Happy Birthday” and Constance Del Nero’s inventive “Population” with its tiny blister packs sculptured into 60 cartoon faces. One particularly satisfying work is Scott Sullivan’s sketchbook containing 60 skillfully drawn charcoal portraits.

Matthew Moore, “Pedestals,” pigment print

This show is itself a portrait of the broad spectrum of artists here on the Eastern Shore. There are many levels of accomplishment included, from more amateur works to pieces by artists such as William Willis, Katherine Allen and David Douglas who have been featured in solo shows at the Museum, as well as Matthew Moore, whose thought-provoking series of photographs, “Post-Socialist Landscapes,” will be exhibited at the Museum in March and April.

The sheer bounty of artworks in this exhibit makes it a spirited celebration of the Museum and its community of artists. Formerly held in the summer months, it makes for great holiday viewing and reinforces the sense that, with its full schedule of exhibits, classes, events, concerts and outreach programs, we are fortunate to have such an active and engaging community museum in our midst.

Mary McCoy is an artist and writer who has the good fortune to live beside an old steamboat wharf on the Chester River. She is a former art critic for the Washington Post and several art publications. She enjoys the kayaking the river and walking her family farm where she collects ideas and materials for the environmental art she creates, often in collaboration with her husband Howard. They have exhibited their work in the U.S., Ireland, Wales and New Zealand.

Boogie Woogie and a Message: Daryl Davis at Sumner Hall

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Daryl Davis

The Sumner Hall concert series, “African American Legacy & Heritage in Jazz, Blues & Gospel,” continues with a performance by pianist Daryl Davis, one of the modern masters of boogie-woogie piano. The concert, “Daryl Davis Offers Boogie Woogie and a Message,” is at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8.

Davis has performed and recorded with a veritable “Who’s Who” of musicians in the blues, rock, and popular fields, including Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and many others. He has been a frequent performer at the Mainstay in Rock Hall, especially at Rock Hall Fallfest. So he was one of the first performers sought by Tom McHugh, who assembled the talent for the Sumner Hall series, which features performers covering historically important styles of blues, gospel and jazz music.

In addition to his musical career, over the years Davis has gained recognition for a project in which he seeks out and enters into dialogue with members of the Ku Klux Klan. The idea came to him in 1983, when a white patron in a bar where he was playing complimented him on his renditions of Jerry Lee Lewis tunes. He told the man, who turned out to be a KKK member, that Lewis’s style was patterned on African-American blues and gospel music, and in the course of the conversation, the man gave him the contact information for several KKK members.

Davis went on to meet a number of Klansmen, including the Grand Dragon of the Maryland Klan, who arrived at the interview with an armed guard. Eventually Davis convinced the man to give up his Klan membership, as a token of which he gave Davis his Klan robes. Over the years, Davis says he has been directly responsible for between 40 and 60 members leaving the Klan, and indirectly responsible for as many as 200.

He told of his experiences in his 1998 book, Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan. Davis has frequently lectured on his experiences with Klan members, and was the subject of a 2016 film on PBS, Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America. Davis has said that his success rests in part on his religious faith and partly on his belief that hatred is the result of ignorance. Getting to know someone well makes it harder to hate them.

As part of the Sumner Hall series, McHugh asked all the performers to answer audience questions about the music or anything else. In Davis’s case, this will undoubtedly include his encounters with the Klan as well as his extensive musical career.

Davis plays at Sumner Hall at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. Some tickets, at $20 each, are still available. To make a reservation, visit the Sumner Hall website (https://aalhconcertseries.eventbrite.com)

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Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol a Holiday Delight at Garfield Center

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The cast of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol at the Garfield Center 2018 – Photo by Peter Heck

The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without Charles Dickens’ tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim – one of the classic Christmas stories. This year, the Garfield Center is offering an adaption of the tale for young audiences, “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol,” and for good measure, the show’s second week coincides with Chestertown’s “Dickens of a Christmas” festival.

The story is set in London in 1834, a decade before the story was first published. Tiny Tim Cratchit, whose father works for the miser Scrooge, is trying to find a way to get his father a day off for Christmas. But Scrooge, who sneers at anything that doesn’t contribute to his bottom line, tells Crachett to be at work at 9 o’clock sharp on Christmas day – there’s money to be made, and that’s an end to it. Desperate, Tim and his young friend Charlotte enlist several street vendors to impersonate ghosts to scare Scrooge into recognizing the spirit of Christmas and giving his employee the holiday off. As the play continues, we watch the plan unfold – and just at the critical moment, a real Christmas miracle takes place.

Jim Landskroener as Scrooge – Photo by Peter Heck

Director Bonnie Hill has brought together a good cross-section of local acting talent, including several younger actors, for this production. Garfield veteran (and board member) Jim Landskroener – last seen as Groucho Marx in “Animal Crackers” – has the prize role of Scrooge, and Dickens would be proud of his portrayal. Whether he is rejecting a request for charitable contributions for the poor — “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” — or cowering before the ghosts called up to reform the miser’s ways, Landskroener is spot-on. 

Tiny Tim and Charlotte devise a plan to make Scrooge give Bob Cratchit a day off for Christmas – Photo by Peter Heck

John Crook plays Tiny Tim, who also acts as the narrator of the play, while Raven Miller takes the role of Charlotte, Tim’s young friend. They are on-stage pretty much the entire time, and they make the most of their stage time, whether they’re in the middle of the action or hiding just outside Scrooge’s view while their plans are going forward. They also serve as intermediaries for younger audience members, giving them an understandable hook to involve them in the main action of converting Scrooge from a holiday-hating miser to a participant in the spirit of the season. Both do excellent jobs.

The three vendors are played by Jane Jewell, David Ryan and Bryan Zajchowski – each of whom takes on several additional roles within the play. Jewell, whose last local appearance was in the role of Aunt Rhoda in Earl Lewin’s “Hitched,” is cast as a puppet vendor, the Ghost of Christmas Past and Tiny Tim’s mother, Mrs. Cratchit. Ryan is a pie-seller, Scrooge’s old employer Fezziwig, and the ghosts of Marley and Christmas Present. And Zajchowski plays a bookseller, Mrs. Fezziwig, andTiny Tim’s father, Bob Cratchit. All handle the multiple roles well, and their costume changes are done smoothly enough that the play doesn’t slow down. Zajchowski is especially funny when he portrays the cheerful Mrs. Fezziwig with a high, squeaky voice and dancing in a red evening dress. Good jobs by three versatile character actors.

Robbie Spray does a good job in several minor roles, including Scrooge’s nephew Fred, a gravedigger, and Mr. Stevens, a gentleman who solicits Scrooge for a charitable donation. He also ghosts the voice of Christmas Future, played onstage by a life-sized flying puppet manipulated by Steve Atkinson.  Atkinson also has multiple responsibilities as stage manager and playing a small role as Mr. Hollyfoot, a gentleman who collaborates with Mr. Stevens in collecting for charity and is appalled by Scrooge’s callousness and complete lack of Christmas spirit or any sympathy for the poor and underprivileged.

The three street vendors: David Ryan as the pie-seller, Bryan Zajchowski as the book-seller, and Jane Jewell as the puppet-seller – Photo by Peter Heck

Alden Swanson plays a young girl and a Christmas turkey.   Caleb Ford takes the part of the young boy who tells Scrooge it’s Christmas morning and runs to get and deliver the turkey.  Swanson and Ford join Kathy Jones, Cornelia Fallon, and Michelle Genovese as Christmas carolers, assisted by the rest of the cast at several points. The songs are traditional Christmas favorites of the era including “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “The Holly and the Ivy” – it’s nice to hear something besides today’s commercial seasonal fare. Julie Lawrence is musical director.

The costumes are period-appropriate and very eye-catching as well. Kudos to costume chair Juanita Wieczorek and her crew Connie Fallon, Tina Johnson, and Jen Emley. Several of the costumes, including the four gentlemen’s frock coats and most of the carolers’ outfits, were hand-made for this production by Connie Fallon and other costume committee members.  They will also be used in the Dickens Weekend activities. The set gives the feeling of the era while being flexible enough to allow reasonably quick scene changes. Earl Lewin designed and Beverly Smith painted the sets.  Jennifer Kafka Smith made the wonderful Victorian-period puppets.

Scrooge, played by Jim Landskroener, is awakened by the Ghost of Christmas Present (David Ryan) – Photo by Peter Heck

The play as a whole takes just under an hour, so it’s unlikely to strain the patience of young theater-goers, who are pretty much the natural audience for this adaptation of Dickens’ tale. And while this version of Dickens’ novella has been adapted and streamlined for younger viewers, there’s enough left of the original text, particularly in Scrooge’s lines, to serve as an effective introduction to the story for those younger audince members.  Scrooge still says “If they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population” and “Bah, humbug”. 

This production is definitely a play for the whole family – it might be a good idea to come the first weekend, before the Dickens festival brings in the large out-of-town audience. 

Scrooge (Jim Landskroener) in his nightgown is thrilled to be told by a boy (Caleb Ford) that it is still Christmas day – Photo by Peter Heck

Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol” runs from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. General admission is $20. Tickets for seniors and military personnel are $15, and tickets for students are $10. Get a special $5 off on opening night if you wear your Garfield Center t-shirt! Call the Garfield box office at 410-810-2060 or visit Eventbrite to reserve tickets.

The puppet-seller (Jane Jewell), disguised as the Ghost of Christmas Past, arrives to scare Scrooge (Jim Landskroener). – Photo by Peter Heck

John Crook as Tiny Tim – Photo by Peter Heck

David Ryan as the pie-seller – Photo by Peter Heck

A gravedigger (Robbie Spray) gives Scrooge a glimpse of what lies ahead – Photo by Peter Heck

The Cratchit family dinner: Mrs. Cratchit (Jane Jewell), Emily (Raven Miller), Mr. Cratchit (Bryan Zajchowski), Tiny Tim (John Crook) – Photo by Peter Heck

Mid-Shore Arts: A Review of Jo Smail and Paul Jeanes at the Kohl by Mary McCoy

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You can tell from the title that “Clippings, Voids and Banana Curry” is going to be fun. On view through December 9 at Washington College’s Kohl Gallery, it brings together the work of Jo Smail and Paul Jeanes, two artists from very different backgrounds, who became friends when both were teaching at Maryland Institute College of Art.

At first, it seems to be an odd pairing. Jeanes’s large, powerful paintings unquestionably dominate the gallery with their stark black-and-white slanting shapes, but it’s Smail’s tiny collages that will draw you in like magnets. Shortly, you almost forget about Jeanes as you slip into reading the ’50’s and ’60’s vintage recipes, smiling at the ads for outmoded ladies’ undergarments, and shaking your head at the strangely polite newspaper articles on issues surrounding apartheid.

Jo Smail, collages: digital prints, acrylic and cardboard on paper mounted on board

Smail was born and raised in South Africa, and when she brought a bag full of her mother’s old recipes (including one for banana curry) home from a recent visit, she discovered articles and ads on the back of some of the recipes clipped from newspapers that stand as cultural artifacts of the country during its apartheid years.

Although Smail is primarily an abstract painter, she layered scans of the clippings along with many handwritten recipes and old envelopes into playful compositions of understated color and texture. Floating an inch or so from the wall, these dozens of collages seem to dance, one after another, across the walls of the gallery in a collection hovering between nostalgia and immediacy. Simultaneously engaging and edgy, they call to mind a time when cheerful Afrikaner women, in dresses tailored to the latest American pointy bras and waist-trimming foundation garments, ostensibly found fulfillment in whipping up new recipes every day, while blissfully ignoring the race-based poverty outside their kitchen doors.

Unframed and eschewing the usual rectangular format, Smail’s collages take their complicated shapes from the multiple angles of the clippings, punctuated here and there with offhand painted shapes. Sometimes gestural, sometimes almost evoking an object (one resembles a cartoon time bomb), these painterly elements nimbly introduce a certain animating awkwardness, possibly a metaphor for the deep flaws in the prim culture evoked by the clippings. Casual and often comical, her collages hum with a portentous tension not unlike that underlying our own times.

Paul Jeanes, “Projection Painting #3,” oil on linen on panel

Curiously, Jeanes’s paintings and inkjet prints possess a similar bracing tension, though it reverberates more in the body than the mind. Jeanes teases optical quandaries by playing mercilessly with perspective. What our eyes want to interpret as the four panes of a window in “Project Painting #3” just won’t quite come together. The edges of the “panes” tilt in irreconcilable directions and don’t quite line up.  Sometimes, they even shift directions as if bending back or forward. It’s a visual conundrum that both fascinates and sets your teeth on edge.

To complicate matters further, there’s a creeping realization that super-subtle angled shapes deriving from nothing more than a change in the sheen of the black paint float behind the white shapes. As you grow attuned to these nuances, you begin to notice that the empty white “panes” are not voids, but are alive with evidence of underpainting mingled with the woven texture of the underlying linen panel. A weird sensation of physicality vies with the painting’s tense geometry as the very idea of illusory space held within a static picture plane dissolves.

In his inkjet prints, Jeanes hints that his process begins with observations of actual objects or places. There’s no telling what they really are (a theater stage? a book? a sunbeam slanting across a floor?), but he photographs phenomena that interest him then prints them and cuts them up, rearranges them, experiments, and finally, projects them onto linen or canvas to create his final paintings. Unlike Smail, he prefers his sources to remain anonymous, and he works on a large enough scale that you feel like you could walk into one of his paintings and be lost in an hallucinatory world of shifting perspectives.

More than 30 years her junior and with less exotic roots in North Carolina, Jeanes nonetheless approaches the creative process with the same open, exploratory spirit that Smail cultivates. Curiosity and playful humor energize both artists’ works and make them fun to look at, but it’s the tension of incompatible viewpoints that keep them loitering in the mind. The impossibility of the coexistence of privilege and equality summoned by Smail’s collages and the irreconcilable viewpoints implied by Jeanes’s paintings prod and probe at our settled understandings of the world we live in.

Mary McCoy is an artist and writer who has the good fortune to live beside an old steamboat wharf on the Chester River. She is a former art critic for the Washington Post and several art publications. She enjoys the kayaking the river and walking her family farm where she collects ideas and materials for the environmental art she creates, often in collaboration with her husband Howard. They have exhibited their work in the U.S., Ireland, Wales and New Zealand.