Mid-Shore Arts: Ian Ghent Will Pop Up in St. Michaels over Memorial Day Weekend


It is no secret that the Spy loves pop up stores of every kind. These short term wonders of gorilla commerce consistently offer patrons products that typically are never available on most American main streets, and that is particularly true for visual art.

That is why we were excited to hear that New York City-based artist, Ian Ghent, decided to showcase his work in St. Michaels using that format at the end of May. Ghent, a successful advertising creative director by day, uses oil and watercolor to capture the essence of urban life, with a particular emphasis on people and animals that evoke both insight and humor through his portrait work.

The Spy was able to connect with Ian via Skype the other day to talk about his work and methods.

Ian Ghent
314A Talbot Street
St. Michaels
May 25, 26, and 27  from 9:30 – 6:00

RiverArts Minute: Preview of “Visual Storytellers” Exhibition



A Spy recently tracked done Ronn Akins, RiverArts’ curator, to discuss the May gallery exhibition Visual Storytellers.  Storytelling is vital to making compelling images. Great feats of visual storytelling appear all around us; church windows, works by Norman Rockwell and the published sketchbooks of Leonardo Di Vinci. Visual storytelling tells a story. It uses the power of the visual image to ignite imaginations, evoke emotions and capture universal cultural truths and aspirations. What distinguishes Visual storytelling from other genres is its ability to narrate a story across diverse cultures, preserving it for future generations.

This video is two minutes in length. For more information about RiverArts please go here.

The public is welcome to come to the Gallery talk to hear the Artists tell the stories shown in their Artwork on Thursday, May 9 at  5:30 pm.

Exhibition Dates: May 1 – June 2, 2019
RiverArts 315 High Street, Suite 106 , Chestertown

Spy Poem: Lying by Stan Salett


Lying Is Fine
(with considerable apology and great appreciation to E.E.Cummings )

lying is fine)but Truth
wouldn’t like
Truth if Truth
when(instead of stopping to think)you
begin to feel of it, lying
‘s miraculous
cause lying is
perfectly natural;perfectly
it mildly lively(but
is strictly
& artificial &
evil & legal)
we thank thee
almighty for lying
(forgive us,o life ! the sin of Truth

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 and Beyond the Scene He now lives in Kent County, Maryland and has been an advisor to the Spy since 2010. 


Where The Wild Things Are — Spy Review by Peter Heck


The Wild Things sleep in a comfy pile.  –  Photo by Bee Betley

Where the Wild Things Are, based on the iconic children’s picture book, packed the Garfield Center for the Arts last weekend with excited children and proud parents.

Directed by Bee Betley, the play follows a young boy, Max, who gets into trouble for being “out of control” after disrupting his family home while wearing his wolf costume. That night, Max is magically transported to a strange jungle where the Wild Things live – large, furry monsters with claws and horns. After they initially threaten to eat Max, the young boy frightens them, and they accept him as their king – a new experience for them. They celebrate with a “wild rumpus,” but as the night wears on, they begin to become unhappy with Max’s reign.

All the monsters engage in a “wild rumpus” with their new King Max. – Photo by Jane Jewell

The book, published in 1963, featured the author’s own illustrations — which he later said were based on caricatures of his aunts and uncles drawn when he was a young boy. It was recognized almost at once as a classic, being voted the prestigious Caldecott Medal as best children’s picture book of the year. And it has retained its appeal; in 2012 it was voted the best children’s picture book of all times by readers of School Library Journal. It has been adapted several times to other media, including an animated short film in 1973, an opera in 1980, and it was even parodied in an episode of “The Simpsons.”

Betley, whose previous directing credits at the Garfield include last year’s The Little Prince, said in her director’s note that she has always wanted to direct Wild Things. She notes how Max’s awareness of his identity develops as he tries to balance his authority as king of the Wild Things with the desire to please everyone and yet be in charge and get to do whatever he wants. And as Max quickly learns, the job is impossible.

Max in a pensive mood  –  Photo by Bee Betley

The role of Max is key to the entire play, and Lydia Sensenig, acting in her first play, filled the role energetically, running around the stage, sometimes shrieking in frustration when Max can’t get the attention of his mother and sister. She effectively varies her tone, expressions, and body language in harmony with the character’s moods. An excellent job for a young actor, especially one who hasn’t previously been on stage.

John Mann as Carol, the wildest of the Wild Things – Photo by Bee Betley

John Mann, most recently seen in the GCA’s production of Mister Roberts, takes the role of Carol, one of the most powerful Wild Things. Max puts him in charge of building a fort, but Carol throws a tantrum when KW, another Wild Thing, wants to bring two owls she has befriended to the fort. Mann does a good job of showing Carol’s energy and quick changes of mood, projecting a sense of danger that echoes Max’s own anger.

Max in his wolf costume talks with KW and the two owls, Bob and Terry. – Photo by Jane Jewell

KW is played by Georgia Rickloff, who has been a frequent performer in local theater since she played Tiny Tim in the GCA’s Christmas Carol in 2008. Her character, a loner who is often at odds with Carol, is in many ways the most sympathetic toward Max of all the monsters. Rickloff conveys KW’s softer side while at the same time remaining a convincing denizen of the monster realm.

Brother and sister Aaron Sensenig and Lydia Sensinig as Alexander, a Wild Thing, and Max – Photo by Bee Betley

The other Wild Things are not as extreme in their emotions and actions as Carol, though each has their moments. Douglas, a Wild Thing with powerful arms who is something of a peace-keeper, is well played by Mike Heffron. Phebe Wood, a student at Gunston School, takes the role of Judith. Judith frequently argues with Carol and acts out when she doesn’t get her way.  She can be loud and sometimes sarcastic but she, too, can show an unsure and insecure side, which may be why the more mild-mannered Wild Thing Ira, played by Zac Ryan,  is her boyfriend.  The two are “in love,” the other Wild Things tell Max.  Aaron Sensenig (Lydia’s brother) plays Alexander, the youngest and smallest of the Wild Things.  Paul Camberdella has two roles, as one of Max’s teachers and as a bull who lurks on the fringes of the Wild Things.  The bull provides nice comic relief as he doesn’t speak but occasionally snorts or makes other funny noises.  All do a good job in conveying a “family” who alternately laugh and play together, then sulk, argue, or run away.   

Sarah Lyle, also acting in her first play, takes the role of Max’s mom. She shows the mother’s conflicting roles as she tries to give both Max and his sister the support and understanding that they each need while still dealing with her own problems of balancing a job and motherhood.  Izzie Southworth is very believable as Max’s older sister, Claire. Claire is annoyed by her little brother who demands attention while she is on the phone or with her friends. 

Max tries to get his mother’s attention while she is on an important phone call. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Alden Swanson and Zuzu Kusmider do a good job as the other children in Max’s life, at school, and as KW’s owl friends.  The owls are especially funny as they answer questions and give advice, speaking at length in totally unintelligible chirps, squeaks, and squawks.

The very atmospheric music for the play was composed and performed on guitar by the director’s brother Seth Betley, who did a good job of matching the on-stage action with the mood of the music.

The set and costumes for the show, designed and constructed by Bee Betley, were imaginative and a lot of fun. The costumes went a long way toward giving the Wild Things – and Max – their distinctive characters. And the set’s open structure was visually effective while allowing the single setting to serve multiple purposes. The lighting, designed by Nic Carter, was a delightful display of chromatic virtuosity.  The stage was washed with a full spectrum of colors; switching from bright orange to soft blue to pale violet,  following the action and changing moods of the play. 

This is a play about identity, family, friendship, and growing up.  The Wild Things reflect the wild emotions we all feel – the anger, the jealousy, the insecurity, the need for acceptance, for attention, for love.  All the things that make us human.

KW (in back) with Judith and Ira, the two lovers (seated) and Douglas of the mighty arms. – Photo by Bee Betley

Only two quibbles about this otherwise excellent production: the high number of minor scene changes, accompanied by blackouts, did slow the pace of the play somewhat.  And occasionally, the dialogue was hard to understand – several other attendees we spoke to had the same observation.  However, these did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the performance.

Where the Wild Things Are was a stimulating challenge for both cast and crew, and they definitely rose to the occasion.  The performance we saw had a good number of younger audience members – all of whom seemed to enjoy the show as much as the adults. And once again, the performances were a reminder of the wealth of talent in the local community — a fact it is too easy to take for granted.

The production was one weekend only.

Ira, Judith, and Max – Photo by Bee Betley

At school, they learn that the sun will die someday far in the future. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Curtain Call for “Where the Wild Things Are” – Photo by Jane Jewell

The Wild Things huddle with Max to make plans. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Max and his mother in a tender moment – Photo by Jane Jewell


Art Review: Richard Diebenkorn at the Academy Art Museum by Steve Parks


By the time young Richard Diebenkorn attained stature as an Abstract Expressionist, he was itching to move on—again—to explore new horizons with his painter’s toolbox. “You see, I was trying to demonstrate something to myself,’ he said in an interview for John Gruen’s 1955 book, “The Artist Observed.” “Namely, that I wouldn’t get stuck in any dumb rut.”

While he never totally abandoned his abstract inclinations—producing art as he felt it rather than as seen—Diebenkorn eluded ruts for the rest of his long, prolific career.

“Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942-1955,” a traveling exhibition receiving its only East Coast exposure at Easton’s Academy of Art Museum through July 10, presents 100 paintings and drawings—many never shown before—that reveal the artist’s evolution from student to 33-year-old master of a modern American art form.

Because the show reflects Diebenkorn’s progression from classroom assignments—depicting the folds and shadows of a draped length of patterned fabric—to ever-searching expressions of mind’s-eye creativity—it’s best to view it chronologically. Start at the gallery to your left as you enter the museum and proceed clockwise from the introductory panel outlining Diebenkorn’s formative years, beginning with his 1922 birth in Portland, Ore., and San Francisco childhood. First, you’ll see his student assignment. (It deserves an A.) Other early works from his Stanford University days, before his other calling—World War II active duty—include representational watercolors of residential rooftops and fine-line ink drawings of fellow marines while stationed at Quantico, Va. (Art supplies weren’t allowed.)

Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled, 1952. Oil on canvas, 41 1/2 x 77 in.

His early Berkeley period preceding officer’s training (he flunked) exposed him to faculty disciples of Hans Hoffmann, although one instructor favored Cezanne. Both influences are evident in Diebenkorn’s untitled geometric watercolor-and-graphite pieces and the mortal combat in “Duel at Dawn.” The artist/marine renders loosely recognizable architecture in and around San Diego’s Camp Pendleton, where he was based before his dreaded mission to parachute behind enemy lines in Japan. But the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced Japan’s 1945 surrender. Diebenkorn’s team never deployed.

Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled, 1945. Watercolor and ink on paper, 9 x 11 7/8 in

Married during the war, he and his wife Phyllis were parents of an infant daughter as Diebenkorn resumed art studies at the California School of Fine Arts, where the faculty included Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. Diebenkorn’s abstracts began to reflect a more defined approach epitomized in three untitled paintings displayed as a triptych—two with geometric shapes on a flat plane and another of irregular shapes in a perspective alignment. His 1947 “Untitled (Magician’s Table)” is a deft nod to Surrealism while you might glimpse De Kooning with a darker palette in an untitled gouache from Diebenkorn’s 1948 solo exhibition at San Francisco’s California Palace of the Legion of Honor.

Abstracts with a sense of place, on larger canvases that Diebenkorn could by then afford, dominate the gallery across the lobby: structured but still nonobjective landscapes on beach (Sausalito period) and desert (Albuquerque) from the early ‘50s. His Urbana period at the University of Illinois was inspired by a major Matisse exhibition, leading to abstracts that playfully hint at identifiable figures. You might spot an owl (unintentional?) among these 1952-53 watercolors.

In a small gallery down the hall, there’s no mistaking the objects in Diebenkorn’s first mature figurative painting, “Untitled (Horse and Rider)” from 1954.

Untitled (Horse and Rider), 1954. Oil on canvas, 21 x 24 in

Where his “Beginnings” eventually led—spanning a lifetime up to 1993—are seen in catalogs beneath a huge black-and-white photo of Diebenkorn, the marine. The 1997-98 Whitney exhibition volume includes images from his “Ocean Park” series featured in the 1978 Venice Biennale—sea and sky, maybe both, as viewed from a window. As usual, Diebenkorn keeps you guessing and engaged, avoiding ruts and realism for a half-century.

A display upstairs features works by a few Diebenkorn contemporaries, drawn from the Academy of Art’s collection, among them Baltimore’s Amalie Rothschild (“Reclining Figure” drawing, 1955) and two Thomas Hart Benton lithographs (“Morning Train” and “Night Firing,” 1943).

“Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942-1955”
Daily through July 10, Academy of Art Museum, 106 South St., Easton

Lecture: “My Father, Richard Diebenkorn,” by Gretchen Diebenkorn Grant, 11 a.m. June 1
academyartmuseum.org, 410-822-2787

Steve Parks is a retired journalist, arts critic and editor now living in Easton.



Three Kent County Artists Receive Maryland Individual Artist Awards


Julie Wills, Strike List
2014 (matchsticks, hair and thread on paper)

The Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) announced today that $246,000 has been awarded to 105 Maryland artists through the 2019 Individual Artist Awards (IAA). This year’s awardees were chosen from a group of 669 applicants and represent some of the state’s leading authors, visual artists, theater performers and digital/electronic and media artists

Administered in partnership with Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, the 2019 IAAs recognize outstanding artistic achievements of artists from across Maryland.

Awardees will be honored during a ceremony on Saturday, June 8, 2019, at the conclusion of the first Maryland Arts Summit, which will be held at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. In addition to the recognition, Individual Artists receive grants of $1,000, $3,000 or $6,000 in support of their continued artistic growth. The full list of 2019 IAA awardees can be found here.

“As an artist myself, I understand the importance of arts and am proud of our statewide agency, MSAC to recognize the accomplishments of Maryland’s individual artists and support them,” said First Lady Yumi Hogan. “I want to offer my sincere congratulations to all awardees. Their incredible talent and significant contributions are one of the driving forces that flourish our great state of Maryland.”

This year’s awardees represent the fields of Creative Nonfiction/Fiction, Digital/Electronic Arts, Media Arts, Painting, Theater Solo Performance, and Works on Paper. Awardees were chosen, based solely on artistic merit, by an out-of-state jury of discipline-specific experts.

Kent County Recipients:

–          James Allen Hall- Kent County, Creative Nonfiction/Fiction

–          Michael A. Buckley- Kent County, Media

–          Julie Wills- Kent County, Works on Paper

Over the course of the past year, MSAC collected feedback from artists across the state in an effort to update the IAA program. The new Independent Artist Awards (IAA) program will debut in 2020 with a focus on Performing Arts. Applications will be accepted from dancers, musicians, actors and performance artists as well as composers, choreographers and playwrights. Subsequent years will feature awards in Visual Arts (2021) and Literary Arts (2022). Information about the new IAA program will be released in summer 2019, and the application period for 2020 IAAs will open in the fall of 2019.

Spy Review: Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra’s Ode to Humankind


The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, Delmarva’s professionally accomplished philharmonic, capped its 22nd season with a challenging masterworks program marked by individual distinction and collaborative virtuosity.

It’s hard to imagine a more inspired finale than the textured and rousing performance of Beethoven’s miraculous 9th Symphony, his own symphonic finale, composed in two years beginning in 1822 when he had gone completely deaf. Deploying his genius and mental dexterity to write with a complex aural beauty he could test only with the inner ear of his mind, Beethoven created a masterpiece that is also the first major symphony featuring the human voice—many of them, actually—as a musical instrument.

But first, the audience was treated to a rare, perhaps unprecedented, encore before the scheduled concert. A pre-core, if you will, was graciously gifted by the evening’s piano soloist Michael McHale, after symphony board chair Jeffrey Parker announced that the concert would start a half-hour late due to a Bay Bridge accident that delayed a quarter of the MSO ensemble. McHale played several short pieces, including a Chopin nocturne and Irish traditionals of his own arrangement.

Once the latecomers arrived to applause, music director Julien Benichou abbreviated his usually loquacious opening remarks to lead the orchestra in Sibelius’ “Finlandia,” an emotionally patriotic salute to his native land that has launched an ecumenical array of hymns. Fittingly accompanied by a large choir— two, in fact: the Carter Legacy Singers named for Nathaniel Carter, the late Morgan State University choral director, and the Southern Delaware Chorale—their reverent vocal delivery was muffled at times by the ominous warlike brass and the prayerful swelling of woodwinds and strings.

McHale, an internationally acclaimed piano soloist from Northern Ireland, distinguished himself far beyond his “pre-core” chops by mastering the notoriously difficult keyboard calisthenics of Ravel’s jazzy Piano Concerto in G major. A crack of the whip signals the opening drum-and-piano staccato that wanders from the windchime-y delicacy of a blues dream sequence to a sprinting riff in which McHale all but falls off his bench reaching for the end-of-the-keyboard horizon, punctuated by woodwind bird calls borne by a fluttering string breeze led by concertmaster Jose Cueto.

Following intermission, the audience settled in for the 70-minute 9th. The fourth movement alone is as long as many symphonies. But time flies from the profoundly Beethoven opening notes—robustly delivered as if to awaken Beethoven’s inner ear—to the cello-and-bass overture that rallies with the urgency of a racing heartbeat/drumbeat. The second movement’s uptempo march slows down enough to catch its breath before a pell-mell rush to the finish, standing in stark contrast to the third movement’s soothing pastoral respite.

A pause before the defining 4th movement allowed the solo vocalists to take their places in front of the maestro’s podium: authoritative bass baritone Kevin Short, tempestuous tenor Israel Lozano, with piercing duel phrasing by soprano Allysa Packard and alto Jordan Swett. Sung in German, the familiar “Ode to Joy” refrain, especially when joined in by the let-it-rip voices of the double chorale, delivered a spiritual uplift—much needed these days. “Ode” left much of the audience humming with a smile while exiting after issuing their verdict with an extended standing ovation. Yes, bravo.

See you in September, MSO.

Steve Parks is a retired journalist and former feature editor for Newsday. He now lives in Easton. 

“Ode to Humankind, To Country and to Joy!”
Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra concert, Friday, April 26, Chesapeake College, Wye Mills
“Finlandia,” Jean Sibelius, with Carter Legacy Singers and Southern Delaware Chorale
Piano Concerto in G major, Maurice Ravel, with piano soloist Michael McHale
Symphony No. 9, Ludwig Van Beethoven, with soprano Allysa Packard, alto Jordan Swett, tenor Israel Lozano, bass baritone Kevin Short, Carter Legacy Singers, Southern Delaware Chorale
Final performance, 7 p.m. Sunday, April 28, Ocean City Performing Arts Center


At the Academy: Brad Ross and the Art of Teaching Art


Since 2016, Brad Ross has been offering painting and drawing classes at the Academy Art Museum, in Easton, MD. Learning the classical approach to drawing and painting through his studies greatly influenced what he paints today. While at Maryland Institute, where he completed a BFA in 1991, he studied portrait drawing with Abby Sangiamo and figure drawing with Peter Collier. Between 1994 and 1995 he took evening and summer classes at the Schuler School of Fine Art in Baltimore. There he experienced a classical approach to drawing and painting and a taste of the way all artists learned their craft prior to the twentieth century.  The Schuler School is also where he had some of his first experiences painting outdoors with noted watercolorist Fritz Briggs.

Ross states, “Drawing from plaster casts was the most important classical training I had and the concepts learned from them influence everything I do. . .  Most of my fine art training at Maryland Institute College of Art and Montgomery College was modern in philosophy, so my later exposure to the classical approach at the Schuler School broadened, refined and grounded the modern approach from those schools.”

Over the years, Ross has gained priceless drawing and painting knowledge by taking workshops with great artists like Carolyn Anderson, Tim Bell, George Strickland, Abigail McBride and Teresa Oaxaca. From 1995 to the early two-thousands, his professional work focused on still life painting in the classical tradition, maintaining a relationship with La Petite Gallery in Annapolis, MD and Renjeau Gallery in Natick, MA.

He adds, “Throughout this time, plein air painting, portrait and figure drawing remained avenues for skill-building and personal enjoyment.”

In 2012 he registered for his first quick draw competition at Plein Air Easton and has participated in several local plein air events since then, winning prizes in Chestertown’s quick draws three times, and being awarded Best in Show and Artist Choice Awards at Paint Berlin, MD, in 2018.  This year, he was juried into the 15th Plein Air Easton competition and will be competing in that premier event, as well as several others in 2019.

Ross comments about his plein air painting, “For most of my life I’ve been a very hesitant painter, taking a long time to finish work.  Plein air painting is a great antidote for that. Light changes frustratingly fast and forces you to identify important elements quickly and make decisions, then keep that concept in mind as conditions change.”

He adds, “Plein air was important in dispelling the misconception that an artist is recording or copying a scene.  In order to get faster you have to think on an abstract, conceptual level. This has strengthened my painting in general.”   

This spring, Ross is teaching a few classes at the Academy Art Museum, including “Drawing the Human Figure” on Wednesdays, May 1–29, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a Two-Day Workshop: “Oil Painting: Color Crash Course” on June 22 and 23 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day.

Ross says about his portraiture classes, “Getting a likeness is pretty essential to portraiture and because of that it’s more demanding than other genres.  I love the challenge of conveying a personality in a drawing or painting and I love helping people tackle that challenge.”

For further information about classes taught by Bradford Ross at the Academy Art Museum, call 410-822-2787 or visit academyartmuseum.org.

Spy Art Minute: Kent County Public Schools and Hegland Glass Partner Up


In our Spy Art Minute this week, Aimee Boumiea, Kent County Public Schools, Visual Arts Teacher discusses the Arts enrichment program she created for her students. The program was developed in partnership with Tom McHugh and Arts in Motion, along with Patti and Dave Hegland of Hegland Glass.

This is the third year of the program in which selected 5th Grade Students from Garnet Elementary School learn some of the physics and chemistry of glass to help them understand the techniques used to create kiln art glass. Students also learn how to cut glass and assemble their own pieces of artwork for kiln firing.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information please go to the Hegland Glass website. 

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