News & Features

New Gallery Is Filled with ‘Wide-Ranging Talents’

By Judith Levine

Wine cabinet by Margaret Polcawich

Spectrum Gallery in Gaithersburg opened only eight months ago. Under the auspices of Peter Plant and Craig Higgins, this gallery has attracted a group of about 15 very talented painters, sculptors and photographers.  Its open and airy interior is comfortable and is able to showcase the work of its artists to the maximum. Spectrum is within a cozy circle of stores and restaurants that surround a space filled with umbrella-covered  tables and chairs, a fountain that small children can and were playing in, and a small bandstand for musicians.

Photograph by Marge Wasson

Plant told me that it was a conscious decision to keep the number of artists low. It ensures that everyone’s work can be hung or placed to have the maximum impact.  And it has been a very successful decision.  The stark white walls allow each piece of work to hang or stand without its colors being challenged.

The artists in the group are wide-ranging talents. Margaret Polawich uses polymer clays whose brilliant colors at first shimmer like glass. She creates a new world with everyday objects. Marge Wasson photographs parts of architecture that become abstract images.

Craig Higgins draws you into the world around us, making even small areas special places with his photographs. Ruth Sentelle’s paintings are often seemingly normal landscapes. Then you notice something small which pops up that lets you into her sense of humour. Easy to miss at first and then …  Roxana DeShelter’s love of fairy tales and otherworldly things can’t be ignored in her phantasmagorical paintings.

This is a wonderful space. The talents are many. The setting is so enjoyable. I hope you will take the opportunity to spend some time at Spectrum Gallery.

Spectrum Gallery is at 259 Spectrum Avenue in Gaithersburg. 

Get in Character at the Wheaton Arts Parade

Fourteen members of the local arts community have committed so far to dress as their favorite artists or works of art for our participation in the Wheaton Arts Parade. Won’t you also join us?

From Yayoi Kusama riding on a bicycle with her flaming red hair to a Salvador Dali to Munch’s “The Scream,” we’re expecting quite a crowd during the September 23 event. We won’t spoil the surprise by revealing all of the artists and art characters lining up to participate.

If you’d like to participate too, look over this list of artists and characters we’re still looking for and then email Sandra Perez-Ramos with your selections:

  • The Mona Lisa
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Horace Pippin or a piece of his art
  • Karah Walker’s black and white cutouts
  • Augusta Savage or one of her sculptures
  • Yoko Ono
  • A Georgia O’Keefe
  • Roy Lichtenstein’s Pop women
  • A Banksy graffitti character
  • A Mary Cassatt girls in period clothes
  • Las Meninas de Velázquez
  • Monet’s garden
  • Louise Bourgeois’ spider
  • A Renoir
  • A da Vinci
  • An Escher infinity painting
  • An Andy Warhol walking Campbell’s Soup can or Brillo box
  • Nikki St. Phalle’s “Nanas”
  • Matisse’s Blue Nude silhouetteThe possibilities are endless and costume ideas are online.

The parade route is just one-third of a mile, so the walk won’t be taxing. There will be stops along the way to snap selfies with parade goers.

Afterwards, you can sell prints, cards and small original works at the MAA tent at an art festival. Please contact Sandra if you’d be interested in participating.


Join our Plein Air Competition on September 1

Saturday, Sept 1, 2018
(from Daybreak to 3:00 PM)

The Plein Air Event competition is an open show within the main show with separate competitions for youths and adults. Artwork will be judged and on display and if desired, available for sale through Monday, September 3. Award winners will be recognized at the Saturday evening Awards Reception.

Registration Fee: Free to MAA members and to participants under 18 years of age. $10 for non-members 18 and over. Minors (under 18 years old) must have the written permission of their guardians and must be accompanied by an adult at all times. MAA is not responsible for the safety/security of Plein Air Event participants.

Registration Dates: Thursday, August 30, 5:00-7:00 PM; Friday, August 31, 9:00 – 11:00 AM, or Saturday, September 1, from 8:00 – 11:30 AM. Register in person at the Kensington Town Hall Armory, 3710 Mitchell Street, Kensington, MD. Please be sure to have your canvas or paper stamped at the Armory prior to beginning to paint.

Plein Air Competition Rules

  1. All work must be completed between daybreak and returned by 3pm on Saturday for the judging and for sale. Judging will begin at 3pm sharp.
  2. One painting per artist may be entered for the competition.
  3. There will be a separate judging for children, youths, and adults.
  4. All art MUST be of the Kensington area in the artist’s preferred medium and style.
  5. Artwork may be framed after the judging process is complete.
  6. List the Artist’s name, phone number and price on the back of each artwork. Labels will be available during the take-in at the Armory.
  7. All sold Plein Air artwork on display for sale will remain in the show with a red sales dot until 3:30 PM on Monday, September 4 when customer pickup begins.

Meet 2018 Show Judge Gavin Glakas

Gavin Glakas grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and started drawing about the time he started walking. He studied with at Washington University in St. Louis and the Slade School of Fine Art in London.

After graduation, Glakas spent a year and a half working on Capitol Hill as a Senate staffer. He had planned to go to law school, but after an eight-month illness culminating in the removal of a tumor from his lung at the age of 24, he decided to pursue his lifelong ambition of a career as an artist.

Glakas began showing his work in galleries almost immediately and spent five years studying with Robert Liberace and Danni Dawson. He has won numerous honors for his artwork, including awards from the Portrait Society of America and the Butler Institute of American Art. His paintings have been featured on NBC News and in The Washington Post, as well as American Art Collector, International Artist, The American Scholar, Art Business News, and The Strand magazines, and exhibited at museums and galleries throughout the country.

Glakas’ paintings hang in the permanent collections of the US Senate, the House of Representatives, the Virginia State Capitol, Georgetown & George Washington Universities and The Society of the Four Arts Museum in Palm Beach, FL, as well as numerous private collections.

He teaches painting and drawing at the Yellow Barn Studio and is represented by Principle Gallery of Alexandria, VA, and Charleston, SC.

Time to Troll the Streets and Parks of Kensington (Again)

Noyes Children’s Library by Elizabeth Stecher

by Barrie Ripin
MAA Past President

You may well find me these days aimlessly wandering the streets and parks of lovely Kensington, ZIP code 20895. I will be desperately seeking a new wrinkle on the required Kensington Paint the Town show entry. (20895 is actually quite a large area.)

Candidates’ subjects, of course, include: the iconic train station, cute Victorian houses, Noyes Library, Antique Village, cafés, the “wooden eagle,” Clum Park, with its many “Kensington” birds, plants, benches, fences, birds, ants. And yes, even the Mormon Temple is within this ZIP code.   

Oye, what to do? Everything seems to have been done up-down-sideways and better than I could.  One year I even resorted to painting a red mailbox. The owner of the home behind it looked at me suspiciously and, for some reason, didn’t seem inclined to purchase it.  

So, its a lovely time of year to wander around Kensington with your camera or easel. You will probably bump into others looking for just the right spot too. Trust me, inspiration will come, and whatever you choose, even if its been done 100 times before, will be uniquely your’s.  Who knows, you could be the next Bertha Clum Award winner.

Don’t delay and, as the saying goes – JUST DO IT. See you there …

Meet Our 2017 Bertha Clum Award Winner

“Baklava Couture” by Jennifer Kahn Barlow

Jennifer Kahn Barlow won the 2017 Paint the Town Labor Day Show’s Bertha Clum Award, which is given to the first-place winner in the Kensington category. Yellow Barn Studio and Gallery founder and artist Walter Bartman awarded the prize for Jennifer’s work, Baklava Couture.

JenniferJennifer first found her love for painting at 7 years old. Through her youth, at Skidmore College, and throughout her career in the corporate world, Jennifer continued to pursue her passion for painting. Since 2008, with the birth her first child, Jennifer has focused her aspirations on her artistic skills and career.

Under the tutelage of Michael Francis, Kurt Swartz and Glen Kessler, Jennifer has grown tremendously as an artist. She has also had the privilege of studying with Alyssa Monks, Susan Abbott, Cindy Procious, and Duane Keiser, in their workshops.

Jennifer’s most recent body of work explores tantalizing sweets.  Her paintings of confectionary distill precious moments from the normal chaos of daily life.  Jennifer is now the mother of two children and time is the most elusive of all commodities.  The indulgences rendered in oil on canvas, serve as a reminder to decelerate and savor life’s sweetness.

See Jennifer’s website

What I Look For When Judging a Show

By Gavin Glakas
Judge, 2018 Paint the Town Show

When judging a show, I look for a combination of originality of idea and talent in execution. Some of the works I select have both, some are stronger in one category and some in the other.

The idea can be visual, psychological or both, but I want to see an artist setting up a problem and trying to solve it in new and challenging ways.

As for execution, I’m talking about all of the usual elements – strong drawing skill, composition, color, value, edges, depth, transitions, paint quality – the lot.

I also look for ambition. If something takes a lot of work or has great ambition in some capacity, I’ll give that more consideration. Again, the artist’s ambition may manifest itself in visual ways or in psychological ways having to do with subject matter or more abstract qualities.

Conversely, if a work is technically well done but I’ve seen the same idea countless times, I tend to dismiss it.

I am also inclined to dismiss anything that looks like an attempt to copy a photograph. Working from photos is a necessity if one’s creative impulses are driving them to create images that can’t be painted from life or if photography as an art form lends itself to the aesthetic of the work, but a simple attempt to reproduce a photo – especially a photo that doesn’t have great creative merit to begin with – without any creative vision is something that makes me inclined to dismiss a work.

I will add one caveat to all of this – a sort of “get out of jail free pass” for me, the judge. Art has to exist in the real world. I love a good academic conversation, preferably over a few drinks, but I believe that people are also allowed to simply like art, the way they like music. If I really like a painting (or if it makes me laugh), it will probably get in  and win an award. I’m only human, just like all the people who have judged my work over the years.

2018 Creative Expressions Show: Judge’s Remarks

Hello! First of all, I must say that this is a beautiful show of work and a beautiful place to show it. I thank you for inviting me to make the awards. All of you who have done the work to bring about this show have my respect!  I know what it takes!

I grew up with art. Both my parents were artists. And furthermore, they were part of a group that started an art association when I was 10 years old. That group was MAA! However, it was the Manhasset Art Association. Whenever I see MAA, referring of course, to the Montgomery Art Association, I can’t help but think of the other one. I saw the many ways it affected my parent’s lives with friendships, shows, great programs, and getting together to draw and paint. Some of you may be influencing your own families and friends because you are part of this group! Don’t underestimate the good effects you may be causing!

All that had a great deal to do with how my life has unfolded. I have been doing my art and teaching art for more years than I can count. I started an art association as well – This year is the 35th anniversary of The Art League of Germantown. And so I bring all that to this day.

You may be surprised to know that for me, judging art is something that I find difficult and antipathetic to what art is for me. Basically I believe that the artist’s most fierce competition is the last work he did and can he go beyond that? In other words, he is his own competition. I also know that in the world of art, awards are a way of measuring how good an artist is.

That said, thankfully there are some good criteria for making choices (which I will go over a little later).

I don’t know how many juried shows or shows with awards each of you may have entered, but I dearly hope you know what a mixed bag this matter is. A good judge strives for objectivity. Additionally however, the judge’s choices are colored by his/her own experience in the arts. How much art has he/she looked at and studied in his/her lifetime? What kind of art does he/she do? What art prejudices might he/she bring to the table? Does he hate orange, or love dogs, or whatever?! And can he/she look at each piece for itself, giving it a fair chance to speak to him/her?

What I’m saying is that if there had been someone else judging, then there would have been different results.

As for me, over the years I have been conflicted in making judgments on something as personal as art. And I have wrestled with whether or not to enter my own work in such shows. (And yes I have done it. And yes I have gotten prizes.)

That said, I obviously set this viewpoint aside and proceeded to make my choices.

OK, so what are the criteria I use to decide whether a work of art is successful?

There are two main things:

Technical Expertise

Emotional Impact

And a third thing which is less important but also critical!


Under Technical Expertise we have those well-known basics which are:





Side note:  Of course not all of these are present in every painting…there are paintings without line, etc.

And as for Emotional Impact, does the piece have something to say to me? Something like delight, humor, awe, anger, sadness, serenity, a certain mood and so on. The point is, on an emotional level, does it communicate with me? Do I feel something when I look at it? Does it engage me?

There is also the matter of how the piece is presented, how it is framed. I believe a judge could overlook work that was poorly framed. A frame that is too small, or a colored mat that overwhelms a piece are just some of the things that can work against an artist’s work.  So my advice is that if you have spent all those hours on the painting, flatter it with a proper frame.

This show had so many good paintings that making selections was truly a challenge, especially in the categories of Landscape and Abstract. I only wished I could have given several the same prize, but that is only possible to do with Honorable Mention.  If you got an H.M., be proud of it. The competition was steep!

When all is said and done, I looked at the work for its technical expertise first. Does the composition work?  Does it keep my eye IN the painting or does that tree branch take my eye right out of it? Are things well drawn, and are the lines sensitive, interesting and varied? How well done is the tone?  Does this artist understand how to convey the effect of light on things?  If it was an abstract, is there variation in the tones throughout it?  (in abstract work, the same principles apply as in representational work) Do the color choices work?  Are they harmonious?

As for emotional impact, after evaluating Technical Expertise, I ask myself does this piece  ‘grab’ me? Did it touch me? Was that artist able to put that mysterious something in their work that reached ME. If you got a prize, you can be sure that it did.

Let me say that there are some artworks which have been accomplished with such amazing technical expertise that THAT alone has an emotional impact. You could say that about the Sistine Chapel ceiling, right? And I think of the glass work of Chihuly. (How is that even possible to do with glass?)

So. Thank you for such a wonderful experience. This is a terrific group and I feel privileged to have been asked to do come and do this for you. I got to see a LOT of very good art and that was the pleasure in it for me.

Lynne Oakes