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BlackRock Welcomes Two Solo Art Exhibits This Weekend

The work of two artists will be on display at Black Rock as the Germantown arts center features two artists to its galleries beginning Saturday, April 29.

Art from Baltimore artist Mike McConnell will be on display at the BlackRock’s Kay Gallery in “Mike McConnell: Elsewhere” which features playful paintings inspired by nature.

McConnell aggressively manipulates paint, wax crayon and ink on the hard surface of his hand-built cradled wood panels. He first applies pigment with a brush then uses single edge razor blades to draw and scrape into the fields of color. His often playful and visually complex compositions are built using a collage-like process where the artist cuts out shapes and converts the history of his initial painting into a new conversation.

A keen observer who paints intuitively, McConnell usually turns to nature for inspiration to create bold and vibrant works that reflect his varied interests and memories in abstracted scenes filled with patterns and witty narratives.,

McConnell earned his BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 1975 and worked for more than 30 years as an illustrator, freelancing for advertising agencies and design firms in the Baltimore and Washington, DC metropolitan area. Since 2012, McConnell has focused exclusively on his fine art studio practice and since 2015 has maintained a studio at The Motor House in Baltimore. The award winning artist is a 2016 recipient of the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award.

“Mike McConnell: Elsewhere” will be on display from Saturday, April 29 through Saturday, June 10, in the Kay Gallery. The center will host a Meet the Artists Reception this Saturday, April 29 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. The artist will deliver brief remarks and be on hand to answer questions throughout the reception. McConnell will return to BlackRock on Saturday, May 20 to deliver an Artist Talk and a Gallery Tour at 2:00 pm with the discussion focused on the creative process and techniques the artist uses to create the work on display. Both the Meet the Artists Reception and the Artist Talk & Gallery Tour events are free and open to the public.

Also on display at BlackRock starting Saturday is the work of Bethesda-based artist Alexandra Chiou in an exhibit entitled “Alexandra Chiou: Mirage” in the Terrace Gallery.

Combining her interest in science, philosophy, and natural history, Chiou investigates the environment using pen, ink and acrylic paint on paper, which she often cuts and layers to add texture and dimension. An avid explorer and outdoor enthusiast, the Maryland artist is intrigued by the complex patterns, shapes and vibrant colors found in the natural world, whether hiking in the mountains of the Shenandoah or the jungles of Malaysia. Drawn to the idea of primordial landscapes free of manmade structures, her focus on the subject of unexplored terrains has also morphed into a fascination with the beginnings of life and the connections humans share with geography.

When asked why she selected the title “Mirage” for her solo exhibition at BlackRock, Chiou explained, “Mirage is a reference to the desert and also alludes to the idea of things not being quite what they seem.” The local artist has been working for many months creating a new series of layered multi-media pieces, like “Winter Memories of the Mojave,” which were inspired by her experiences in the Southwestern United States at national parks including Bryce, Zion and Joshua Tree.

On her travels, Chiou was particularly intrigued by the subtlety of the desert landscape and constant juxtaposition of life and death. Describing her personal fascination with desert imagery, the Bethesda resident stated, “The desert is often perceived as a dry, barren terrain, as a land that is severe and unforgiving. But when you look more closely, it is brimming with life and quiet beauty.”

Alexandra Chiou graduated from University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA in 2011with bo