This story is part of a partnership with The Baltimore Banner and BmoreArt that will provide monthly pieces focusing on the region’s artists, galleries and museums. For more stories like this, visit BmoreArt.com.
It’s dark and cold outside, perfect weather for couch-surfing and binge-watching under heavy blankets. What would it take to convince you to leave your warm abode, head out into the world, and open your heart to creative productions of all kinds? There’s a great variety of visual art exhibitions — all free of charge — and all guaranteed to inspire, challenge and make you feel a sense of connection to Baltimore and the larger region?
Whether curated at a museum, art gallery, college art space or community studio center, there is an abundance of incredible opportunities to engage with art this February. Put on your most stylish coat, scarf and hat because you do not want to miss out on the incredible works on display, as well as the conversations they inspire.
While this list does not encompass all of the exhibits currently available to Baltimore audiences, it’s a solid selection featuring a variety of the most compelling and timely artists in the region. If you want a more comprehensive look at February’s cultural offerings, head to BmoreArt’s online calendar.
‘BLACK WOMAN GENIUS: Elizabeth Talford Scott — Tapestries of Generations’
Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture
830 E. Pratt St., Baltimore
Through Sept. 30
Genius is not a word we use lightly, but it’s apt here. This year, the creative exceptionality of Elizabeth Talford Scott is being recognized in eight concurrent exhibitions throughout Baltimore, including at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Morgan State’s James E. Lewis Museum of Artand the Walters Art Museum. Scott was perceived primarily as a quilter and craftsperson, and she left behind a wealth of quilts and fiber art that are finally being appreciated as brilliant works of art.
One exhibit in particular, hosted at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, emphasizes Scott’s work as the inspiration for a giant network of powerful contemporary Black women artists across the Chesapeake region. Created in partnership with the Elizabeth Talford Scott Community Initiative, this exhibition highlights her ingenuity and craftsmanship, but also the importance of community and leadership so one can see the impact of this singular artist on so many others. Featured artists include Kibibi Ajanku, Aliana Grace Bailey, Aliyah Bonnette, Mahari Chabwera, Murjoni Merriweather, Glenda Richardson, Katherine Stewart Wilson, Nastassja Swift, and Joyce J. Scott, the artist’s daughter and a certified genius — at least, according to the MacArthur Foundation.
Lior Modan, ‘Peer Capital’
Critical Path Method, also known as CPM
1512 Bolton St., Baltimore
Through March 16
Located in a Bolton Hill rowhouse, CPM is a contemporary art gallery nested within the private residence of Vlad Smolkin, a Ukrainian immigrant and Baltimore native with 20 years of New York gallery experience. Smolkin decided to move back to Baltimore to start a space here, which opened in 2020, and has kept a regular schedule of exhibits that are experimental, technically impressive and conceptually ambitious. The shows intentionally build bridges between Baltimore and New York, which benefits both artists and audiences based here.
The newest show, “Peer Capital,” features 12 medium-sized “wall works” by New York-based Lior Modan that blur the line between painting, decoration, collage and relief sculpture by encasing common household objects in hand-dyed velvet. The pieces resemble otherworldly holograms and ask us to determine whether they’re trash or treasures. The artist presents these sentimental monuments to the stuff that defines us as “peers” that collectively deliver a mysterious story of memories frozen in time.
‘Histories Collide: Jackie Milad x Fred Wilson x Nekisha Durrett’
Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore
Through March 17
Fred Wilson’s sculpture, “Artemis/Bast” (1992), sits at the center of this unusual exhibit, calmly making an overlooked secret obvious: that sophisticated African art predated and influenced the neoclassical sculpture of ancient Greece, considered the pinnacle of Western civilization. The sculpture combines the ebony head of Egyptian cat goddess Bast with the neoclassical white body Greek goddess Artemis, both mythological protectors of fertility, women and the hunt.
Based on “Artemis/Bast,” the museum issued a call for regional artists to create work that reacts to the sculpture and addresses what happens when myths and histories collide.
Placed in the John Waters Rotunda at the BMA, at the cusp of its historic collection and modern and contemporary wing, Baltimore-based Jackie Milad and Washington, D.C.-based Nekisha Durrett offer proof that the intersection of history and myth continue to offer potent subjects for contemporary art, telling visual stories that are both personal and universal. On the sculpture’s left, Milad explores her own Egyptian-Honduran heritage through a personal lens, in which objects of antiquity are blended into wild, mixed media tapestries full of riotous color, line drawings and snippets of different languages. On her right, Durrett’s mysterious glowing circle addresses the vital history of Harriet Tubman that the artist was not taught in Maryland public school, but discovered in visits to the abolitionist’s homeland where she was enslaved.
‘Art of the Collectors IX’
2224 N. Charles St., Baltimore
Through March 16
Galerie Myrtis is located in a grand brownstone in the Old Goucher neighborhood and emphasizes significant works by African and African American artists. They often show living artists from Baltimore, such as Jerrell Gibbs, Megan Lewis, and Monica Ikegwu, who are building a global reputation. They also make museum-quality historic works available in an exhibit series called “Art of the Collectors.”
In the ninth iteration of this series, the gallery showcases major masterpieces from the 20th and 21st century including paintings, prints, photos and sculptures — works that were a part of private collections for generations, now released. You will not only have the opportunity to experience world-famous artists like Elizabeth Catlett and Sam Gilliam, who have shaped art history as we understand it, but also the possibility of adding to your own collection as these works are now available for acquisition from Galerie Myrtis. The gallery also hosts “Tea with Myrtis” events in the space, creating further opportunities to sip beverages in an elegant setting and learn more about the artists and building your own collection.
‘Climate for Change’
Maryland Institute College of Art’s Pinkard Gallery
1401 Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore
Through March 3
The growing awareness of an impending global ecological crisis is a terrifying prospect, but also rather abstract. It’s difficult to understand the complex factors at play, and concerns about global warming, wildfires, cataclysmic storms, erosion, pollution, floods, microplastics, mining and more can be overwhelming, even to those who strongly support calls for progressive change.
Hosted at MICA’s Pinkard Gallery, members of the Atlantika Collective — a diverse group ofartists committed to visualizing our current environmental emergency — share their observations through a variety of media and approach. Rather than telling us about an impending planetary crisis, these artists show us in clear terms that are immediate and compelling. The goal of the collective, which also includes a few MICA professors and graduates, is to raise awareness and catalyze action so that our fears and hope can combine into meaningful change. This exhibit is curated by María Alejandra Sáenz and features Atlantika Collective artists Gabriela Bulisova, Todd R. Forsgren, Billy Friebele, Mark Isaac, Katie Kehoe, Yam Chew Oh and Sue Wrbican.
Rebecca Strzelec, ‘365 Grams’
Baltimore Jewelry Center
10 E. North Ave., Suite 130, Baltimore
Feb. 16 through March 29
Did you know Baltimore has a dedicated maker space and gallery just for jewelry artists to create and display wearable artwork? The Baltimore Jewelry Center regularly hosts local and international resident artists from all over the world to teach workshops and exhibit their pieces. And the best part: The art is wearable and priced affordably.
Their newest exhibit features Rebecca Strzelec, who was given four shoeboxes of her grandmother’s jewelry and then, after her Gram passed away in 2008, inherited her writing desk. The boxes sat unopened for years, but in 2016 Strzelec decided to wear one piece of the jewelry every day for a year “to give the jewels the respect and attention they deserved.” After that, she transformed the antique jewelry into contemporary pieces, now realized in a collection of work titled “365 Grams” that memorializes and celebrates the individual who inspired them.
‘Ethiopia at the Crossroads’
The Walters Art Museum
600 N. Charles St., Baltimore
Through March 3
The Walters is known for offering densely researched and innovative historical exhibitions, and “Ethiopia at the Crossroads” is no exception. Presenting thousands of years of dynamic paintings, religious manuscripts, housewares, craft and jewelry against a bold backdrop of red, green and yellow, this exhibit offers an unexpected twist. Interspersed throughout the entire space are works by living Ethiopian and Ethiopian American artists, serving as a counterpoint to ancient artistic experimentation.
What’s most interesting about these contemporary works is the seamless way they integrate deeply held visual traditions into modern forms. In them, Ethiopian heritage is reflected as a source of inspiration and strength. Many of the living artists are affiliated with Baltimore and Washington, D.C., with works by Tsedaye Makonnen, Wosene Worke Kosrof, Aïda Muluneh, Faith Ringgold and others functioning as modern anchors for the exhibit. Their paintings, collages, videos, and sculpture not only reinforce the complexity and sophistication of historic Ethiopian art, but prove its lasting relevance to current makers.
‘Come Through: Resident Artist Exhibition’
Creative Alliance’s Amalie Rothschild Gallery
3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore
Through March 2
In addition to a giant art gallery, theater, dance studio and commercial kitchens, the Creative Alliance has hosted an artist residency program for over 10 years. The residency offers individual live-work spaces where artists reside for one to three years at a time. Past resident artists include Amy Sherald, Jackie Milad and Murjoni Merriweather, whose established national careers are proof that this program attracts top-tier emerging artists. Although each resident artist mounts a solo exhibit in the large main gallery downstairs, it’s wonderful to have the chance to see their work in the more intimate and informal upstairs exhibition space named for artist Amalie Rothschild.
This winter, resident artists Hoesy Corona, Anna Divinagracia, Melissa Hyatt Foss, Christopher Johnson, Ajee Hassan, Bria Sterling-Wilson, and twins Eleisha Faith and Tonisha Hope McCorkle will showcase their recent experiments, presenting a collective vision of an artistic journey at CA that includes photography, sound, collage and fiber art. This exhibit is a great opportunity for collectors as well as artists interested in applying for the 2024 cohort.
‘Polly Apfelbaum: Sampling a Sampler Sampling’ and ‘Librería Donceles: A Project by Pablo Helguera’
Elizabeth Myers Mitchell Art Museum at St. John’s College
60 College Ave., Annapolis
Through April 14
If you happen to be in Annapolis and want to experience two world-class artists in an intimate setting, the pairing of Polly Apfelbaum and Pablo Helguera will be a treat. Apfelbaum is a renowned New York-based artist known for immersive fiber art-based installations. Her latest, a giant floor collage of commercially printed fabric remnants from Manhattan’s Garment District called “Sampling a Sampler Sampling,” was created on-site for the Mitchell museum. As you look down upon the powerful riot of color and pattern, the artist asks you to reconsider assumptions about the value of craft, interior design and women’s work within the context of the larger art world.
Helguera’s exhibit, “Librería Donceles: A Project by Pablo Helguera,” appears to be a used bookstore filled with hundreds of Spanish-language titles. The installation was originally created in Brooklyn a decade ago to serve a growing Hispanic and Latinx population, according to a news release from St. John’s College. It has since traveled to more than a dozen cities and functions as a hub for cultural events as well as browsing. Books are available on a pay-what-you-wish basis, and the space is filled with artworks and objects, with readings and screenings throughout its stay.
‘Sebastian Martorana: Public/Private’
Academy Art Museum
106 South St., Easton
Through March 24
In Easton, the Academy Art Museum is a small but mighty regional institution that regularly exhibits some of the best Baltimore-based artists. Its most recent exhibit features sculptor Sebastian Martorana, whose marble carvings reflect ephemeral cultural elements in a timeless medium. Martorana is a master of highly realistic carving, but his subjects — stuffed animals, towels, Kermit the Frog, an old glove, a mattress — are playful and curious, in contrast to the labor intensive process of their creation.
The tradition of marble is based on ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, and can be found across the world in monuments and grand architecture. It can also be found in the white stone steps of historic Baltimore, from which Martorana has sourced some of the material for his works. The sculptor often recycles stone elements he finds into new pieces, referencing ancient and modern history and questioning our hierarchy of value. Perhaps instead of a tombstone, we should be using marble to commemorate our everyday moments and memories. Marble is a physically challenging medium and rarely used by contemporary artists, so this makes Martorana’s works even more special. For this exhibit, he has also created functional sculptures — he made the marble benches on display in the museum’s courtyard with the goal of inspiring visitors to interact with his work.