Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC)

Tree Spirits



Exhibition and Event Dates

This exhibit is on display from Thursday, July 11 to Friday, November 1, 2013. Opening reception is Thursday, July 11 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. The gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 6 PM.


Online Press Kit for Tree Spirits

Media Release

Gazette 7/5/13
Curatorial Statement:

Tree Spirits, taking its cue from the metaphorical “Tree of Life,” positions a common landscape element in the realm of mythology and nature.  Inspired by trees in their most elemental form, this exhibition presents trees from multiple perspectives, allowing us to experience them from the inside and out.  

Working with a variety of wood, often obtained from local trees that have to be cut down, Phil Brown seeks to reveal the hidden beauty of his material. He scoops mystical vortexes and polishes his forms, some balanced on narrow necks or swollen with potential.  To enhance the wood's colors, patterns, and textures, Brown frequently uses spalting, a technique that supports the growth of fungi to create sinuous lines and swirling shapes. 

In contrast to this empirical presentation on the nature of trees, Barbara Kerne’s emotive colorful woodcuts with pulp painting suggest Tibetan mountain fantasies.  Showing tree roots, trunks, and branches, her trees take on an anthropomorphic quality in the shallow space of imaginary scenes. Harriet Lesser puts us right up against the lush foliage of tropical trees, painted from a Havana hotel balcony.   The patterned architectural elements circumscribe unruly nature, providing a safe place to experience the density within arm’s reach. The textured surfaces heighten the tactile quality of the image.

Robert O’Brien
zooms out, painting impressionistic landscapes where trees provide contrast with the man-made incursions of barns and railroad tracks.  Yolanda Frederikse incorporates trees in her landscapes of light and shadow.  Her watercolors and prints record nature’s brilliance, but also its destructive power. Ellen Winkler takes us full circle, showing us the idiosyncrasies of individual trees and slowing us down to observe the intricacies of seed pods, the source of new life.

Michele Cohen, PhD

Learn More About the Artists 

Phil Brown  

Phil Brown is known for elegant open form vessels, turned thin with fine finishes. As a child he enjoyed making objects with wood, and in high school he made furniture for the family. In 1975, he purchased a lathe and began to teach himself wood turning with the help of a book. Brown was exhibiting and selling his work by 1980. His knowledge and skills have been enhanced through workshops organized by Albert LeCoff, annual symposiums of the American Association of Woodturners (AAW), and demonstrations at Capitol Area Woodturners (CAW), and Montgomery County Woodturners (MCW).  He was an early member of AAW, a founding member of CAW, the founding president of MCW, and he continues to be active in these organizations as well as in the James Renwick Alliance and Collectors of Wood Art.

Brown primarily harvests wood from local trees that are being cut down, and often allows the wood to spalt  (wood coloration caused by fungi) to enhance its natural patterns. He is inspired by the work of pioneer wood turner Bob Stocksdale, and by such modern sculptors as Isamu Noguchi, Contantin Brancusi, Barbara Hepworth, and Wharton Esherick. Brown exhibits his work in juried and invitational shows and on the internet. His vessels are in six museum collections, including the Renwick Gallery, and many private collections of turned wood.

Yolanda Frederikse 

Frederikse works in the media of screenprints, monotypes, watercolor on paper, and with oils on canvas. She focuses on the light that colors and gives form to landscape. She begins on site by translating multi-sensory happenings into the exploratory drawings and color studies for studio printmaking and paintings. Her paintings depict places that are mainly local but also far and wide. The images are from both past travels and present experiences.

Yolanda Frederikse received her B.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston; a B.F.A. in Art Education from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana; and a M.F.A. from The American University, Washington, DC. She has taught on the college level for 22 years and her work is included in many collections, including those of the Corcoran Gallery, National Institute of Health, University of Maryland, and the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, among others.

Barbara Kerne

Born in New York, Barbara Kerne received her B.A. from  Brooklyn  College,  and her M.F.A. from the University of Maryland in College Park. She is Professor Emerita after 28 years in the Art Department of Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, where she coordinated the printmaking program and taught printmaking, drawing and painting. Her work has been shown in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America as well as throughout the United States. One person exhibitions in the Washington,DC area include Jane Haslem Gallery, Franz Bader Gallery, and Addison Ripley Fine Art. She is represented in many public and private collections including the Library of Congress, Portland Art Museum, US Department of State, Academy of Arts, Easton Maryland, Corcoran Gallery, and Montgomery County Contemporary Art Collection.

Awards include the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in the Visual Arts, and fellowships at Centrum Franz Masereel in Kasterlee Belgium and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Amherst Virginia.

Harriet Lesser

Harriet Lesser was born in New York City where she earned her Fine Arts and Arts Administration at Bank Street College of Education and Parsons School of Art and Design. She has served as Director of Exhibitions and Programming at VisArts in Rockville and is currently the curator at Strathmore Mansion, in Rockville. She has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions and in juried group shows in the Washington, D.C. area.  

Lesser started out as a poet. Eventually the images behind words and phrases became more important than the words themselves and became her primary focus. For a confusing couple of years she painted over poems and wrote over paintings. A painter and printmaker, most recently she had been exploring new media, combining elements of painting, drawing, Polaroid transfer process and monoprinting.

Robert O’Brien

Robert E. O’Brien is a painter/mathematician, who specializes in landscapes and portraits.   Born in Illinois, he attended U. of Illinois in Urbana, majoring in astronomy and mathematics, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Mathematics from George Washington University. In 2002 he completed his Certificate in Painting at the Washington Studio School. Coupled with his time in the studio, O’Brien currently teaches mathematics at Catholic University. Most recently, he had a solo show at Black Rock Performing Arts Center. 

O’Brien draws from life weekly, and continues to look to the Old Masters and twentieth-century abstractionists like Guston, DeKooning and Pollock for inspiration.

Ellen Winkler

Ellen Winkler is a print maker, painter and graphic designer. She studied art during her undergraduate years at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. That educational experience afforded her the opportunity to live and work in New York City as a participant in the Great Lakes Colleges Association “Semester in New York”. She worked as an apprentice to the artist, Willard Midgette.

She came to the Washington area in 1977 to pursue a graduate degree at George Washington University, where she focused on Graphic Design. She is currently Art Director of The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Opinion and Arts weekly magazine, The Chronicle Review. 

Though she has been deeply influenced by the artist Jack Boul, and has spent much time exploring monotypes as a means of responding to the landscape, she has recently been exploring, drypoint, copper engraving and etching. Her etchings particularly reflect recent drawings which are explorations of seen and unseen places.



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