Art Review:

The Estreya Gallery: A Must See

by Louise Sheldon
Here's a "must-see" for Baltimore art lovers. A new venue has appeared in Hampden that is unlike any other in the city. The Estreya Gallery, tucked in among an eclectic assortment of shops, is a slice of New York verve and chic.

Director Mary Byrne Green, whose first name is actually Estreya, recently abandoned Manhattan to make Baltimore the center of her life and business. The tall and willowy Ms. Green brings with her a sure instinct for fine art and a stylish flair for decor evident in her handsome, Minimalist gallery. Prospective visitors who roam the area on foot will be happy to know that, unlike most galleries, it is equipped with a comfortable leather set of sofa and chairs.

Estreya's first exhibit for the Baltimore public is a one-man show of mostly oil paintings by Joe Giordano, another recent New York resident, who is originally from Baltimore. The show includes what the artist calls "botanicals," figure studies, sepia drawings and one splendid still life.

"Large Classic Still Life I" is a composition of curved shapes and colors that includes a variety of pots and a silver teapot, brought boldly upfront and slightly raised to confront the viewer squarely. A swirling pattern of reflections and sun spots in the background creates a softening vibrancy that contrasts sharply with the solidity of the objects. This still life is no nature morte, for it radiates light and life.

Giordano's figure paintings are of young women caught in revealing moments of adolescent uncertainty. Like the figures of French painter Balthus, their stiff little bodies and their out-thrust elbows are highly expressive--both poetic and distinctly erotic. They seem to be resisting outside pressures, pushing against the need to conform, seeking experience. A 16-year-old girl in a rumpled slip pensively smokes a cigarette, her rueful eyes brimming with disillusion. The profile of a young cellist is struck by light; her rapt expression reveals the intensity with which she exposes herself to the music.

It is logical that Joe Giordano would comprehend the teen-age psyche. He is Chairman as well as an art teacher at Towson's magnet high school known as the Carver Center for Arts and Technology, which is attracting gifted students from around the region like bees to honey.

The artist claims that after traveling extensively to find suitable landscape material (i.e., Maine), he returned happily to his own backyard in Baltimore ("a third of an acre or so") where a clump of black-eyed susans or a combination of high grasses offers a gratifying setting. His "botanicals" are at once intimate and highly charged. As in the large still life, swirling patterns of light bring definition to small scenes of varying greens enlivened with one black-eyed susan or a watering can.

Part of the charm of these paintings is their ready accessibility due perhaps to repeating staccato slashes of greens and dappling sun spots: "the botanicals go very quickly once I get the rhythm going," says Joe Giordano.

This show will be on view through May 11, but meanwhile, keep your eye on the Estreya Gallery and its lively openings at 827-29 West 36th Street. Gallery hours are Thurs. thru Sat. from noon through 4 p.m. and by appointment (Tel: 410-889-1226)

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This story was published on May 2, 2002.