The Morning Herald - March 2, 1989

Pictures for a Sunday afternoon

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown City Park will open three new exhibitions on Sunday, March 5, at a public reception from 3 to 5 pm. The exhibits will remain on view throughout the month. Paintings by local artist Joanne Roulette Happ, works by the late, New York artist Max Coyer, and a show of wooden tea caddies will go on view.

Floral Art
Artist Max Coyer (1954-1988) ran the gamut of subject matter and styles in his work; pencil drawings of objects of daily life, totally abstract paintings, synthetic art, photography, self-portraits and religious art. It was from religious art that his series of floral paintings on view in the museum show emerged. While creating an altarpiece about death and transfiguration for St Peter’s Church in New York City, Coyer added floral panels on either side of the central section or the work, in keeping with their history as traditional offerings to the dead and the metaphor for death, as in 17th century Dutch painting. The flowers or the altarpiece led into Coyer’s paintings based upon still lifes of flowers. Coyer had explored other genres; this is a dangerous subject for a contemporary artist to handle, for it opens him to charges of inconsequentiality and pandering lo popular taste. But Coyer’s floral works are art about art, and the subjects for his paintings are not flowers painted from life. Instead, the artist drew on models from t7th century Dutch painters to the American Impressionist Frank W. Benson. He took vases and other vessels from those paintings; the flowers usually from photographs of flowers. The works are beautiful, but not in conventional fashion. Coyer, scraped away, overpainted and otherwise altered his first strokes. Many or the works have the floral container set atop a round table, whose panels set on a different angle than the container’s perspective, In other paintings, the flowers are juxtaposed with Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture, particularly “Falling Water,” his masterpiece In Western Pennsylvania, In his last seven years, Coyer, created an impressive body of work. Ambitious and prolific, he succeeded in creating works which are both beautiful and intellectual. His Images, no matter how sensually presented, are always informed with the weight of art history. He mined the past lavishly, but he was not a mere copyist.