- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2002

Fred Folsom points to "Morgan Ford," a mesmerizing riverscape that shows a favorite spot in the Shenandoah River. The Silver Spring artist is leading a home tour of the recent landscapes he is now showing at the Strathmore Hall Arts Center.
Mr. Folsom, 57, chuckles as he explains the genesis of the painting. "I was focused on getting it ready for the final platinum sunset glazes and didn't realize the river was rising. Steve Ausmus, a photojournalist, came along and shot me with the painting, squooshing around in my soggy sneaks. A couple of months later, I decided to take about six inches off the bottom."
"Morgan Ford," a bucolic scene of water, bushes, trees and sunset, stretches from left to right. The artist invites the viewer to wade into the river and walk along the riverbank. Mr. Folsom picks out every leaf on the trees and minute currents in the water.
It's a religious experience for its creator, who licked alcoholism 25 years ago. "I see God in the landscape," he says.
Mr. Folsom trained himself by examining paintings in the National Gallery of Art, where he picked up the difficult and complex technique of glazing transparent layers of oil pigments over one another. No local artist can compete with the him in the beauty and luminosity he achieves with glazing, a process perfected by Johannes Vermeer and many 17th-century Dutch masters.
"I paint outside but do the glazing in the studio. In 'Morgan Ford' and 'Mount St. Mary's Sunburst,' I painted harsh greens under the pinks for the sunsets because I knew there would be a lot of glazes. There were four or five layers, and they took a long time to dry. It's a tense process because so much depends on the level of the humidity. I can only give it my best shot," he says.
No tension surfaces in these serene and spiritual landscapes painted in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley in the Appalachian Mountains. Mr. Folsom soaks many of the paintings with glorious sunsets that are never the same.
Mr. Folsom painted what he calls "a mackerel sky" over a faraway town in "Midday." He gave the sunset in "Morgan Ford" a shimmering grayish cast. The sun struggles through clouds as it sets in "The Cliff (Late for Supper)." Sunsets are the most thrilling and challenging thing to do, the painter says.
For his first show, he concentrated on exhibiting his more controversial, large-scale canvases of go-go dancers at the Shepherd Park Club. (Several are on view at the Arts Club of Washington through Sept. 28.)
The landscapes go back to experiences that are earlier and deeper: growing up at his parents' home in the Shenandoah Valley. He began painting his "Edna Flying" series of a woman with Michelangeloesque proportions flying through the landscape about six years ago.
"She got me back to landscape and seeing God in the farmlands and rivers," the artist says.

WHAT: "Fred Folsom: Landscapes"
WHERE: Strathmore Hall Arts Center, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda
Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., evening hours Wednesday until 9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., through Nov. 2

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