The gallery's final 'That's a Wrap' exhibit closes on Jan. 21. —Courtesy of Crystal Moll Gallery
In 1988, still new to Baltimore from Philadelphia, urban landscape artist Crystal Moll worked from a studio at School 33 Arts Center on Light Street in Riverside. Eventually, a quest to paint what poured in through her window at the gallery led Moll onto the nearby streets with art supplies.
“I never went back to a studio,” says Moll, who found her footing as a plein air painter in South Baltimore. Infatuated with the multicolored home exteriors—which gave way to a range of early still life works—Moll never strayed too far from the historic neighborhood that helped her come into her artistry. So it was only fitting that, in 2009, she launched her own gallery on South Charles Street in Federal Hill.
Since opening, the gallery—well-known for its local showcases and annual plein air painting exhibit held each summer—has stood strong as an area arts fixture, hosting lauded landscape artists like Bennett Vadnais, Lynn Metha, and Tim Kelly. But next month, after thirteen years in Federal Hill, Moll is moving on.
On Saturday, January 21, following a final group showcase appropriately titled That’s a Wrap, Moll’s small-but-mighty arts venue will close its doors and move across the harbor to 248 S. Conkling St. Moll hopes to have moved into the new space, adjacent to Highlandtown Gallery, before the Highlandtown First Friday Art Walk—hosted by the Highlandtown Arts District—on Friday, February 3.
Fittingly, the final Federal Hill exhibition will function as an homage to the venue’s tenure in the area, featuring regular exhibitors such as Beth Bathe and Vlad Duchev: “It’s a really beautiful show,” Moll says. “It has a few plein air pieces, but also a lot of studio work.”
Though bittersweet, Moll says that she’s looking forward to a fresh start. When addressing the reasons behind the move, she notes her current area’s food-and-beverage focus: “Federal Hill has so much to offer, but it is very much an entertainment, bar, and restaurant neighborhood,” Moll says. “We don’t bring in a lot of people who are here to look at galleries. Relocating somewhere where people are making it a destination to go look at artwork will be wonderful.”
In its new home at Highlandtown Gallery, Moll will be working with a smaller space, but it will allow her extra time to focus on her first love: plein air artwork. She also likes boating, and wants to spend more time on the water with her husband, Bob.
“I started painting on the streets when I was 25,” says Moll, 60. “At this point, I want to have a little bit of a life.”
With her gallery’s big move on the horizon—plus one more show to wrap—Moll finds herself understandably preoccupied, yet hopeful as her gallery readies to put down new roots.
“I’m kind of over the the weeping and being upset, except for when I run into people who are like ‘I can’t believe you’re leaving,'” she shares, “but I’m very forward-focused.”
Crystal Moll Gallery
“That’s a Wrap”
Award-winning Baltimore artist is hosting one final exhibition at her Federal Hill Gallery before embracing a new chapter which includes a new gallery in Highlandtown, one of Baltimore’s Arts District.
BALTIMORE (Dec. 16, 2022) — Crystal Moll Gallery in Federal Hill is hosting its final exhibition ‘That’s a Wrap”. This group show includes the works of 9 artists. Throughout the past 13 years, the gallery has showcased hundreds of artists’ works. Crystal’s Baltimore’s plein air works are included in this exhibition. This gallery will be closing its doors on Jan. 21, 2023.
Starting February, fans of Crystal Moll can find her work on display and for sale at a new location @ 248 South Conklin Street. This places her in Highlandtown’s Art District which hosts ‘First Friday Art Walks’. Crystal will be open for the first art walk of 2023 on February 4th. Much of the focus of the gallery will be on Crystal’s work who will continue to paint the neighborhoods of Baltimore and the landscapes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She will continue to accept commissioned work.
The current exhibition titled “That’s a Wrap” will run through January 21st in Federal Hill. In addition to Moll, participating artists are Bennett Vadnais, Beth Bathe, Deborah Kommalan, Carol Lee Thompson, Tim Kelly, Kathy Daywalt, Vlad Duch and Stephanie Marzella.
“Crystal Moll Gallery has brought artists and collectors together for more than 13 years, and I treasure what it has meant to the art community that has embraced it since its inception,” said Moll, voted Baltimore’s top artist in a recent Baltimore Magazine readers’ poll. “This gallery will always hold a special place in my heart.”
The exhibition and gallery will close on Jan. 21st., with a farewell reception from 3-5 p.m. Everyone, who has supported Crystal Moll Gallery since it opened in Dec. 2009, is invited to visit over the next month and attend the closing reception at Baltimore’s most charming art venue, located at 1030 S. Charles St., in Federal Hill.
Moll, who has used Baltimore as most of her paintings subjects for over 35 years, initially opened the gallery when a shop on South Charles Street closed and she was asked by the landlord to hang a few of her paintings so the unoccupied space did not look empty over the holidays. From there, Crystal Moll Gallery, voted among the best in Baltimore in 8 readers’ polls from Baltimore Magazine, was born.
“We (Day Watts the Gallery Manager and I) are so grateful for the longtime support from patrons, artists and collectors, including all of those who have come through our doors and trusted us to frame their favorite artwork,” Moll said. “It’s been such a team effort to curate all the shows that we’ve enjoyed sharing with the community. I look forward to welcoming everyone for this final show that includes nine cherished painters.” We are and will continue to offer custom framing.
Crystal Moll wins Grand Prize in Plein Air painting competition
Baltimore artist Crystal Moll won the grand prize on Sunday in the 2022 Mount Vernon Place Plein Air Art Show for her painting, “Marquis de Lafayette Rides in Mount Vernon.”
The exhibit featured entries from 33 members of the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association, all painted in and around Mount Vernon Place in 2022.
Lance Humphries and Robert Quilter were judges for the event, held at the Garrett Jacobs Mansion and hosted by the Garrett Jacobs Mansion Endowment Fund; The Engineers Club; Mount Vernon Place Conservancy and Baltimore Heritage.
Fifteen awards were given out for categories ranging from architecture and historic preservation to paintings of the Flower Mart, the Mount Vernon Club and the Washington Monument. Michael Kotarba won this year’s Audience Choice Award.
“When I first found a space for my gallery over 10 years ago, I offered to pay the landlord a percentage of sales instead of paying rent. That’s how I got into the gallery business.
I started this gallery without a plan. No plan, just a lot of ideas — and I wanted to see them all through. A couple of years ago, I started feeling like I was working way too hard. I was painting less and less. I felt like a little hamster on a wheel, and it just kept going and going."
"It was just too much work. So, we decided to slow down the amount of shows that we were doing, so we’re not killing ourselves anymore or feeling like we’re behind the eight ball, and the resentment that comes with that.
It's one thing to think about writing, painting, or acting, but it's another to actually then dedicate all your time to it, especially when starting from nothing. We still work too hard for the financial gain that we get, but it’s more controlled now.
My husband and I have been sailors forever, but since I opened the gallery we hadn’t used the boat much. Now, in the last year and a half, we have been finding time to play.
I’m really glad to be back on the water, and I’m glad that we are starting to figure out how to have more of our individual lives. That’s been a great lesson."
PLEIN AIR MAGAZINE 2017
MARYLAND PUBLIC TELEVISION 2017
Yolanda Vazquez interviewed me for MPT's Spotlight on Business/ Behind the BIZ!.
Crystal Moll painted a 50”-x-10” painting chock full of architectural lines, and won a top prize for it. It was a challenge, but probably not for the reasons most artists would think.
“I do so much architecture that the drawing wasn’t really that hard for me,” Moll says, swatting away issues of perspective, scale, and general mahl stick madness. “The hard part was getting my easel to take that shape.” Moll uses a Beauport easel, and while it is up to the task of handling a big painting, it is not ideal for paintings that are very vertical and only 10 inches wide. “It really doesn’t allow a tall, skinny piece, so I had to rig something between the bottom pegs to hold it.”
Moll is a devout plein air painter — she’s been doing it for more than 25 years, longer than the phrase “plein air” has been kicked around so commonly. But she is not an alla prima painter. Moll likes to return to a location multiple times to finish a piece. “I am a slow plein air painter,” she says. “Early on, I got into Plein Air Easton, and it was a baptism by fire. I find it hard and stressful to work fast and capture a moment in time. I love spending day after day on a painting. I’ll work on several paintings at a time, and move around as the sun does.”
“Look Down, Look Up,” by Crystal Moll, 2016, 50 x 10 in. First Place in MAPAPA’s Cityscape exhibition
Moll doesn’t entirely know why that severely vertical piece, “Look Down, Look Up,” won First Place at the Cityscape exhibition hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association at the Peale Museum in Baltimore. The judge, Louis Escobedo, simply said, “Crystal’s painting was the best due to her composition, design, and use of light.” Moll speculates that her unusual format may have helped her piece stand out from the crowd, but she also has noted that her approach to plein air painting differentiates her work as well. “My paintings may not have that ‘plein air look’ that makes for a winning piece in plein air events,” says Moll. “There is a looseness and painterly quality in a piece done in two or three hours. But my pieces therefore tend to stand out in plein air events; it’s a piece that has been worked on a lot more.”
Moll says she’s had painters tell her she doesn’t need to include so many details in her paintings of buildings. She’ll reply, “But that’s what I love!”
“South Baltimore,” by Crystal Moll, 2016, oil, 12 x 12 in.
Back to her painting adventure with “Look Down, Look Up.” The easel problem was solved. But there was another one on the way. “I had planned to get up on a roof and do a horizontal piece,” Moll says. “I had that long canvas leaning up against the wall in a vertical position, and when I looked at it, I thought it would be very interesting to paint it that way. I went into a parking garage and looked for a view, and that’s what I found.”
Moll’s process requires her to revisit the location several times to complete the painting. The first couple of painting sessions went smoothly. But when she went back to her spot, which was the seventh level of a parking garage looking up St. Paul Street, she ran into an obstacle. “When I went back to start laying color in at the top of the painting, security said I couldn’t be up there painting,” she reports. “Liability issue. I talked with two women with security, and they said they had to talk to their boss, and then here comes the main security guy and two police officers, and they asked me to leave. They said I couldn’t be up there working. After two days of messing with insurance companies, I convinced the building owner that I was covered by insurance through my gallery, and they allowed me up there for five more days. After that, everything was fine. Security even came and watched me paint. And they asked me to do a show in the lobby of their building!”
The Peale Museum in Baltimore, where the Cityscape exhibition was hung
Did Moll have a feeling that this painting was special, that it was an award winner? “Well, the structure of that piece, even in the underpainting, seemed kind of cool,” she says. “The bones of it seemed very strong. I laid it in with burnt sienna, and I had a hard time going back and painting color over it. Some pieces flow a lot, and this is one that really flowed, even over the several days that I went back.”
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Crystal Moll Gallery / 248 South Conkling Street Gallery C. Baltimore Maryland 21224
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