”Hold Fast to Dreams,” by Loriann Signori. (Loriann Signori/Courtesy of Gallery B)

In some of the landscapes in “A Quiet Suspension of Time,” Loriann Signori depicts specific places, occasionally even dramatic ones. She is a plein air painter, after all. But this Gallery B show reveals that the local artist is walking away from the specific and toward the transcendental. The loveliest pictures have an otherworldly glow.

Signori calls herself “a painter of luminosity,” which puts her in the lineage of J.M.W. Turner, the 19th-century British prodigy who moved from realism to a sort of impressionism. Where Turner gave oils the spontaneity of watercolors, Signori’s other medium is pastel. Indeed, most of the works in this selection are pastels, often rendered in a narrow chromatic range in the quest for what the artist calls “color vibration.” Narrow distinctions between pinks, reds and oranges yield an enchanted haze.

Remarkably, the artist has managed to transfer this method to oil. Such serene yet vivid paintings as “Diva in Violet and Red” approach the softness, brightness and grainy complexity of pastels. While Signori hasn’t entirely abandoned trees, hills and sky, her newer work is increasingly, and beguilingly, unnaturalistic.

(Signori will be at work in the gallery throughout the show, and will offer a free pastel class to the first 15 adults at 2 p.m. April 25.)

Loriann Signori: A Quiet Suspension of Time On view through April 25 at Gallery B,
7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, Bethesda. 301-215-7990. www.bethesda.org/bethesda/gallery-b.

Owen Minott, “Girl with a Poppy,” c. 1988, on view at the University of Maryland's Art Gallery. (Owen Minott/Courtesy The Art Gallery)
Streams of Being

The University of Maryland Art Gallery’s “Streams of Being,” a show of 45 artists from 16 countries, is so sweeping that it’s divided into four sometime overlapping subsections: “Bestiary,” “Topologies,” “Cosmos” and “Bodies in Exile.” The works, all from the Art Museum of the Americas, include painting, prints, collage and photography. There are no conceptual surprises, just extraordinary detail, variety and craft.

Cutting across categories are reminders of the Latin American and Caribbean region’s ethnic and cultural diversity. A pair of large and elegant abstractions, hugely dark but with richly multihued depths, are by Tomie Ohtake, a Japan-born Brazilian artist. (She died in February at age 101.) Two photographs, Owen Minott’s “Girl With a Poppy” and Mariano Hernandez’s “[Esperando] de Carnaval,” contrast lustrous dark skin with glints of red.

Some of the most striking pieces have a scientific or taxonomic outlook. In an Angela Bonadies’s photograph, a young man is enveloped by bird parts and models, many of them airborne. Ruth Bess’s eight-panel embossed etching considers the gestation of the tapir, while Catalina Chervin’s intricate drawings suggest fibers, cells and neurons. But perhaps man is still the measure of all things: Octavio Blasi’s “Figura Cartografica” turns a representation of Latin American topography into a single person whose protruding nose upstages the Andes.

Streams of Being: Selections From the Art Museum of the Americas On view through April 25 at the Art Gallery, 1202 Art-Sociology Building, University of Maryland, College Park.
301-405-1474. www.artgallery.umd.edu.

Beyond Layers & Deardourff

The strata can be actual or simulated in “Beyond Layers,” a six-artist show at Hillyer Art Space. Marie Ringwald erects wall-mounted, house-inspired sculptures of wood and metal, while Ruth Pettus’s found-object assemblages always include a shoe or two. Anna Fine Foer and Sylvie van Helden combine collage with drawing and painting in complex compositions.

Stephen Estrada, “Half Moon Bay II,” oil on canvas; on view at BlackRock Center for the Arts. (Stephen Estrada/Courtesy BlackRock Center for the Arts)

The most striking pieces, by Judith Pratt and Leda Black, take such techniques even further. Pratt’s “Axis” comes partway off the wall, its curled ribbons of aluminum and paper suggesting a Frank Gehry structure in the process either of construction or deconstruction. Black uses digital imaging to combine natural and man-made forms — nests, plants, circular skylights — all organized in round or elliptical patterns. Whether they’re glimpses of worlds too vast or too tiny for human apprehension, these “Celestial Bodies” fascinate.

J.D. Deardourff’s “Doritos Locos Tacos,” also at Hillyer, is based on vintage comic books, but he emulates their style rather than their content. The D.C. artist eliminates figures while emphasizing backdrops and the graphic shorthand for flames, explosions and beams of light or power. Now he has made small collages of cut-up superhero tales originally in color but reprinted in black-and-white, reanimating them with colored pencils. (Liquid pigments would overwhelm the pulpy paper.)

Also featured are four large cityscapes, urban quilts of off-kilter lines and grids, printed on ceramic panels. Each has a different color backdrop but is primarily black, suggesting silent-film montages and the style of “The Spirit” artist Will Eisner. This neo-expressionist series offers a promising new angle for Deardourff’s investigation of the comics universe.

Beyond Layers and J.D. Deardourff: Doritos Locos Tacos On view through April 25 at Hillyer Arts Space, 9 Hillyer Ct. NW.
202-338-0680. www.hillyerartspace.org.

Stephen Estrada

From the safety of shore, a turbulent ocean can be both stirring and calming. In his BlackRock Center for the Arts exhibition “Sea Paintings,” realist oil painter Stephen Estrada almost always takes that perspective; he reassuringly includes a bit of beach at the foot of his sometimes vast seascapes. One picture, “Distant Headland,” does observe from a mid-water vantage, but its swells are calm. Stormiest is the six-foot-high “Green Wall,” whose surf roars at the viewer under a fierce purple-gray sky.

The Silver Spring artist renders water, light and motion with precision and assurance. He takes a slightly looser approach in his smaller works, some no bigger than an LP jacket. These are painted less thickly, allowing the canvas’ texture to show. Whatever the scale or the technique, though, Estrada evokes the experience of a nearby ocean’s power.

Stephen Estrada: Sea Paintings On view through April 25 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown.
301-528-2260. www.blackrockcenter.org/galleries.

The Painted Word

Words and pictures convene in sundry ways in “The Painted Word,” a Foundry Gallery group exhibition that pairs nearly 40 local artists and poets. Sometimes the artwork preceded the verse, and other times the poem came first. In the case of Kenneth W. Minton and Joel E. Minton’s print, a one-sentence lyric is part of the picture. Donna McGee’s “Hush,” a textured abstract in acrylic and pumice, seems to address language with glyph-gestures inscribed in the pigment. Text and image dovetail particularly well in three collaborations of polymer-clay artist Fran Abrams and writer Merrill Leffler; the typography echoes the design of the clay panels, achieving a visual as well as thematic bond.

(The gallery will host a reading by some of the poets April 25 at 2 p.m.)

The Painted Word On view through April 26 at Foundry Gallery, 1314 18th St. NW. 202-463-0203. www.foundrygallery.org.

Jenkins is a freelance writer.