Joan Erbe

Joan Erbe

Art is, in some ways, always a reckoning with death—an attempt to ward it off, to live beyond it, to forget about it, or to laugh at it. It can be simultaneously disarming and comforting to see an artist’s work shortly after she has died, especially when, as in the case of beloved Baltimore artist Joan Erbe, who died of complications from a stroke on Aug. 21, both the work and the artist are somehow larger than life. 

Erbe’s work, on view at the Fleckenstein Gallery, remains vital and vivid, as if oddball photographer Diane Arbus had developed a tremendous sense of compassion and a Fauvist sense of color. ‘Red Hat,’ from the 1970s,...