Surrounded by little theaters, DC-based artist J.Ford Huffman stands in his dining room and excitedly tells the narrative of each box, two dozen of which will be a part of his upcoming solo exhibition at Politics and Prose, Little Theaters, opening February 28 with a public reception on Saturday, March 2.
“This is called ‘Map Room.’ It’s from a series involving impressions of the White House,” Huffman explained, pointing to a re-purposed wine box. Inside the box, an upside-down grandfather clock and monstrous fragments of a Greek temple set the stage for an unknown scene. Amid gaudy pink accents, an imposing street map of Washington DC hangs on the back wall, as if in a wartime conference room.
Many things hang on the walls of Huffman’s miniature worlds, each created with the intention to evoke the viewer to complete the story’s sentence.
Cook Books stars a tiny bronze man, reaching up to stir a disproportionately large holiday pot holding what else, but, a book. A picture-less picture frame extends beyond the wall and seemingly life-size primary color bricks are stacked upon one another, scattered around the curious kitchen. Peering into the miniature stage, one is instantly reminded of Alice in Wonderland.
“It’s playful at first glance,” said Huffman who explained his interest creating a challenge for the viewer to contemplate “why.”
In Upper-case ‘BOOK’ Case, one of the capital “O” in the big yellow “B-O-O-K,” has fallen from the top shelf and lays defeated, knocked over, resting on its side.
“Did the ‘O’ fall because it just toppled over or did something more ominous happen here?” Huffman implored.
Cook Books and Upper-case “BOOK” Case are not the only theaters with a book theme.
“I love challenges so I wanted to see what I could come up with working around the venue. So for this one, books because Politics and Prose is a book store,” Huffman said.
Permabooks lines up gorgeously colored African wood samples along a bookshelf supported by makeshift legs, and is paired next to a vintage Barclay doll for scale and a barely translucent paper bush for depth. Table of Contents stacks a series of books, each one’s aesthetic beautifully flowing into the other to create a composed composition, all tied together with a red background, red 1887 marbleized paper floor, and red accents such as the miniature figurine’s apple. In contrast to the witty word play works, Content Context takes on a more modern feel, its white letters naturally spliced in half by a wood shelf in the top half. On the bottom, a white plastic figure gazes into an image from an 1879 edition of “Recreation in Astronomy.” The work is successful in making the viewer think, as the box’s beholder gazes into the set the same way the miniature man looks out into a distant land.
“When I give lectures on journalism, or writing or editing, I always emphasize context versus content,” Huffman said about the inspiration for Content Context.
Not all theaters in the show, priced at $300 and above, are book-related.Volts per cell is an interactive theater that requires the viewer to flip through anatomy profiles of the human head. Sisters pairs the 1889 painting of The Abbess of Jouarre with a plaster statue of Saint Theresa Little Flower of Jesus. Huffman includes a carefully placed mirror in the corner of the box so that one can clearly see the two nuns are looking at one another. The viewer wonders if they are looking at each other in admiration or contempt.
Huffman’s typically playful, sometimes provocative, and always clever little theaters, take the viewer on a delightful journey into a tiny, magical word beyond his own.
Little Theaters is on display at Politics and Prose from February 28 until April 4. An opening reception will take place on Saturday, March 2 from 7- 9 PM.
Politics and Prose is located at 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 and is open Monday through Saturday from 9 AM- 10 PM and Sunday from 10 AM- 8 PM
Through the Window of Steven Cushner's Creative Process
On January 9th, to kick off the new year, I attended the Hemphill press breakfast to do a write up on their latest show for our affiliate post on Borderstan. It only took minutes to realize that Steven Cushner’s show was one of, if not, the best show I had ever seen in a gallery in Washington, DC. In case you have not had the chance to see it yet, his work in this show includes large, symmetrical, over powering and familiar works on oddly shaped canvases. It was only a week ago that the work of Steven Cushner’s genius started to come together. Visiting Steven in his home studio, I was able to really understand his creative process and get a sneak peak at what he is currently working.
After seeing the show at Hemphill, it surprised me that one of the first things that Cushner told me was that his relationship with color goes back as far as he can remember and at times can get out of control. His studio is surely full of it, different from the muted tones of his current show. Every space on his wall is covered with his latest pieces and watercolor “sketches” of the images he hopes to put on canvas. Color, color and more color! With the overwhelming color in his studio, I immediately wanted to know what led to his, almost entirely, black and white work currently at Hemphill. This work came from an overload of color in the early 90s that Cushner says included work with awful, crazy colors.
Cushner’s work is very physical and gestural but he considers it “fake gesture”. He tried to explain that the “fake” part comes in the editing stages of his work. He explained that each of his works consists of many layers and most works may have even started out a completely different, color, size or shape. He often has trouble figuring out which colors to use and where to take them, even if that means eliminating them all together.
My favorite work currently in Cushner’s studio, is hardly a work in progress. In fact, if it doesn’t find a home, I hope to own it one day! It is a work that he hopes will evoke the idea of infinity and a forever journey. His inspiration was very clearly mountains and like the work currently at Hemphill, Cushner very deliberately worked on creating a drastic sense of space with illusion. While the colors were more muted that he thought the final product would be, it was captivating, calming and gave the feeling of seeing a gorgeous sunset. Like the work at Hemphill the works size in itself is truly remarkable and powerful.
Working with smaller canvases is more difficult for Cushner. In our discussion of his technique, he expressed several times that he was more comfortable with large canvases and that they just feel right. Clearly, the large-scale works translate in a truly unique and powerful way, whether in color or, as currently seen at Hemphill, in black and white.
I was honored to have had the chance to look through a small window of Steven Cushner’s creative through process. His show at Hemphill will be through March 9, 2013 and is worth everything minute spent sharing the space with his works of shaped canvases.
“I’ve been combing hair since I was a child,” said Clark who has been working with hair as a medium in both hairdressing and fine art for over twenty years.
One of Clark’s more recent works, Pigtails, is evocative of youth. Resting on a wall-mounted shelf, a young girl’s stiff braided pigtails are woven from tactile black thread. Though the work suggests innocence, a hairstyle removed from the human head challenges the viewer to consider the means in which a young woman’s hair was taken. When hair is so deeply attached to one’s personal identity, a hairstyle without an owner begins to lose its character, lose its playfulness, becomes limp and empty. The effect is intensified looking down at the work, implicating the viewer as responsible for subjugating the hair and its human counterpart.
“Hair is basically a piece of someone’s body. It’s a very intimate experience of selling a piece of someone’s body to someone else,” said Lauren Gentile, Contemporary Wing founder and director.
The emotions surrounding the oldest work in the show, dating from 2003, complements with the power elicited from the suggestion of stolen youth in Pigtails. Long Hair confronts the viewer with age. A brilliant digital print of a dread is so rich with depth and texture, the viewer cannot help but yearn to reach out, to touch the hair fibers clearly pulsing with life. Astonishment and disappointment converge when the illusion is realized. 30 feet long, the work represents the length of a dread grown for 30 years.
“At first, I thought it was strange to use someone’s DNA and then sell it, with the history of selling bodies in this country,” said Clark who is inspired in part, by the infinite hairstyles that became available to black women after the Africa Diaspora.
Unbreakable fashions together black fine-toothed combs branded “unbreakable” in a composition that is inherently broken, demanding the viewer to consider the societal and cultural pressures associated with issues of straight hair. Cotton to hair is at once filled with beauty—flowers touched with bronze are forever preserved behind glass—but quickly becomes bewildering when one considers the materials are cotton and African American hair. The ties to slavery are inescapable and uncanny.
Though the subject matter is what compels the viewer to engage in dialogue, to contemplate his own notions of race, class and culture, it is Clark’s superb craftsmanship that makes her work truly standout.
“When you see her work, there is something so elegant and subtle and thoughtful,” said Gentile, “The craftsmanship is always going to be perfect, the concept is always going to be well-thought out.”
To execute Quadroon, Clark revitalized the 1990s art of stitching, by fashioning cornrows into one fourth of a canvas, and from the other three-fourths of the canvas, a heavy mass of thread, stitched together to resemble dense, but straight, hair fibers, is pulled together at the very center of the work. A ponytail extends and falls naturally into the viewer’s immediate space.
Quadroon is exemplary of Clark’s extraordinary ability to deeply engage with her subject while maintaining exceptional hold on her medium and craft. A reference to race classification, Quadroon has roots in an experience traveling through Ghana, where Clark, an African-American, was called “bruni,” the Ghanaian word for a white person. Clark explained that in the context of African culture, because Clark has a white grandparent, she is considered white, whereas in the United States, Clark being three-quarters African American, is considered black.
As Clark said, “I’m the same color in either place but the context is different.”
Albers Study captures this question within an art historical narrative, using Josef Alber’s canonic texts on color theory to take five colors and make them appear as six, by simply juxtaposing the colors in different ways. But Clark does not simply re-contextualize the lessons of Albers. She extends the ideology by taking two different shades of green and making them appear the same.
AHEAD OF HAIR is on display at Contemporary Wing until March 2.
Contemporary Wing is located at 1412 14th St. NW and open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Getting in Touch with Community: CAG 2013 Art Show
On Thursday, February 7th, I ventured out to a gallery. I was having one of those weeks that seems endless, where workdays are long, and the laundry list of to-do’s is miles long. However, by the time I arrived at House of Sweden located on K Street, the crowd of humble and welcoming local Georgetown artists uplifted my week. Within moments of stepping into the gallery space I forgot about my exhaustion; the talent that surrounded me was so beautiful and inspiring.
The Citizens Association of Georgetown (CAG) put on this event. The goal is to get local artists known, one artist pointed out the significance for the Georgetown community to have a show just for artists from the neighborhood. Different medias fused together creating representations not only of individual art, but the collective efforts it takes to form a sense of community. There were over thirty artists, with works blended together amongst fellow neighbors.
The first artists I bumped into were two women, Denise Paolella and Cherry Baumbusch. They were standing together discussing the show while sipping wine with watercolor paintings creating a backdrop behind them. Denise Paolella showed me to her favorite piece, it was a self-portrait using expressionist techniques. She said, “I don’t need it to be an exact replica of an image, but I want the viewer to feel the emotion.” As I gazed into her oil painted face framed in the corner the shades of blue and pink create allowed an insight into her mind.
Cherry Baumbusch focused on landscapes and had particular scenes of our nation’s capitol. Baumbusch had a way with colors creating a place in which the viewer may wish to travel. She formed shadows and highlights in a manor of only a well-practiced artist might. After gazing at her three pieces placed upon the wall, she introduced me to Guy Fairlamb whose works were placed next to hers. They both played with color and scenery mainly using oil paints. The two had a clear bond and friendship, discussing all the shows they had previously had with one another, each complimented the other having a true knowledge and appreciation of the other’s style.
Further wandering throw the room crowded with art and art-lovers I crossed paths with artist Clare Scrimgeour. Conversing with her was such a pleasure, she spoke, with her delightful South African accent, of the art with such joy and ease, it seemed as if we had known each other much longer than the ten short minutes we spent discussing the art before us. She had recently shown at another studio and had pieces from that show placed into this one. Her paintings were abstract, she used oil and acrylics, using what she explained as “controlled drips.” Clare had says that she paints to create a social statement. One particular chaotic blend of texture and color was entitled “Political Agenda.” Although she said it is important to create a statement “the pieces need to be painting in their own right.”
The Final artist I was fortunate enough to talk to was chair of the CAG committee Laura-Anne Tuscornia. She told me of what an amazing way this was for her to stay in touch with the art community. Although she did not get to work in the art world full-time, Laura-Anne started volunteering and landed the chair position within a year. She is a young a talented artist, enthusiastic about the local art scene.
After an hour of wandering through art and meeting wonderful artist, the show began to close, artist made their way home and I followed them, left with a final thought from Laura-Anne Tuscornia “It is really great to see that people are continually learning. This show proves that you can be a life long artist.”
Walter McConnell's Innovative Environments Elicit Primal Emotion
Reverence hits the psyche faster and harder than the cold winter air hits the skin, when walking into Walter McConnell’s Solo Exhibition, New Theories, now on display at Cross MacKenzie Ceramic Arts in Dupont Circle.
An almost overwhelming sense of shock and surprise, contemplation and enrapture, envelop one’s thoughts standing in front of the nearly monumental installation that stands just inside the gallery doors.
An intriguing amalgamation of porcelain and slip cast objects stack upon one another to create a temple-like structure, asserting its presence and demanding the viewer’s attention. Eerie skulls dripping with an umber cast are juxtaposed with solemn Buddhas and sensual female figurines; and expertly executed vases, cups and birdhouses stand together with characters reveling in evocative silent laughter.
It is difficult to step away and view the installation in its whole form, as the individual elements are both haunting and humorous, and call for carefully scrutinized personal attention. However, when one is able to pull away, to enjoy a prolonged gaze, the installation begins to take form as a historical timepiece, as if one had happened upon an antique bounty, eternally preserved in a holy monument.
The true treasure however, is found along the back wall of Cross MacKenzie, where two striking “wet works” compel the viewer to confront seemingly living objects.
A professor of ceramic art at the Alfred School of Art and Design in New York, McConnell is perhaps best known for his brilliant technique of molding raw clay on-site to create delicate human bodies, that when left unfired and encased in a plastic sheath, take on a tangible life cycle.
Condensation builds within the environments, and like their human viewers, the pregnant woman and her affectionate husband grow old, their skin cracks and their features transform. Examining the miniature couple inside their fabricated world, one is compelled to experience an intimate moment with a sorrowful slant, knowing that the private paradise will come to an eventual demise.
New Theories is on display at Cross MacKenzie Ceramic Arts until February 27, 2013. An artist talk and closing reception will take place on February 27, 2013 from 6- 8pm. Cross MacKenzie is located at 2026 R Street NW, Washington DC 20009. Regular visiting hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 12- 6pm.
Getting Intimate: Lisa Marie Thalhammer’s Current Exhibiton at the Fridge
Saturday, February 2nd, Lisa Marie Thalhammer opened at the Fridge. Lisa Marie’s current exhibition is not just a collection of beautiful art, but also a social statement. Her art portrays the quest for equality regardless of sexual or gender identity.
If you have not yet checked out the Fridge, it is a unique gallery and quite worth the trip. Lisa Marie’s art filled the space in an engaging and elegant manner. It encouraged the viewer to walk through and explore each piece. Featured were several larger paintings of women, the backgrounds were beautiful rich with colors and texture. The faces and bodies of each subject were elegantly painted. Lisa Marie used immaculate techniques to create skins tones that enhanced with blues and greens, each subject seemed alive, as if present in the room with the viewer.
As I walked by each painting I was led by graphic prints, small lines colored into one thick line with all the colors of the rainbows. These pieces had the creative title of “Rainbow Network” added with their number in the series. Upon reading this title, I began to think of what a network was, one definition is “the interconnected group.” Lisa Marie has not only created a literal network of lines in this art, but apiece reflecting the bonds of the LGBTQ community.
In the open space of the Fridge gallery, Lisa Marie’s art takes up the space in a welcoming and inspiring manner. As Shauna J Miller, Senior Arts Editor at the Washington Post, eloquently states: “Lisa Marie’s portraits are too hot to freeze anything. They have pulses and heartbeats. Their subjects – with giant eyes, elongated limbs, bared breasts - exaggerate themselves just enough to tell their story to the viewer: These are our bodies, our sexuality, our connectedness at this moment.” To read more on the subject and discover more of Lisa Marie’s work check out her webpage click here, and next time you’re in the neighborhood check out the Fridge located in the rear alley of 8th Street.
Next Thursday, D.C. based scientist and artist; Amy K. Flatten will fill the space of Coldwell Baker’s office space on 17th NW. The show will open with a reception on Thursday February 7, 2013. In a science environment by day, Amy very deliberately breaks away from her scientific training in her artwork. Her work has consistently teetered on the edged of logic and imagination, often letting imagination win.
For over a decade, she has focused on creating abstract works that challenge her creativity and take her away from her daily routine of lines and numbers. Although at first her work seems like a random gathering of colors, lines and shapes, if you dive deeper you can translate them into something of your every day life. Amy’s work seems to bring the viewer to a joyful place where a simple object can take on new, bright colors and form. Amy took some time to sit down with ArtSee and talk about her inspirations, work and career.
ArtSee: What’s the last show that you saw (not yours) that inspired you?
Amy Flatten: While this wasn’t the most recent show I’ve seen, one that really inspired me was an exhibit in 2008, in a small gallery space in Venice, Italy. It was just a few small rooms off of a side street. The exhibit featured the works of the artist Morago, (www.Moarago.net). I was inspired by his use of black, red and white, so much so, that I bought a book of his works and often look through before I begin painting (in any color). Today, even just seeing his pieces on the pages of a book, long after seeing the actual exhibit, seems to put me into a creative frame of mind.
AS: What’s your favorite place to see art?
AF: Small quiet galleries are one favorite—maybe with just a few folks lingering. I like big galleries, but absorbing everything can seem daunting.
AS: Where are you finding ideas for your work?
AF: My artist’s statement mentions that “I draw my ideas from everyday life—those simple things we see throughout the Washington DC area.” That’s really true….and especially when I notice colors of our surroundings. For example, black asphalt roads with yellow taxis and red traffic lights (I have a piece with those colors in this show). Recently, I saw a display in a store window that combined 3 colors in a new way—I took a picture so that I might use them together in a painting sometime in the future.
AS: Do you remember the first piece you ever sold?
AF: I remember first putting a few pieces in a coffee shop…and being flabbergasted that they sold! That gave me more confidence to do things more “formally” and I remember selling my first piece at a more “professional price.” The couple had considered a few paintings of various artists for their dining room and eventually selected mine. They sent me an email later on to tell me they had installed an accent light to highlight it in its space on the wall. I will never forget that couple—and the confidence they gave me from their interest in my art and the careful selection and care of my piece.
AS: What are you looking forward to most about your upcoming show?
AF: That’s a hard question, as I am very excited about the opportunity in general. I think I am most looking forward to learning more about the art scene in DC, and meeting others in the local art community. It has been a good challenge to prepare the number of pieces I am exhibiting, and I look forward to seeing the reactions to the art from people I haven’t yet met.
AS: What do you think has changed in your work since the beginning of your career?
AF: When I first started using acrylic paint, my paintings had a very soft, watery, fluid feeling. While I liked many of those pieces, I worked hard to learn to give my pieces more texture. I now incorporate texture by using different palette knives and then smoothing and softening areas with damp brushes. I like to layer the paint such that hidden objects and lines underneath reveal new findings in an often-viewed piece.
AS: Where do you currently create your work?
AF: I either create my work in classes that I take through the Art League of Alexandria, or in my home. I have a room at home set up with an easel, drop cloth and big table…and I feel comfortable just leaving it a mess while I am in the middle of some work.
AS: What is the biggest inspiration for your art?
AF: In all sincerity—I am most inspired by other artists. That can sound kind of trite, but one of the main reasons I continue to take classes is the chance to just chat with and learn from my own classmates, and get their feedback on a piece that’s challenging me, or where I just feel stuck. I also love the chance to talk with them about something new they are doing in a painting – we all use each other for “sanity checks” and as “sounding boards.” I love that about taking class.
AS: What’s the last show that surprised you? Why?
AF: That would be the most recent Artomatic that was held in Crystal City, VA last May-June 2012. At first, I was just glad to enter, but as the show drew nearer and I was preparing my exhibit space, I surprised myself by how strong my reaction was to the opportunity. Beyond just hanging my pieces, I was surprised by just how passionate I felt about doing my absolute best on all aspects of the exhibit—hanging lights, painting my wall, getting exactly the right lettering for my name, on and on and on. No matter what it took, I really wanted to feel like I had “knocked it out of the park” in my effort to make my exhibit as professional as I possibly could. So it wasn’t any one aspect of the show itself that surprised me, but my excitement and commitment to the opportunity it provided. In all seriousness, that single show has motivated me to push myself to learn as much as I can about finding new exhibit opportunities, and presenting my work to the public. I was also very very aware and appreciative of all of the volunteer organizers that enabled that Artomatic, and I owe them a debt of gratitude, as participating that show was sincerely a turning point for me.
Art17 featuring the works of Amy K. Flatten OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday,February 7, 2013
TIME: 6:00PM till 9:00PM
LOCATION: Coldwell Banker Dupont, 1606 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
The show can also be viewed 9:00 am – 5:00 pm every weekday until April 23, 2013
Book Review: Bourgeon: Fifty Artists Write About Their Work
The art world is one of the few professional spheres left, where passion trumps all, where one will joyfully abandon money and security, will defy the warnings and wishes of peers and parents, in order to dance, paint, sculpt, write, and otherwise live, one’s ecstasy.
This notion is perhaps no more clear than in the recent anthology Bourgeon: Fifty Artists Write About Their Work, in which Leonard Jacobs writes in the preface, “If you are an artist you have got to do your work. It’s that straightforward. You do your work. You let nothing, you let no one, stop you. You do your work.”
The captivating and insightful anthology, edited by Robert Bettmann, takes the reader on a powerful journey through the intensely unique creativity and dedication that is the DC art scene. It is one in which Megan Coyle says, “I like surprising my viewers—I like it when they don’t realize I am a collage artists and not a painter. Or perhaps I could say I am a painter—I paint with paper.”
Bourgeon depicts the DC arts community in a way similar to how Coyle creates her collages, with an ever evolving, yet always astonishingly imaginative and expressive work process and methodology.
Joan Belmar describes his 3-inch thick worlds under glass, explaining, “The result I hope for is an organic and mysterious world that is in constant movement,” while Dana Tai Soon Burgess, Chair of the Theater and Dance Department at George Washington University explains, “When it is time to start a new work, I suddenly dream lucidly and see scenes from the new dance. It’s as if my subconscious gets filled up, and then moves all the ideas to the forefront of my conscious mind.”
Bourgeon is written in the context of an evolving art world, one in which great debate exists questioning the value of a college degree.
DC-base painter Prudence Bonds defends self-teaching methods of trial and error and “listens more keenly to intuition,” but with an honest tinge of anxiety, recognizes, “It seems galleries are less likely to take a chance on someone like me.” In the dance realm, Artistic Director for Gesel Mason Performance Projects argues, “If a student’s academic training can teach them how to suspend judgment and navigate fear, then that is a degree worth having.”
Though Bourgeon incites important dialogue surrounding such controversies as formal training and the age-old debate of creating work for the market versus maintaining artistic integrity (DC-based hip-hop teacher and choreographer Aysha Upchurch demands, “Can Hip Hop maintain its integrity as a dance form with so much focus on its entertainment value?” while Executive and Artistic Director of the DC Cowboys Dance Company states, “We actively seek corporate sponsorships and patrons to keep the organization financially stable.”), Bourgeon is at its best when illuminating the buoyant spirit shared among the culturally diverse arts community.
Perhaps we can all learn from dance scholar Laurel Victoria Gray, who writes about Bollywood dance, “In these times of woe anything that brings people together to dance with shared joy should be celebrated.”
Despite some recent opinion that Miami might be irrelevant, over
priced and obnoxiously overdone, I wish I was there.
Beyond the obvious reasons… Sun, beach, good food, and the best of the art world. I should be there because the fairs of Miami are still one of, if not the, best places to network in the art world. Networking is an essential part of being successful in the art community. For artists specifically, networking is crucial.
In today’s competitive art world, networking can make the difference between your success and your failure. Networking is all about
developing a relationship so that when you have something to offer, you have a constituency to go to. For an artist, this is how you sell and promote your work. To network with people in Miami would mean to find potential buyers or people to promote your work to potential buyers.
Even though I am not an artist, networking for me in Miami would be about meeting new potential clients, including artists. Hearing from artists
about their work and creative process helps me to secure their
business and to learn more about currents trends. On the flip side,
speaking with peers in the art world in other capacities (buyers,
dealers, gallerists, etc) helps me to understand different points of view, the work that others are doing and will hopefully be a mutually beneficial conversation to further
each other’s goals.
As much as I’d love the sun in Miami (DC has been a bit gloomy this week), I wish I was in Miami this weekend to meet new and interesting
people, and to network both for myself and for the artists I support. I
hope that everyone down there takes the time to purposefully network and
come up with meaningful outcomes to further their goals!
Exploring our World through Photography: Reporters without Borders 2012
Currently inside the Warner Theater, a gallery for fotoweek, with an exhibition called Reporters without Borders is on display. Upon entering the exhibit, I felt as if I stepped back into time and was able to travel to every significant event the world has seen since the 1950’s. The show span through multiple rooms and down several hallways, allowing anyone so intrigued to spend an entire evening pondering the faces and places that each picture depicts.
Since Reporters without Borders has been a show since the fifties, the front room presented works from each past year. Before evening examining this year’s work, I became lost in events that I had only every read about. Events like the Rwanda genocide, JFK’s assassination, the Bosnian genocide, and the Iraqi war were depicted in manners that caused a serge of emotions; it was an intense awakening to the realities of our world. For one to see and truly grasp the beauty and destruction that the world has witnessed is so powerful and vital to becoming world citizens. These photographers are more than artists; they are storytellers, writing a history that is legible in all language.
Moving on into the gallery, this year’s featured artist works are hung all around, there were small rooms dedicated to different locations, artists, and events. The giant prints surround the viewer and can temporarily let them drift into the location in which the photograph was taken. One photo that captivated me was an image of four Haitian women who, due to serious injuries in the 2010 earthquake, were amputees. The women were all dressed in brightly color clothing and stood in a line, upon first glance they looked rather jovial; than peering closer, I noticed a pain that could be seen in the eyes of each woman, and then I noticed the missing limbs. They stood together in an exercise class; overcoming hardships and showing the strength they have as individuals and as symbols of their nation’s resilience.
The earthquake that devastated Haiti is only one of the recent events that Reporters without Border documented. These events are life changing, and crucial to how our society exists. These artists do amazing work that allows the world to become connected and for citizens of all nations to begin to conceptualize how others live and what they have endured in there lifetime. Reporters without Borders is on display until Sunday, November 18th and guarantees to be one of the most moving photography shows of the year.
Lisa Jakab exhibits drawings, paintings, photography and video at Tonic
(Image courtesy of Lisa Jakab)
Lisa Jakab got her start as an artist at a very young age. In fact, art is something she’s always done.
“Making art has just always been a part of me,” said Jakab, a local artist and MFA graduate student at American University. “I was always making something whether it was sewing, which I learned from my mom, or helping my dad build something in the garage, which he turned into a woodshop.”
These days, Jakab creates paintings, drawings, photography and video.
“I love experimenting,” said Jakab, who has lived in D.C. since 2011. “That is one of the things that keeps me excited about coming to the studio- that and switching from medium to medium. I always work on multiple pieces at one time; that way, for example, when an oil painting is drying I can be drawing, or when I’m away from studio I can be shooting photo and video. I love that constant sense of change.”
Jakab’s work manipulates biomorphic forms derived from a loose interpretation of observational visual stimuli and some of it explores the psychology of cognition, specifically the space between a definable idea and its origin within human thought processes and sensory stimulants.
Inspirations for her work include life forms and objects such as water, sea creatures, shattered glass, vegetation, fractal patterns in nature, rock formations, clouds, light refractions and satellite images taken from space.
“I am exploring the psychology of cognition, specifically the space between a definable idea and its origin within human thought processes and sensory stimulants,” said Jakab, who added that she is also interested in the blurry place between dreaming and awake, solid and liquid to vapor, as well as harmonious growth and cancerous parasites.
In her pieces, Jakab uses a mostly monochromatic palette as well as synthetic, high intensity colors to further blur the boundaries between object or solid mass and atmosphere, liquid or vapor.
On Tuesday, Nov. 27, Jakab will showcase her work at Tonic (2036 G Street NW) from 6 until 8 p.m.
The artist – who has also shown her work in various venues around New York, D.C., Pittsburgh, Columbus and Sydney – will display her paintings, drawings, photography and video art at the opening.
The rest of the show, which runs through Jan. 22, will be a scaled back and will contain a smaller selection of paintings, drawings, and photography.
The Hillyer is an intimate gallery hidden down one of DuPont’s bustling streets. On Monday, November 12, Andy Grundberg was the featured curator in this month’s Curator Lecture Series. In an open room of the gallery with paintings surrounding the audience, Grundberg spoke about a wide range of topics related to art and his career. Although it was not a one-on-one conversation, it was a comfortable and casual atmosphere in which it was acceptable for the audience to ask any question that crossed the mind.
Andy Grundberg is a curator and professor at the Corcoran School of Art. His lecture focused on photography as a fine art. Soon it became clear why he is such a well-respected curator. Not only is he well educated about the arts, he is passionate about them. Grundberg spoke with precision and elegance describing the significance and value of photography in the fine art world. He stated, “Photography is swimming in the same pond as contemporary art.” Keeping the talk personable and relatable, he also added in many details about the history of photography becoming a fine art. He mentioned Andy Warhol’s use of photography in screens in paintings and how that was when they first entered the realm of fine art in the 1960’s. This was an arena in which someone with a degree in fine arts or art history could learn so much, but also someone who had little to no background in the arts would be able to comprehend and enjoy Grundberg’s lecture.
During the talk he discussed not only his career path but also specific artists whose exhibits he has been the curator of. One of the most famous photographers he has worked with is Anne Leibovitz. He graciously discussed what an honor he thought working with a living artist was, and admits that it was one of his first goals as a curator. Although what he did not expect was the challenges that living artist pose when setting up an exhibit, this he comments on with a chuckle, and state this helped him improve his compromising skills.
As he proceeds on with the lecture, a slide show of exhibits he was the curator for is playing. Occasionally he’ll stop to admire some of the work and tell a story. One of Leibovitz landscapes crosses the screen and he drifts into a story about the dark beauty of her photography and how she views things in a transcendentalist manner. At one part while discussing Leibovitz landscapes, he stops and looked up at the audience and said, “the beauty of the outside world is perceived in different ways, therefore each artist can bring something different to a photo.” His passion translates to the audience, encouraging us to look closer at a picture. After an hour that went by surprisingly quickly, Grundberg thanked the audience and the presentation comes to a close.
SUBMERGE: Local Artists Confront Culture on H Street
A giant nude man holds a bright red bowling ball in one hand, a cigarette in the other. He has a dazed, almost bewildered look on his face and as he peers at the viewer through wire-framed glasses, the on-looker cannot help but to giggle at his knee-high socks and protruding belly.
Part of a triptych exhibiting mighty men emasculated, stripped of all but their socks, the Martin Swift paintings are some of the less confrontational artworks that have recently flooded the vacant H Street venue as part of the nine day flash ‘art happening,’ Submerge.
Presented by No Kings Collective, the group that brought the Waterstreet Project to Malmaison at the Georgetown Waterfront in April, is back with its 2nd annual “ode to the District,” a temporary art space that features the works of 23 local artists in a range of mediums, from performance and graffiti to photography and installation.
Dancing to the beats of DJs sponsored by Listen Local First and munching on bites by H Street newcomers Impala and H & Pizza, arts patrons engaged with Michael Owen’s striking graphic paintings by slipping on a pair of 3-D glasses.
“It felt like I was in the car next to this one, just zooming by,” said Columbia Heights resident Rashaan of the painted racecars that appear to be propelled off the canvas.
Though all distinct in theme and medium, the curated works shared a sense of challenge.
DC-based artists collective Truth Among Liars provokes a range of emotion among viewers with their installation of blow up-sex dolls. Lined in rows with paint-smeared faces that erase any individual characteristics, and orifices exposed to unequivocally identify gender, the “Latex Warrior Burial Artifacts” directly confront issues of contemporary feminism.
“Are we this interchangeable? “ said 33 year-old Angela Michael of the imposing objects that captivate their audiences with not only disquieting aesthetics, but also with troubling scents of plastic and paint that inevitably seep into the viewer’s space, implicating him as a proprietor of the female position.
Turning away from the captivating accusation of society, one is confronted by Victoria Milko’s examination into the extraordinary life of a firefighter.
“I wanted to show the family and the bonding, the everyday life,” said Milko who lived with 15 male volunteers at the Hyattsville Fire Department for eight months before creating the installation.
Haunting images of heroes defeated and victims helpless in the wake of natural forces are framed by yellow tape reading, “FIRE LINE DO NOT CROSS.” The spellbinding black and white photographs are shown within the context of a fabricated fireman’s locker and simulate an evocative environment.
“It really creates a nice environment,” said 25 year-old breakdancer James Wu, “You don’t immediately gravitate towards a burned down house but these photos really draw you in.”
On display from 1 to 6 p.m. until November 18 at 700 H St. NE, Submerge hosts nightly events for free in collaboration with such groups as Listen Local First, Somaphony and KOLTON.J.
An antique wooden cart piled high with seemingly ordinary objects dares visitors to engage, to take a close examination, crouching on their knees in an effort to investigate the pots and pans, standing on their toes to scrutinize the saws and hammers.
In Housebound, a new exhibition at Heiner Contemporary, each artwork invites visitors to participate in an intimate viewing of domestic space.
The experience begins upon approaching the Book Hill neighborhood gallery, where one is confronted by an abstracted interior standing in the window. A curious installation featuring hanging stairwell banisters and a traditional wooden chair holding an aged sewing machine immediately draws the onlooker’s attention with its baby pink, sea foam green and white color scheme reminiscent of the 1950’s home.
“It’s all about what you leave behind once you’ve made the hard choices and you’re running out the door,” said artist Rachel Farbiarz of her original work I Wish I Could, “There are certain details you don’t notice in your home, like the shingles on your roof, but at any point in life you would recognize them.”
“Your home is where you keep your memories and as you grow so does your home. It becomes a reflection of the self and the rooms become an extension of one’s personality,” said Assistant Director Elizabeth Parkman, who in collaboration with gallery owner Margaret Heiner, first envisioned an exhibition exploring the varying definitions of ‘home’ in 2010, a year before opening Heiner.
Shortly after realizing their vision, the curatorial duo set out collecting such artworks as Ann Toebbe’s flat, birds-eye view drawings of friends’ apartments rendered entirely from memory, and Allison Reimus’ delightfully playful and optically intriguing Vessel paintings that abstract architectural and design elements to create a three-dimensional space on a flat surface, executed with such genuine tactility that one must restrain himself from running his fingers along what appears to be lace or gauze.
Parkman is interested in the psychology of the home, and the exhibition succeeds at questioning the affect a home has on a person and the effect an individual can have on a domestic space.
”I had to imagine what it would be like to take your domestic space with you. What happens when it becomes the exterior and you have to take your home on the go?” said Farbiarz of her work Take me with you that is evocative of the refugee experience and echoes the carts characteristically used by the homeless to carry possessions.
Though Farbiarz’s works were constructed mostly from items purchased in thrift stores, the carefully selected fond objects are similar to the Housebound works on paper,in their evocation of highly personalized, yet universal motifs.
Pieces from a crystal chandelier are suggestive of Farbiarz’s grandmother’s prized possessions, and the sewing machine is an homage to a photograph of a woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo who when forced to leave her home, took the one object that cultivated her livelihood. The sewing machine as not only her source of income, but also her genesis of pride, inspired the saws and hammers as an expression of the artist’s father who after escaping the horrors of WWII took the tools necessary to find work.
Housebound is on display until January 5, 2013. More information can be found on the Heiner Contemporary here.
If you are in search of a funky unique atmosphere that is sure to engage, then you must check out the Fridge Art Gallery. It’s one of a kind, tucked in a back alley way near Eastern Market. On Saturday, November third, local artist Decoy had her show D’s Nails opened at the gallery.
Walking into the gallery space, the vibe was energetic and youthful. Decoy’s art is a mixture of medias and has a technique that is one-of-a-kind. Upon the walls were large painting and gel transfers on wood. The wood was layered to create the silhouettes. There were four different designs on the walls; two were the silhouettes of women, another two hands spelling D.C., and lastly ten fingernails. The style has a cartoon aspect, yet it is also very whimsical.
When coming through the door into the Fridge, one wall was covered with large pieces of wood cut to the shape of human nails, each nail was roughly a foot wide and painted with one of Decoy’s personal nail designs. In front of this piece, a small table is set up with two chairs. Decoy plans on painting nails for anyone interested in having a spunky and never before seen manicure. Each Saturday of November Decoy will be at the fridge painting nails from 11-4 p.m. for $30.
Nail art is not something that is often seen in galleries. So, I was curious and asked Decoy what inspired her to do manicures. She discussed how up until recently she had a nail biting issue. She doubted that she would ever be able to stop biting her nails, and therefore she’d never get to have her nails painted in bright colors. However, one day she decided to stop her bad habit. Decoy says the confidences of successfully ending this habit gave her confidence in other areas of her life.
Not just is there art related to nail art, Decoy includes depictions of herself as well as a girl that she works with in a community center in Sursum Corda, one of D.C.’s most underprivileged neighborhoods. Talking with Decoy about the work she does, is such a joy. She is an inspirational woman who works hard to influence the world. The girl depicted in one of Decoy’s large wooden silhouettes, is someone that it is apparent that Decoy cares deeply about. Recently, she started making hair bows with the children at the center, the children seem to love the projects. Decoy smiled as she reminisced on how one of the children refers to it as “the bow company.” Decoy is helping revive D.C. and inspire the youth with art. In fact, you can find some of these bows on sale at the gallery.
So, if you find yourself near Eastern Market or in search of a personalized manicure, D’s Nail is the show to check out at the Fridge. Decoy’s work will leave you with a sense of whimsy and optimism. For more information and schedule of events click here.
Donna K. McGee opens Room For Blue at Foundry - Nov 2
Bethesda-based artist, Donna K. McGee, will exhibit a collection of her abstract works at Foundry Gallery in Dupont Circle through December 2. The show begins on October 31; an opening reception will be held on Friday, November 2 from 6 until 8 pm and a closing reception will be on December 2 from 2 until 4 pm.
While most of McGee’s art is created using acrylic on canvas (she manipulates a pumice to create texture in these paintings), some of her pieces are mixed media. One in particular, titled “Shedding Anew,” incorporates snakeskin, rice paper and bronze paint.
“I have been more involved in the texture and the combination of how the light eliminates the total piece,” said McGee when describing the piece. “The gold and bronze is eloquent, yet the snake skin is very organic and symbolizes a process of shedding.”
However, most of the pieces in the show at Foundry focus on the color blue, which McGee uses as an organic influence.
“Most of my first abstract paintings were all earth colors,” said McGee, who will exhibit a mix smaller pieces and large wall pieces at Foundry. “I still like the earth colors, but I’m working on a blue palette and keep finding new ways to be drawn to it.
McGee explains how the use of color, and especially blue, is especially significant as we are on the brink of the Presidential election.
“Blue is so much in nature, yet it also evokes other types of symbolism,” said McGee, while explaining how colors are used as markers for identity.
McGee, who has been a full-time artist for fifteen years, became interested in art at an early age. But instead of pursuing an art degree in college, McGee chose to study Early Childhood Education.
When she went on to teach, most of the courses McGee instructed were connected to the arts and creativity. McGee even went on to author “The Whole Collage,” an art book for aesthetic education and “Creativity and the Child: Training Modules For Teachers.”
McGee, who is inspired by nature and artists such as Rothko, Monet, Matasse and Turner, describes her work as “meditative” and “engaging to the viewer.” She is actively involved in OUTLOUD, a collective of DC-based abstract artists, and she continues to study at the Yellow Barn of Glen Echo.
The Foundry Gallery is located at 1314 18th Street NW. Those wishing to contact the artist can do so at email@example.com.
Wandering through Gallery 102's recent show "Lost In Translation"
Lost in Translation, a show that was on display in Gallery 102 from October first until October eleventh, works to show the relationship between language and art. In this small, intimate setting, each piece was made memorable. Gallery 102 is located on George Washington University’s campus and is completely student run. When first walking into the space, one wall in particular caught my eye. Purely in black and white was a large painting with abstract lines leading in every which way and the silhouette of a small bird perched upon a tree branch. And then, as if to frame this work, a poem was scrolled upon each side of this painting. This large-scale piece (panting by John Hayward and poem by Tyler Fulton) introduces what the show guarantees to inspire: the differences and similarities between art and language.
Continuing through the exhibit, a wide array of art is seen. There are pencil drawings, charcoal portraits, photographs, paintings, and even an abstract three-dimensional piece. Each piece is capable of drawing in the viewer and evoking new emotions and thoughts. Although, there were only roughly fifteen pieces hung on display, it was easy to spend nearly an hour reading the poetry, examining the art and getting lost amongst each piece.
Wandering through the exhibit to the beats from a student D.J., I was entranced. One of the larger displays filled my mind with questions. It was a series of sketches done by Crys Ghantous titled “People I Don’t Know.” This titled started my train of thought, each sketch was so detailed, and each face expressed so much emotion. These emotions I could read without words, and so the show’s title came to mind; language is not always necessary to comprehending someone. These people whose faces I could read did not promise I could comprehend their spoken words. In the simplicity of a line sketched upon a page by a young artist, I became familiar with a story. Although, I had to wonder what each individual would say? What would their spoken dialects teach me?
By the time of exiting the gallery, there was a clear relation between art and language. From the transformed, orange extension cord, coiled through an entire corner of the gallery (created by artist Lucy Gladstone), to poems about human nature, and even the abstract image of an ear, that is only noticeable if one peers deep enough into the colors splashed upon the canvas (painting by Emily Mihalik), this show will eloquently lead you through Gallery 102, encouraging discussion along the way. These young artists show great potential and their works guarantee to inspire.
Local artist, Jane Johnson, is exhibiting her work now through November 18 at Vastu (1829 14th Street NW).
Johnson’s work incorporates aspects of collage through use of layering and combining different textures.
“The end result is very physical and energetic,” said Johnson. “I use a lot of layers and love to play with the surface of a painting, building up textures and rubbing them out to reveal interesting aspects below the surface.”
The use of color, drawing and organic shapes are also evident in Johnson’s art.
Johnson, a DC area resident for 27 years, fostered her love for art when she was very young. She started out drawing and eventually took painting classes and went on to earn a BFA in Fine Arts from Stratford College in Danville, Va.
After school, she painted off-and-on and created illustrations for the Virginia Seasons cookbook for the Junior League of Richmond.
“I started taking painting more seriously 20 years ago when I took painting classes through The Art League in Alexandria,” said Johnson. “Then, I started painting full-time a year ago.”
Now, Johnson works almost exclusively in mixed media, combining her long history of oil with loose drippy acrylic paint and collage.
“I also use oil stick, graphite and oil pastels so my work is a true mix of many mediums. The work is all very textural with a bold use of line and color,” said Johnson.
Johnson is an active member of the DC art scene, and has participated in Atromatic, shows at The Target Gallery and the RawArtists Mixology Show.
After her show at Vastu, Johnson will exhibit her work at Artspace in Herndon, Va., starting in early December.
Interested in learning more about Johnson? Check out her website or visit Vastu to view her work. Vastu is open Monday through Saturday, 11 am – 7 pm, and Sunday from noon until 5 pm.
Brian Petro Kicks Off his Next Show at Coldwell Banker this Thursday
This weekend marks the Third Annual 17th Street Festival, a celebration that brings the community together over food, art, music and entertainment.
With a major focus on local art, the 17th Street Festival will host an Art Show on Saturday, September 22, which covers two street blocks and features the work of 50-plus local artists.
One artist participating in the festival’s activities is Brian Petro, who will exhibit his work on Saturday’s festival and also help kick-off the 17th Street Festival with an opening reception for his latest show on Thursday, September 20 at Coldwell Banker (1606 17th Street NW) from 5 until 8 pm.
This show presents many styles by the artist, and serves as a mini-retrospective of his 16 professional years as an artist.
Petro’s mini-retrospective includes works inspired by street hustlers and the urban sale of flesh; hand-built, wooden wall sculptures inspired by paint spattered clothing he purchased off the body of a city alley muralist; tranquil abstracts made with soft watercolor washes and molten beeswax; and festive and exuberant images of produce and retro styled price markings.
In addition to these unique pieces, Petro will feature his Supermarket Series, a collection of work that was inspired by his time living in New York City.
The 17th Street Festival take place on Saturday, September 22 from noon until 6 pm. Petro will be onsite to welcome guests and show his work at Coldwell Banker on the day of the festival.
Brian Petro’s show at Coldwell Banker will be open for viewing during the regular business hours of Coldwell Banker. You can also schedule a free personal tour of Brian’s studio anytime by calling the artist directly at (202) 270-7352, firstname.lastname@example.org, or for more information please check www.brianpetro.com or search Google or YouTube with “Brian Petro Artist” to see his documentary.