Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

 "La Playa 1" by Torpedo Factory artist Susan Finsen, through September 9, at the Reston Hyatt's Market Street Bar and Grill.

‘Still Circling: Recent Paintings’ by Susan Finsen

Through September 9, at the Reston Hyatt’s Market Street Bar and Grill, located at the intersection of Market and Presidents Streets in Reston, Va. Restaurant hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Sunday brunch is Noon to 2:30 p.m. Phone (703) 925-8250 for restaurant information.

The Market Street Bar & Grill serves as an annex of sorts for the Greater Reston Art Center (GRACE) allowing artist to have solo shows in a public venue. The current show is made up of 30 abstract works by Susan Finsen.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, VA opened in September 1974, as a founding member Finsen was there.. and still is to this day. Starting out as a potter, (her studio space is still with a group of potters), 15 years later she switched over to print making. Five years ago she made yet another switch, this time to painting. Her current studio space is right next to the front door and likely the first art you see upon entering the Torpedo Factory.

Finsen works in a somewhat intuitively subconscious fashion allowing the work to take it’s own course as it progresses. Her work is free spirited in a child like way, yet formed with years of experience, craft and skill behind it. It takes substantial quantities of skill and confidence to ‘let go’ the way she does. If you lack the chops to back it up, you wind up with sloppy dreck. It’s one of the main reasons abstracts are so easy to do badly.

Working in this fashion is touchy business. ‘Let go’ too much and you lose control of the piece. Don’t ‘let go’ enough, and the work loses it’s spark and liveliness. It’s a tightrope walk all the way down the line. Nobody gets it right all the time, but Finsen gets it right a very high percentage of the time. It’s great work to see.

Her images are a wonderful combination of painting and drawing. Typically colored in vibrant yellows, oranges, and blues, they could best be described as happy images. Assorted drawing media are used to render linear forms over paint, but most frequently she draws looping connected circles. With layers upon over lapping layers. there is a sense of continuity about it. To my eye it reads as the different, yet repetitive daily activity that woven together by memory become our life’s experiences. That thing we call “life.”

This overlapping textural assemblage that forms the overall image, and our experience of it, shares a core esthetic with the assembled photos printed on swatches of fabric by Catherine Day reviewed last week (at McLean Project for the Arts through July 28). Appropriately, Day’s graveyard photos are emotionally and physically dark.

Finsen’s work runs head long towards the light, seemingly ignoring the dark. It seems to say life is good, live it, breathe it, enjoy it.. today.. everyday. Not surprisingly, she reports that many people say her work makes them happy. This is it’s true strength, and of course it’s weakness. If it has any fault, it leans towards the Polly Annish. But if a touch of Polly Annish brightens your day and makes you happy, who can really fault that? Hang it over the TV, it might make the scare mongering 6 o’clock news almost tolerable.

Artscape 2007

Baltimore’s big art festival, Friday and Saturday, July 20-21, from Noon to 10 p.m., Sunday, July 22, from Noon to 8 p.m. Located around the 1200 block of Mount Royal Ave. (in the Bolton Hill area) Baltimore, MD.

Art, music, theatre, opera, film, dance, fashion, family art activities, and art demos. 14th annual art car display… three days just packed with various art activities, at various venues in the area.

A printed program guide would be a good idea. At the bare minimum you’ll need to look at the web site if you’re interested in going, see

Note: the 25,000 dollar winner-takes-all Sondheim Prize (visual arts competition) finalists are on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art, through August 5. See slide show of the art at

Frank Day and Gabriel Martinez, both of Washington DC are among the seven finalists. Ten D.C. area artists are among the 30 semi-finalists, including Arlington photographer Jason Horowitz, and Jeanette May of Alexandria, Va.

The semi-finalist show is at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), 1303 Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore, Md. through August 2. 

Art In Falls Church

Falls Church Concerts in the Park series. This Thursday evening, July 19, Sudden-M-Pac Band will provide R&B/Jazz music , while Bill Abel shows his paintings. Next week, July 26, Andrew Acosta and the New Old Time String Band play Bluegrass and Swing while artist Julie Singer displays her Ceramic Tiles. All for free in Cherry Hill park on Park Avenue in the heart of Falls Church City.

Tuesday July 24, from 4 to 8 p.m. Chico’s at Tyson’s II donates 10% of sales to Falls Church Arts. Call (703) 917-6110 for more information.


The Northern Virginia Art Beat is compiled by Kevin Mellema. To e-mail submissions, send them to