Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

 'FLOW: The Landscape of Migration'

Sculptures by Foon Sham, through November 10, at Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) (12001 Market St., Suite 103 — the ground floor corner suite — Reston, Va.). Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. For further information, call 703-471-9242 or see

Rare is the art show that can entertain the whole family, “FLOW” is just such an exhibit. “Exhibit” is really the wrong term for it. Sculpture isn't much better. “Happening,” though loaded with prior art usage connotations, is probably the best term to describe what's going on in the GRACE gallery.

Foon Sham has erected five cones symbolizing the five elements in Chinese culture: Water, Earth, Wood, Fire and Metal. Some cones are literal, such as the wood cone, while others such as the fire cone require a bit of symbolism. Fire is represented by a pristine cone of white wax, which took a considerable amount of heat to create.

Cups of the elemental materials are available to viewers/participants to add to the sculpture as they see fit … within limits. The wax Fire cone is “hands off” stuff, as is the grass-covered Earth cone. The black foam cone that participants can add nails to, along with the wood cone are the most interactive sites. The Water cone allows participants to add water, but offers no real creative opportunities to speak of. The effect is decidedly anti-climactic, and limited by the cups provided.

On paper, “FLOW” is intended as a “visual metaphor for the gifts of immigration, seasonal change and the creative process.” What Foon Sham got for his effort was a giant indoor play box for art-romping adults and their families.

At first blush viewers may have difficulty grabbing a hold of the concepts set forth. We're all attuned to the notion of “art” being deadly serious stuff where we silently gaze at paintings from centuries past. All art isn't like that, and this is certainly just such a case.

“FLOW” can't really be taken in from a distance, like life, it requires participation. It all becomes clear once you overcome your reticence and pick up a few cups of elemental materials to add to the piece. Like life, and the world around us, you see what has been done by others before you. You embellish what is there, add onto or next to it or start your own thing in a separate place altogether.

Once you've accessed your inner kindergartner, it's hard to stop building and adding. Of course you will eventually tire of the effort and frustration of manipulating materials and walk away from the project, leaving it for others to add on to where you left off. In this way, it is highly metaphorical for the fundamental aspects of life as we know it. As a purely physical exercise, it strikes one as a sort of three-dimension version of SimCity.

What is being built here are communities and societies of sorts. The creative, fun people work in the land of wood and metal. The stuffed shirts are off at the other three cones, especially the wax cone.

For thought provoking insight, the wax cone offers the most disturbing and intriguing ideas and actions. Foon Sham lords over the project, modifying what's left by others on a daily basis. The wax cone is off limits in that he wants kept in its virginal white state. There is an obvious parallel to the white-bread, gated communities that seek to be kept pure. It's a disturbing notion in today's society as we know it, but there it is. The wax cone does indeed look best in its pure state, which shows us the human appreciation for purity we all have on some level. In a quirky sort of way, it makes all those closed minded bigots seem a lot more human somehow. Most fascinating of all is the way Foon Sham, and the gallery staff, see attempts at defiling the purity of the wax cone as a defilement of the piece. Attempts at such are discouraged and removed should participants go there. One hardly needs to point out the obvious, but there are fascinating parallels to the civil rights and feminist movements. It shows how difficult it can be to change the system when people with more power than you defeat your attempts at such. At times like these, it takes an overwhelming force to change the system. All things that make you go “hmmm.”

In many, many ways “FLOW” represents life and society both in its physical and psychological structure. Compelling and fascinating stuff if you dig beyond the surface of it all, but first and foremost “FLOW” is just plain fun. Get in touch with your inner childhood and go add some stuff to “FLOW.” It'll be the most purely entertaining thing you do all week, and it's free!


Falls Church Arts 2nd Annual Arts Benefit Auction

The auction is this Sunday, Oct. 28, from 6 – 8 p.m. The live portion of the auction begins at 6:45 p.m., at 404 N. Van Buren St., Falls Church. Works to be auctioned off are currently on pre-view display at Art and Frame (111 Park Ave, Falls Church). Admission tickets to the auction are $40 each, or $75 for two. Admission is limited to 125, so advance ticket purchases are advisable. (They're available at Art and Frame). Remaining tickets will be available at the door, up to the 125 person limit.


F.C. Film Fest Deadline Approaches
For budding film makers out there, the Falls Church Film Festival entry deadline is fast approaching. This is shaping up to be a major arts event in the city, with several international entries already in hand. Deadline is this Saturday, Oct. 27. See for complete details, or email the event director