Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat


The Holiday Taste Test

The Holidays are upon us once again. Art galleries all throughout the greater DC metro area are holding small works shows with the intended notion that people will give art for presents. It's a nice idea, but you need to be fairly well attuned to the recipient's sense of taste, style and subject matter. It's a lot like buying clothes for someone, only you're expecting them to hang your present on the wall of their home or office for years to come. Which is a lot to expect if you miss those three targets above. It's a dodgy process even when you're giving away your own work … maybe even more so, since you've upped the personal part of the equation a considerable degree, for better or worse.

As with all gift giving, remember that it's not whether you like it or not, it's whether the recipient will like it. Art can be a touchy thing, and along with sex, politics and religion everybody is something of an expert in their own eyes.

I recall some years ago standing in a friend's mid-century furniture store and listening to a customer looking to buy a molded plywood Eames chair. While she looked over what was available, she pointedly groused about how dreadful she thought that stuff was, but how the recipient loved them. Having tastes that run in that direction, I didn't think much of her assessment of Eames. But it struck me that this would be a wonderful person to get gifts from, no matter what the cost there of — keeping in mind that this was a $500, 40-year-old used plywood chair she was about to buy. Though grumbling about it, she was willing to buy something she absolutely hated because the other person loved it would  use it with pride for years to come.

With that attitude in mind, know the tastes of your intended target, do your best to hit the mark and hope for the best. You can ask about return policies before you buy, but in general, there is no such thing in the realm of art purchases. In all but the rarest of rare cases, you buy it, you own it. Throwing a fit after the fact won't change the rules of the game.

Having said all of the above, don't be afraid to buy something you love for yourself. We live in a metropolitan area that has an enormous cache of artists and art venues. There is no excuse for plunking down serious money for yet another framed print of Vincent van Gogh's “Starry Night.” Yes, it's a great painting. Yes it would be great for you if you owned it, but the Museum of Modern Art in New York owns it. Even if it were for sale, you couldn't afford it if you sold every house on your block, never mind you don't own them either. It's why the painting is owned by a public institution and worth a bazillion dollars. So get over it already.

Hang yet another print of it, or some other mega-famous image, on your wall and nobody but you will notice it. Nobody will admire your taste in art. So turn the TV off, and go see some local art made by actual living and breathing artists and buy something you like when you find that special piece that hits a personal chord within your heart and soul. It will enrich the quality of your surroundings, and it will be yours and yours alone.

Will real art cost more than a framed print of a famous painting? Maybe, maybe not. A decent sized oil painting of perfectly respectable quality can easily be had for $1,000 or so. Prices can go much higher than that mind you, but I know of some postcard-sized canvases hanging in a gallery by a fairly well known D.C. artist that are priced at 65 dollars. Stacy's Coffee shop right here in Falls Church City has a nice series of landscape works by an excellent Vienna artist selling in the $250 dollar range. Trust me, considering the time and effort that goes into these things, that's cheap.

Original art can be had for far less than you might think, you just have to get out there and look at what's around. No matter what direction your tastes run, eventually you will find something you really want and will make you happy when you look at it every day. On top of all that, you'll be helping some local artist keep both their ears firmly attached to their head where they belong.

The galleries listed below are all holding Holiday Small Works shows designed to offer quality artwork that won't bust your budget. No doubt there are more out there, but these are the ones I know of as of this writing. Everybody has their own time table so keep an eye on the dates, not all are open yet.

Note: Time remains for artists wishing to show their work in the Touchstone, and MOCA gallery shows. See their web sites for complete details.


Falls Church Arts Holiday Gallery

November 2 through December 22. Falls Church Arts Gallery in Art and Frame (111 Park Ave, Falls Church). Gallery Hours: Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Holiday Art Show and Sale

November 17 through Jan 13. Glen Echo Park – Popcorn Gallery (7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, Md.). Gallery open Saturdays and Sundays, Noon – 6 p.m. Artists reception December 8 from 6 – 8 p.m. 301-634-2222, or see

Art for Giving: Annual Holiday Exhibition

November 20 through December 22. Greater Reston Arts Center (12001 Market St, Suite 103 — the ground floor corner suite, Reston, Va.). Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Artist reception Friday, November 30, 6 – 8 p.m. For further information call 703-471-9242 or see  

Fine Art & Fine Crafts Holiday Market 2007

November 30 through December 2. The Del Ray Artisans (2704 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria,Va.).  Friday Nov. 30 from 7 – 9:30 p.m., Saturday Dec. 1st from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sunday Dec. 2nd from Noon – 4 p.m. Call 703-838-4827 or see for more information.

Member Holiday Show

December 7 through 29. MOCA D.C., located across from Sea Catch Restaurant in Canal Square, Georgetown (1054 31st St. NW, Washington, D.C.). See, or call 202-342-6230 for more information.


Art on the Small Side

December 12 through January 5. Touchstone Gallery (406 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C.) Gallery Hours: Wednesday though Friday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday Noon – 5 p.m. For more information, call 202-347-2787 or see