2024-06-18 9:07 AM

Northern Virginia Art Beat

Transform, Transport, Transpose

Works by Leigh Taylor Michelson, Judit Varga, and Lars Westby. Through January 12. McLean Project for the Arts, on the second floor of the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean). Gallery Hours: Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Saturdays 1 – 5 p.m. For more information, call 703-790-1953, or see www.mpaart.org.

“Transform, Transport, Transpose” is something of a head scratching show. The three artists shown all work in pottery, and to varying degrees, all deal with fantasy objects. Presented with the assorted objects sans context, we are left to decide for ourselves what they are.

Leigh Taylor Michelson gives us a clear direction with the “Botanical Duet” series. These objects are clearly about the mating process and deal with the varying ways that plants breed. Probes and receptors abound throughout the series, and while most are fairly obvious in how things work, there are cases where the mystery of it all remains. While these pairings may be based in fact, they have the feel of fantasy.

Four totem-like assemblages of vaguely similar objects stack up to a height of over six feet. While quite colorful, the assemblages comprised of mostly rounded forms don't present any clear notions as to why they are stacked like this. Careful study reveals a few thin threads of similarity, but not sufficient enough to claim any particular thematic device. In fact the stackings feel forced in a highly unnatural way, as if one tiny nudge would send it all crashing to the floor. One could posit that they are commentaries on the fragility of ecosystems, but no ecosystem is this fragile. Nature is highly adaptable with evolution and extinction all part of the plan.

Judit Varga's work also tends to rely on the stacking of pottery. At times they too feel arbitrary and forced, however these stacks are largely limited to two or three objects. The more forced assemblages here have a ceremonial feel to them. One could imagine them as the focus of some religious rites practiced by some unknown primitive peoples.

While Michelson's pollinating pairs are vibrantly colored and by definition in the fecund prime of life, Varga's works seem to be much more about objects well past their prime. Varga's pottery uses colorful slips, but remains unglazed, and as such have flat matte finished surfaces. In fact many seem as though they are the surviving bits found in the aftermath of a fire, be it a house fire, a bonfire, or one of those old country trash pile fires. Either way, the more engaging objects seem to be of this variety. We can't tell what they were, much less what they were used for. A certain sense of decay and disuse pervades all of Varga's works.

The ones that don't seem to have been through a fire, have an aquatic feel to them. Beautifully subtle tones of blue, aqua and rusted-iron browns combine to give them a scavenged-from-the-deep-sea feel. While the burned objects seem to be man-made detritus, the aquatic ones may have biological origins. As with much that washes up on shore, we're left on our own to figure out what it is and where it came from.

Lars Westby presents six sculptural ceramics that recall the work of Luigi Serafini in his 1981 book titled “Codex Seraphinianus.” Anyone attracted to Westby's work should be sure to check out Serafini's book, as it's certainly like no other.

The basic notion here are objects seemingly from another world. The use and function of which we can only guess at. One seems to be a giant hot water bottle that might be used by Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat. Or is it an ash tray? Or an anchor of some sort?

The objects are pure fun and highly captivating in a quizzical sort of way. My favorite was the balloon-like object with hand-like protrusions along the sides, and a two-hole eye hook at the bottom. One imagines it as some sort of lifting device that propels itself via flapping hands, but it's all playful conjecture. It makes you smile just thinkiing of it in flight. You'll have to decide for yourself what it's all about, and in that nugget lays the fun and humor of Westby's work.


Artist Opportunities


2008 International Photography Competition

Entry deadline is December 28 at Fraser Gallery in Bethesda. There is a $25 entry fee for up to three slide/jpg submissions. Prize awards of $500 for Best in Show, followed by $200 for first place, $200 for second, and $100 for third place. For complete details see thefrasergallery.com/photocomp.html or call 301-718-9651.



Any photo taken within the past 6 years is eligible, with a $20 entry fee for up to three images. Delivery of Framed Ready to Hang Photos on January 29, at Arlington Ellipse Arts Center.

Three Juror's Choice Awards of $500 each will be awarded, for a total prize pool of $1,500. The juror this year is David Griffin, Director of Photography for National Geographic Magazine. For complete information, see www.arlingtonarts.org/ellipseartscenter.htm or call 703-228-7710.


Bethesda Fine Arts Festival

The event runs May 10-11, 2008, though the deadline for artists applications December 14. The entry fee is $30, with booth costs $400 and $800, with 150 booths available.
For application and details, see www.bethesda.org/arts/BFAF2006/3.BFAF-App08.pdf.


On Key

Stories that may interest you