2024-05-24 7:41 PM

Memorial Day 2024 Issue!

Northern Virginia Art Beat


‘International Art Affairs’

Thursday, May 15 through Sunday, May 18, noon – 8:30 p.m. Held in and around Blagden Alley (Between 9th and 10th, and M and N Streets NW, D.C.).


While Washington is by diplomatic necessity an international city, the cultural affairs associated with each country tends to be fairly self contained. This event brings together art works from Austria, Australia, Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, Chile, China, Ethiopia, France, India, Iraq, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Tunisia, the USA and other nations.

The Blagden Alley venue includes the former Signal 66 space, which has undergone more art venue reincarnations over the years than I can count. This show utilizes 35,000 square feet of space in several locations. See website for full details and maps www.internationalartaffairs.com/Site/Agenda.html.

Mid City Artists Open Studios

Saturday and Sunday, May 17-18. A grouping of 38 professional artists open their studios to the public this weekend. Hours generally run from noon – 5 p.m., but each of the 24 different locations around mid-town Washington, DC has it’s own idea of when to open and close the doors. You’ll definitely have to see the website for this one at www.midcityartists.com.

‘The Thread as the Line: Contemporary Sewn Art’

Through July 12, at Arlington’s Ellipse Art Center (4350 North Fairfax Dr., Suite 125, Arlington). Gallery Hours: Wednesday though Friday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. For more information, call 703-228-7710 or visit www.arlingtonarts.org/ellipseartscenter.htm.

‘Led by Thread: A Contemporary Fiber Exhibition’

Through June 1 at Target Gallery in the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 North Union St., Alexandria). Gallery hours Wednesday through Sunday, noon – 5 p.m. For more information, call 703-838-4565 (ext. 4), or see www.torpedofactory.org.

Mention “fiber arts” to anyone and thoughts turn to grandmother’s crocheted doilies, macramé or barefoot communal weaving’s died with berries and bark extracts. For the most part, such notions have nothing to do with the above two shows. These shows are edgy and hip in a refreshing and surprising way. They’re close enough in general demeanor that we’re ganging them together here due to the packed calendar.

Ellipse Gallery is roughly three or four times as big as Target, so that show has multiple pieces from each artist, but aside from that they’re fairly equivalent shows. Several artists at Ellipse are drawing on paper by sewing lines of thread through the paper. Wendy Kawabata takes the concept one step further with her two ‘Blind World’ renderings at Target Gallery, done on paper with a sewing machine sans thread.

My favorite at Target Gallery is a large collection of dirigible-like, wire-frame clouds hand wrapped in thread. Think of homemade pipe cleaners and you’ll have the general idea. The concept is simple enough, but the execution and display of the end products have a sense of happy, almost childlike, playfulness that’s hard to resist.

My favorite at Ellipse Gallery is the elaborate and elegantly embroidered work of Jennifer Boe titled ‘Vacuum.’ It subtlety and playfully riffs on about half the vulgar metaphors we can think of for intimate female anatomy. Its combination of high and low art, coupled with its seriousness and wit, make this one difficult to categorize. Her artist statement waggishly quips that should we think her work dirty, she does in fact launder all of her linens.

All in all, the Ellipse show is probably edgier and more expansive in general, but anyone interested in this genre will no doubt want to catch both shows.


May 9 through June 15. (1200 First St. NE at corner of First & M streets NE, D.C.). Metro strongly recommended (New York Ave. stop on the Red Line) for opening night. Hours: Wednesday – Thursday, 5 – 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, noon – 2 a.m.; Sunday, noon – 10 p.m.; Closed Monday – Tuesday.

This week, we pick a few highlights from the 4th and 5th floors—Wow, it sure is a lot of stuff—more on that notion another time, but for now we’re focusing on the positive and looking for the good stuff here amongst the roughly thousand artists shown.

One of the strong stand outs on the 4th Floor is Paul Taylor’s "Frank Ghery’s Grocery Store,” a wonderfully playful and incisive commentary on Ghery’s freeform architecture. Here, we have as a model, a mashed and twisted old metal grocery cart, with frosted glass inside to finish off the walls. The sign below stating that viewer’s shouldn’t touch it as it’s highly prone to fall over seems all the more cutting. The supporting blueprints are what really make this presentation.

Not everybody labels their display areas so viewers can tell what’s what. The decoupaged antique wheelchair, I think, is by AMR31 Art Collective, but I’m a little fuzzy on that. In any event, magazine ads for missiles and weapons make up the decorative surface of this wheel chair. The juxtaposition of war’s glamorization with the price individuals pay for fighting wars seems especially poignant.

JD Yezierski has a series of photos made by projecting assorted imagery onto models and photographing the results. Some of these are quite ironic, and/or humorous. They need more lighting to see well, but that’s sort of a universal problem this year. The electrical system installed for this event is running at capacity and then some, forcing a reduction of lighting by everybody.

The 5th floor has many large scale figure drawings, and two small abstracts, leaving the value there of for others to decide. One of last week’s encaustic painters, Sondra Arkin, has spearheaded a collective barrier project on the 5th floor. You have to do a bit of a double take the first time you see it. If you just look at it in passing, it looks a great deal like concrete—which you know is too big, and much too heavy to get up the elevator. It’s another war protest piece.

Sherill Anne Gross has a series of paper cut-out illustrations. I liked the shopping cart and toothbrush ones the best. She does a god job of pulling them off when the images get complex and difficult to do.

Drew Graham has a graffiti inspired 3-D piece with interlaced fluid forms painted variegated blue. It’s quite nice, and takes the viewer into and out of the form as they look around it. Matt Smith has some nice photographic series images relating everyday objects.

My favorite on 5th floor is a series of charcoal and graphite drawings of buildings under construction, with cranes surrounding them. The images work on a literal and abstract level, while the graphite on top of the charcoal really brings them to life.

Note: This Friday Evening is Meet the Artists Night.





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