Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

Wendy Garner; New Wave Paintings, at the Cross MacKenzie (1054 31st St. NW, Washington D.C., in Canal Square courtyard across from the Sea Catch Restaurant).Wendy-wave---Wendy-Garner.jpg

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Furthering the notion of rampaging mother nature, after last week’s mention of Amy Marx’s tornado paintings at Plan B Gallery, this week we have sea paintings by Wendy Garner now on view at Cross MacKenzie Gallery in Georgetown. Throw Jeff Wilson (last seen on the 9th floor at Artomatic 2008) into the mix, and you get an interesting group of local painters depicting threatening environments. The way these artists use space and subject matter gives their works a distinctive look and feel despite their general commonality.

Amy Marx and Wilson both paint tornadoes. Generally speaking, both artists place their respective whirlwinds in the background of their images. Mind you, depicting something a mile or so wide dictates that you show it at some distance away from the viewer if you intend to show the whole thing. It’s the foreground and middle ground where they part company. For the most part, Marx leaves the middle and foreground empty of any significant structures or landmarks. In doing so, her tornadoes operate in a 360-degree space. They seem unlikely to head off into the handful of degrees occupied by the viewer, and thus appear safe curiosities.

Conversely Jeff Wilson places flingable objects in the middle ground that we easily imagine in flight, and thus the twisters are palatably more menacing, and dangerous to the viewer. A field of cud-chewing cows seem destined to become bovine Frisbees. Similarly, a field of vibrant red poppies in bloom seem imminently fated to become shredded red confetti. This psychologically projected mayhem seems to dictate that the twister is headed in our direction with near total certainty, and thus makes the viewer want to take immediate evasive action or seek secure shelter.
Wendy Garner’s 15 sea paintings on view at Cross MacKenzie are all engulfing. The horizon line floats up near the top edge of the canvas, almost escaping the picture area entirely. The roiling green sea extends downward filling both the middle and foreground, and thus seems all encompassing, and in very real danger of consuming the viewer whole. The images low viewpoint, and lack of any hint of boat, raft, etc., leaves us to conclude that the view point is indeed that of a person bobbling around in the water. While Garner’s seas lack the dramatic flare of a twister gone bad, the ubiquity of endless deep water make Garner’s paintings feel even more perilous space to occupy.

Several of Garner’s works feature crashing waves that place us outside the tubes, but in close enough proximity that they fill our view of the world. While those paintings feel less dire, the viewer is still in some degree of peril.

All three of these artists rely on subject matter to engage the viewer, and create a sense of heightened awareness. The two or three landscape paintings of Rock Creek Park by Garner prove this point. Devoid of any life and death struggle, those canvases seem dull by comparison.

Garner’s depiction of blue water, as shown here, is fairly weak, and lacks a vital degree of believability at times. On the other hand, her sensitivity towards greenish water under cloud covered skies is spot on. Her impressionistic painting style comes into its own given a little distance. At her best, Garner’s seas are spot on, and will leave you swearing to always wear your life vest while boating.

From Slavery to Leadership, two exhibits on display at the George Washington University Virginia Campus University Center (44983 Knoll Square, Ashburn, Va.), beginning on Saturday, Jan. 24 with an artist reception, free and open to the public, held from 5 – 8 p.m. in Building 2.

The exhibits showcase the works of Neo-Realist Sherry Zvares Sanabria and an ensemble of famous pieces of artwork chosen or commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service to highlight distinguished African American citizens. George Washington University has reproduced 35 of those works, with permission, for this exhibit, ranging from portraits of Frederick Douglass to Malcolm X. Limited by the gallery’s space, the Postal Service exhibit contains more than 110 African American artist images.

Sanabria’s work consists of her catalog of sites across the nation that played large roles in the African American experience during and after slavery. In all, there are 14 images of remaining slave quarters and other sites in five states and in the District of Columbia.

Both Sanabria’s exhibit, “Unforgotten: Slave Quarters and Other African American Sites,” and the Postal Service display, “Honoring and Commemorating Black Leadership,” are on display until March 23. For more information, call Corporate and Community relations at 703-726-3651 or 571-215-5640.