Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

2009 Trawick Prize, at the Fraser Gallery (7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, Bethesda, Md.). The exhibit runs through October 3., and the gallery is open Tuesday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. For more details, call 301-718-9651, or visit


This the seventh annual Trawick Prize show featuring the top eight finalists in the competition. No, it’s not the monster $449,000 ArtPrize competition opening later this month in Grand Rapids, Mich. (First Prize there is a cool quarter million dollars; see But Carol Trawick’s two annual $14,000 Bethesda art competitions aren’t to be taken lightly either.

This year, the Young Artist Award went to Falls Church resident Hannah Kim.

Kim, on a bit of a tear here, recently won first place in the Strictly Painting 7 show at McLean Project for the Arts. Her canvases on view continue with the series based on her experiences painting in Namibia under a Fulbright Scholarship. These two layered images compare the artist’s preconceived notions of Namibia, with her impressions of the country after having seen it first hand.

Third place was awarded to Jessie Lehson of Baltimore, last seen at the Greater Reston Arts Center’s Focus Solo shows this past May. She showed tomato plants growing in assorted dirt samples, along with a few geometric abstracts on paper, also using dirt samples.

Here at the Trawick Prize show, Lehson is showing a large geometric abstract with triangular sections within an overall square form, again using different colored soil samples donated by friends from around the world. Laid out across a corner of the gallery, it is at once imposing and fragile.

Second Place was awarded to Molly Springfield of Washington, D.C. Springfield, who is also far from unknown, was a finalist in last year’s Trawick Prize competition as well. Her work takes an unusual art imitating life imitating art spin. Her graphite drawings perfectly imitate the look of Xerox copies of significant texts.

This iteration is a large piece built around a bad Henry Fox Talbot drawing that reportedly spurred him on to invent positive/negative photography. Springfield has recreated the ham-fisted drawing on the gallery wall, supplemented with her own Xerox copy drawings affixed to the wall.

The inescapable irony is Springfield’s photo realistic, two-dimensional trompe l’oeil drawings juxtaposed with Talbot’s frustrated attempts at drawing. It seems a touch odd that Talbot’s lack of drawing skill would spur him on so. It isn’t great, but it isn’t a stick figure drawing either. Most people would have been spurred on to practice their drawing skills. We can all be thankful that Talbot was a man of a different sort.

Last, but definitely not least, the $10,000 first place prize was awarded to Baltimore resident Rene Trevino. His generally pink-themed works simultaneously deal with his homosexuality and Mexican-American heritage. It’s an obvious tack for him to take with his work, but one rarely, if ever seen. Often using silhouetted or high contrast images, the gay-themed nudity is sober and accessible to all viewers, leaving the graphic over-the-top exaggeration works to others.

While nudity is there, it isn’t in all the images. However Trevino’s homosexuality is expressed in virtually all panels, generally through the use of pink. He tells of avoiding using the color pink in his childhood drawings, as it would be too revealing of himself to others. Now as an adult, he’s fully embraced it. Recreating the Mexican flag in pink. We also see beautiful ink works featuring the Alamo and Mount Rushmore with a pink sky that recall the days of hand-tinted postcards.

One of the most humorous and thought provoking images shows the silhouetted figures of two identically dressed sombrero-wearing cowboys facing each other. The one on the left has an exposed erection, the one on the right standing with lasso in hand. The obvious question is the sexual inclination of the chap on the right, and what’s about to happen with that rope. We are given no information as to what his inclination may be.

The image seems to perfectly capture the moment of sexual advance, when one party reveals its desires and waits for acceptance or rejection from the other. We can’t all relate to the homosexual spin thereof, but we all recognize the awkward moment of total emotional exposure that this image portrays. The protagonist in this version is risking not only garden variety rejection, but also the very real possibility of physical harm to go with it. That pithy panel alone places Trevino’s work ahead of this 2009 Trawick class.

Of additional note, finalist Greg Minah has two of his abstract drip paintings on view here as well, made by tilting the canvas back and forth as small rivulets of paint flow across the canvas. The works might be best referred to as gravity paintings, producing a network of lines reminiscent of a city street map. The most interesting sections are areas that Minah has rubbed out after the edges of paint flow dried, while the center remained wet, leaving two tracking lines fading towards a blank center strip between them.

Correction: Last week’s copy got names mixed up. Regular readers know that Tony and Heather Podesta are some of the biggest high profile art patrons in town. Tony’s brother is John Podesta, former White House Chief of Staff under President Bill Clinton. You have it straight now.