Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

Options ’09, at Conner Contemporary Art, 2nd Floor (1358 Florida Ave. NE, Washington, D.C.). The gallery is open from Wednesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. For complete details see

Options ’09 is the Washington Project for the Arts biennial show for up and coming area artists yet to be represented by a gallery. The biennial series was started back in 1981 with Gene Davis and Mary Swift as curators. This year’s show is the 13th iteration, with artists and art works selected by Ann Collins Goodyear from the National Portrait Gallery.

The 13 artists selected offer a spectrum view of art being made in the Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Richmond areas.

Sue Johnson (Lexington Park, Md.) has an entertaining series of handmade accordion books, each page illustrated with Pop business logos, mascots, and product packaging, juxtaposed with flora and fauna from the natural world. Each object floats in a white field on its own page. The objects are both isolated and placed in disjointed proximity to their neighbors. The contextual presentation draws the viewer in to search for connections and meaning.

Despite such efforts few solid connections can be drawn, just as real life is often a compilation of oddly disjointed, yet connected experiences. However some of Johnson’s juxtapositions are humorous in a wry fashion, such as the AAA motoring club logo next to a child’s Bozo the clown punching bag, or the red silhouette of Superman taking off, set next to the Best Western Motel logo.

Matthew Smith (Washington, D.C.) holds a B.A. and M.A. in geography, with no formal art training. The compositional quality of his photos here makes me think hoards of photography majors would have been far better served in the geography department.

The 12-panel grid of Smith himself in bed has assorted bits exposed at the perimeter of each individual image, with one photo of his back and arm stretching across the space with twisting diagonals. (Self taught he claims … hmmmm.) Either way, it’s a fine rendition of what a restless night of tossing and turning is like.

Smith’s other images are diptychs of household objects. The first image shows the object, while the second image is identical except the object is missing. In its place, Smith has laid in text set into the form of the missing object. It’s a running commentary on their life by his obviously peeved girlfriend. It’s the disillusionment phase of love that leads to hatred and separation. It’s that psychological wasteland where love is given, but not returned in equal measure. It’s a fascinating, warped bit of psychological self preservation.

Polly Townsend (Washington, D.C. … via Great Britain) has several of her mountain landscapes on view here. Townsend’s work seems literal at first glance, but closer scrutiny reveals it as operating somewhere between the craggy mountainous color abstractions of Augustus Vincent Tack and the anatomy cum landscapes of Georgia O’Keeffe. Mind you, both of those artists operated at the far ends of their respective areas. Townsend’s work sort of floats in the middle, flying under the radar. Committing to nothing, but subtlety offering everything and letting the viewer decide for themselves what it’s all about.

Younseal Eum (Richmond) has four silver jewelry pieces featuring oversized silver wire frame cages. The most interesting piece, however, is a table top cage with silver clouds and a tiny red airplane bopping up and down inside; man’s desire to fly free-as-a-bird seemingly dates back to the beginning of time. Once achieved, new limits are found. Even idyllic dreams have their boundaries.

Washington color school artists, and a few New York color field artists, occupy the ground floor gallery at Conner Contemporary Art. Featured artists there are Morris Louis, Howard Mehring, Alma Thomas, Leo Villareal, Jeremy Blake and Gene Davis.

MPAartfest, this Sunday, Oct. 4, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. McLean Central Park is located at the intersection of Dolly Madison Boulevard (Rte. 123) and Old Dominion Drive. McLean Project for the Arts annual art fair. Children’s events, models to draw for those inclined to make art. The main attraction here will be the 38 juried artists displaying their art works, in a similar number of tents around the park. This is a Rain-or-Shine event. If it rains, things will be moved into the McLean Community Center at 1234 Ingleside Ave. (next to the park and Library). For complete details and map, see

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ART:21 (Art in the 21st Century) will air its fifth season beginning next week. The four part series will air Wednesday and Thursdays at 11 p.m. for four consecutive weeks begin Wednesday, October 7. The series features 14 well-known contemporary artists, with weekly topics covering Compassion, Fantasy, Systems, and Transformation, in that order.  For complete show details, see or broadcasting details at