Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

Pandora’s Box, at the Target Gallery in the Torpedo Factory (105 Union St., Alexandria). The exhibit runs through Jan. 10. The gallery is open daily 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., with extended evening hours on Thursdays until 9 p.m. Holiday closings are this Friday, Dec. 25, Christmas Day, and next Friday, Jan. 1, New Year’s Day. Next Thursday, New Years Eve, the Torpedo Factory will close at 6 p.m.


“Attack!” by K. Hawkom Thomas

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After you’re burned out from shoveling snow and last minute Christmas shopping, it may be time for some gallery hopping. Just keep on top of gallery hours wherever your destination may be. Then again, don’t forget at the Torpedo Factory you can shop for gifts and go gallery hopping, all at the same time.

After the past weekend, it’s tempting to see Pandora’s Box as the source of all snowstorms, but none of the 37 pieces currently on view at Target Gallery had that take on the classic tale.

The prospectus for this nationwide, juried open call show had fairly constricting requirements to go along with its rather challenging concept. In some ways, it was a bit like a camel walking through the eye of a needle, though that’s a different story entirely. Not too surprisingly, the pieces picked for this show are all over the place.

Some well done pieces are seriously off base in concept, and are difficult to see as anything but show filler. Many of those pieces seem to hit on the notion of a box, or even worse a decorative box pattern. Like a painfully bad pun, they’re groan-inducing disappointments in this context.

On the other hand, there are some unusual and thought-provoking re-interpretations of  Pandora’s Box here.

One of the more surprising interpretations comes from Ohio artist Alysia Fisher. Fisher’s problematic vessel is a small, black rubber football-shaped object studded with assorted inner tube air valves. Though you can’t tell by the look of it, the piece is made of recycled bicycle inner tubes. Bristling with numerous valves, the piece has a porcupine or blow fish air about it. Titled “Imminent,” it evokes a sense of wariness, as if touching it in the wrong way might cause it to explode.

It does strike one as the perfect metaphor for the delicate balancing act we all perform in daily life. With multitudinous sources of input and output, we must balance the two so we are neither deflated nor explode from too much pressure.

Mississippi artist K. Hawkom Thomas interprets Pandora’s Box as a blue human head shell dropped on the ground, with several pink bunny rabbits hopping out and away. Titled “ATTACK!”, the piece seems to hit on the notion of how ideas have a life beyond that of their creator, and how profusely they can spread and multiply when unleashed onto the world.


Dutch percussionist Jeff Hijlkema.

Sandie Butler of New Jersey makes a cogent point with “File Away Your Fears.” With some fears provided, the artist also asks viewers to participate by writing down their own personal fears on file cards, and adding them to the card holder. With insecurities and their resulting fears often at the root of much of the evil in the world, Butler’s piece is both simple and nearly all encompassing.

Many pieces here draw attention to ecological concerns. None seem so poignant as the mini book by Kerry McAleer-Keeler. Here we find a diminutive book comprised of cyanotype photograms of assorted foliage mixed in with black footprints.  The message seems to be that people leave carbon foot prints, while plants repair the damage we leave in our wake. In the midst of these pages, we find ecological factoids such as: 1.5 million barrels of oil are consumed annually in the production of some 70 million plastic water bottles; or how Americans throw away enough aluminum to replace our entire fleet of commercial aircraft every three months. Sobering notions to be sure.

Dutch percussionist Jeff Hijlkema plays his Swiss-made Hang drum at the Torpedo Factory from 2 – 5 p.m. on weekends, and is scheduled to play a concert there on Thursday night, Jan. 7, from 7 – 9 p.m. (All Free) Looking more like a dimpled UFO than musical instrument, the hang produces ethereal constant tone vibrations.

The Art League Gallery solo exhibition space is showing the photographic landscape work of Pamela Viola. At 30 or 40 inches wide, Viola’s images resemble large-scale versions of hand colored postcards from the 1940s.

The Northern Virginia Art Beat is compiled by Kevin Mellema. To e-mail submissions, e-mail them to