CHAW’s Fourth Annual Photography Exhibit, at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (CHAW) (545 7th St. SE, Washington, D.C.). The exhibit runs through Feb. 4. The gallery is open Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. For more details, call 202-547-6839 or visit www.chaw.org.
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop is one of many small art venues around town. Small in the sense of how well it’s known around town.
Occupying the no doubt century-old B.B. French School building, the physical structure is anything but small. Inside you’ll find a dance studio/recital hall, paint studio, black box theater, art gallery, complete ceramics/pottery studio, a photography darkroom and private music instruction studios.
Now in its 30th year, CHAW’s mission is to serve both children and adults within the community. It’s a big player in the immediate area, as opposed to other art spaces around town that reach out to the entire metro area.
CHAW hosts monthly membership art shows, much in the format of the Art League at the Torpedo Factory. Once a year they have an open call photo show, this being the fourth one.
The 16 photographers contributing the 32 photographs shown, were selected from a scant 39 entrants. We must say, considering the limited number of entrants, this is an especially strong exhibit.
That virtually every one of the 16 has at least one pithy image worth consideration is truly remarkable.
Patricia Goslee has two pieces here, both printed on aluminum plates. One, a diptych of shimmering concertina razor wire juxtaposed with shimmering light off of calm waters, the other a triptych of beach photos dealing with sand patterns at water’s edge.
At first blush, it’s easy to dismiss them both as yet another vapid compare-and-contrast photographic exploration of pattern and texture. Which is not to denigrate Goslee’s work, it’s just that virtually every photographer who has ever lived has done some of that work.
Titles can give you hints at the artist’s intentions, but rarely does a title have such magnitude as Goslee’s razor wire and shimmering water diptych titled “Self Portrait.”
Immediately, you have to toss aside all preconceived notions of superficiality, and give this one some serious consideration. It’s also fairly unusual for an artist to take such an aggressively metaphoric stance, literally challenging the viewer to decode the visual riddle before them.
Goslee is a fairly calm and collected individual. The calm waters seem an apt metaphor for that aspect of her personality. But what to make of that menacing winding razor wire atop chain link fence?
There is a visual connection between the two in that the shimmering water reflections have a loosely winding pattern of their own. You could guess as much, but it would help to know that Goslee by her own admission tends towards the shy side of the personality spectrum. As such, the combination of razor wire and calm waters seems the perfect metaphor for a shy person.
In the end, the work is challenging, entertaining and quite informative – anything but superficial.
Leland Bryant’s power point slide show titled “Views from the Parking Lot” does seem to be a strictly superficial exposé in form and texture. Focusing up close on the texture of asphalt and the often worn paint applied over it, Bryant’s images recall abstract expressionist paintings. The one of a worn white stripe over tar drippings is especially good. The compositions here could at times be pushed a good bit further, which would take them from the excellent to the great level.
Kristoffer Tripplaar has a series of five documentary images of Galveston, dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane. “Galveston #18” features a torn up church facade and spire knocked askew. It seems to strike a wry note, saying, in effect, that this act-of-God tore up his own house.
Michael Stargill offers up another dash of humor in his “Gonzaga v. DeMatha” image of four soccer players who have all jumped in the air to head a loose ball. The ball hangs above them in mid air while every last one of them grimaces with eyes closed waiting for the ball to bonk them in the head. All of them want to hit the ball, and none of them are too wild about the personal consequences if they do.
Mark Issac has two blurry black and white motion studies. The “House” image, while ultimately inscrutable, is quite evocative. You can’t help but think that this is a dangerous, foreboding place, from which you’d be wise to run from or drive past hurriedly.
Jared Raglan offers up three of the most complex images here, all using a digital form of photo collage. “Miss Americana” seems the weightiest of the lot.
Here we find a mid-20th century leggy snapshot of a woman with head and shoulders scratched out. Under her arm, Raglan has pasted a photo of a Thompson Submachine gun. Replacing her head and shoulders is an image of the Capitol dome, with white stars at her feet. Sex, guns, and politics … a portrait in American power.
The Northern Virginia Art Beat is compiled by Kevin Mellema. To e-mail submissions, e-mail them to [email protected]