Around F.C., Arts & Entertainment

A Walk on the ‘Wild Side’ at Falls Church Arts Gallery

Falls Church Arts Gallery is currently holding an art show themed “Wild.” This is fitting, as a wide and wild variety of art media are used, including photography, porcelain, silk screen, oil as well as acrylic painting, and even a long T-shirt with dye. As for subjects, these range from works suggesting everything from the “wild kingdom” of nature to wild, fast-paced motorcycles and amusement park rides.

Let us take a walk on the “wild side,” so to speak, and begin with two paintings in the Cubist style. In Greg Skrtic’s Cubist acrylic painting “Annelise’s Garden,” a girl is surrounded by light, playful patterns, vibrant colors, and nature. The Cubist structure forms a stained-glass-like look. The card beside the picture notes poignantly that when the artist’s “daughter passed, our family created a memorial garden. This is how I dream of her in her garden—bleeding hearts and Japanese maples with an arabesque design that encircles the sun-lit stained-glass window that frames her like a halo. On her right wrist is a rose bracelet while on her left forearm a golden serpent ascends.”

An equally striking Cubist work, this one in monochrome, is John Ballou’s oil painting “Two Musicians on a Rodeo Bull,” in which square vignettes of instruments such as the tambourine in the upper left hand corner, bongo drums at the middle top, and a saxophone are being held. Two characters can be seen with their facial expressions being engrossed by the rhythm of the wild instruments. Sheet music can imply the structure of music, but the painting somehow reminded us of a literary work of the early twentieth-century when Cubism and jazz improvisation were in vogue: Hermann Hesse’s “Steppenwolf,” and its description of “the sublime intoxication of performing in the orchestra” as jazz musicians “played faster and wilder.” Yet there is a Wild West presence here as well, with the saxophone man seen to be wearing a cowboy boot and spur. Sharp black-and-white contrasts represent the excitement of the music while there is a shadow behind the woman which appears to belong to her but is actually a dark bull shadow, give the painting a wild feel as they are perhaps taking part of an entertaining evening.

Now we are still in the wild season of summer! Noreene Janus’ acrylic painting “Where’s My Beach Towel” depicts a colorful beach towel with contrasting primary colors which draws the viewer in with the use of multiple horizontal lines. There is a combination of abstraction and realism between the background and foreground. As the exhibit card beside the painting states with clever punchline: “Frantic masses of shapes and colors presented horizontally with two bands across the top. The color of the horizontal bands suggests sand and sea. The jumbles of abstract shapes suggest the midsummer beach crowds. Wait, there’s no room for my towel.”

Also “wild” with a self-styled “supersaturated summer vacation” feel, Carrie Spence’s “Summer Girls” is a mixed-media work in which a bee-like insect can be seen watching the television with a theme of buzzing both from the bee and the television screen. Artist Carrie Spence pays tribute to various paintings by Van Gogh with Starry Night-like spiraling sky swirls the room itself looking as if it could be a very loose take on Van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles” set in the future with simplistic furniture pieces and a window. Sci-fi touches with saturated colors and clear outlines give this work an additional edge.

Before leaving the summer season behind, we must admire John Valenti’s “Wild Whirl,” a color photograph of an amusement park or fair captured in action. Striking neon green and yellow colors jump out at the viewer. A calmer carnival mood is captured in photography in Naomi Lipsky’s “At the Fair,” as the artist’s daughter queues up for a “a ride at the county fair.”

There are various artworks of wildlife, such as Freya Christensen’s “Tyger, Tyger.” Owing its title and unusual spelling to William Blake’s famous poem beginning “Tyger, tyger burning bright,” the work depicts a forest scene of multitudinous animals including “Malayan Tapir, Javan Rhinoceros, Orangutan, Sumatran Tiger, Slow Loris, Sumatran Elephant, Bali Myna, Sun Bear, and Proboscis Monkey.” Marker on watercolor paper is the medium. At first, the animals are not immediately apparent, but as the viewer looks deeper into the painting, more details begin to surface. Here there may be a message involving corporate social responsibility, for the cards speaks of: “Slash-and-burn practices behind the common additive destroy irreplaceable habitat and carry a high death toll, roasting all creatures unable to escape. How much more will be lost to the fire?”

A more placid view of nature is seen in the oil painting “Swan Lake,” executed in careful detail by Iryna Smitchkova. Here two swans, black and white, have arched necks, suggesting almost a yin-yang pattern. Looking closely at the canvas, an intricately patterned texture can be seen which is not apparent from afar. According to the painter: “In nature, swans are known for their devotion to one another. So when I started to create the image of two beautiful birds, I wanted to convey how wonderful the feeling of love and fidelity is.”

Two canvases cover the bright lights of Broadway, New York City’s theatre district. Bob Gilbert’s “Phantom and West Side” depicts a Broadway in downtown Manhattan with colorful posters of different Broadway large advertisements of the Broadway musicals “South Pacific,” “West Side Story,” “Hair,” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” Not only is the painting visually filled with city crowds heading into the theatres but is also suggestive of city sounds. Viewing the painting, one the can almost hear the busy traffic mixed with music as enthusiastic theatre goers rendezvous to enter theatres. Yet the true wildness here is the wildly improbable: the four musicals referenced appeared in vastly different decades and would unlikely be playing all together at the same time. Another Manhattan-themed painting is the same artist’s “Theater District,” in which taxis can be seen with spattered in rain.

Digital photography makes its appearance with James Hengst’s “Driftwood Tree.” The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow speaks of “drift-wood fire without that burned” in his poem “The Fire of Drift-wood” and is matched by Sara Teasdale in her poem “Driftwood” which imagines “driftwood burning.” Yet the theme of this painting in the Falls Church show is not how all things perish with time but rather a timeless view of “Treasure Beach, on Jamaica’s south coast,” where one finds “sandy beaches” uncorrupted by “megaresorts.” Instead, according to the exhibition card, the pictured “tree grows wild from the soil between two of the beaches, its branches twisted by the wind and tides into beautiful shapes resembling driftwood.”

Wild flashcard views of more of the exhibition would include the ancient symbols of griffin and sphynx (Veronica Barker-Barzel’s “Griffin and Pregnant Sphinx” relief), Shaun van Steyn’s film photography “Wild Buffalo,” and Casey Wait’s “Get in Line,” an acrylic on cradled board depicting a large white cat.
To enjoy a close-up look at these and other works too numerous to present here, take a “walk on the wild side” in visiting Falls Church Arts’ “Wild,” an exhibition of pictures for sale which continues through October 2. For further information, please visit