Arts & Entertainment

Escaping into Art with ‘Scapes at Falls Church Arts

By Mark Dreisonstok

‘Scapes is the latest show at Falls Church Art Gallery, with a variety of aesthetic escapes, landscapes, seascapes, and cityscapes on offer in various artworks.  While Falls Church Art shows often lean towards the modern, this particular show has many paintings more in an Impressionist vein.  

One example emerges in a familiar scene to commuters on the Wilson Bridge as Xavier Hardison’s “National Harbor I” depicts the Harbor’s iconic Ferris Wheel with ubiquitous clouds painted across the sky. This painting draws forth many fond memories of the summer with its colorful sky and suggested beach and boardwalk towards the bottom of the painting. Visible but softly painted bushes with green strokes enhance such summer associations.  The painting appears to take place during sunset with a warm orange tint on the right side of the clouds. A sense of motion is captured as well with the multitudinous clouds flourishing from one direction of the painting to the other as we imagine the round Ferris Wheel circling around, no doubt to the delight of riders and spectators.

A scene of rain at night somewhat in the style of the French Impressionists depicts not a nineteenth-century Parisian café but the very American Woodie’s Crabs and Grill in Jane McElvany Coonce’s “Evening at Woodie’s Grill.” Parked cars under the trees shine their headlights in the direction of a man gazing towards the restaurant. Perhaps he is waiting for someone to accompany him to dinner or merely marveling at the rain and the timelessness of a night scene. Although the subject has his back turned away from us, we can relate easily to certain moments in our lives in which time stands still, causing us to stop and view our surroundings with a sense of wonder. 

Joan Slottow’s “Waves and Gulls” depicts a seascape via exaggerated shapes and outlines, encompassing several angles and perspectives in one canvas. Just like the red and white striped lighthouse, each wave is depicted with a different color palette. The seagull in the foreground is seen alone on the shore pacing back and forth between the shore and the waves.  In the center of the painting, a flock of small seagulls is flying towards the right side of the painting, perhaps migrating towards a warmer location for the season, reminding the October visitors to the show that autumn is here.  Objects such as the lighthouse have been “dissected” or taken apart in an unusual way, yet kept clear and visible, thus revealing a fresh perspective. Perhaps it is up to the viewer to put the pieces back together, as each viewer has different associations with the seashore, lighthouse, and seagulls. 

For a distinct change a pace, we turn to a distinctly urban setting, Manhattan, in Craig Wright’s watercolor “World Trade Center.” The perspective from the bottom looking up at the imposing skyscrapers reminds the audience of the impressiveness of the building heights.  Meticulous lines executed in extreme detail include the many windows in the four buildings with vaporous clouds to be spotted in the sky as well.  While a watercolor, this artwork has been rendered in monochrome, for the author wished to “take a page out of [famed black-and-white photographer] Ansel Adams’ book.”

These, of course, are but a few paintings to be seen at ‘Scapes.  Flip card views of some other noteworthy artistic works on display include John Valenti’s “Step Down,” a study in photography of the steps in Georgetown featured in the 1973 horror film “The Exorcist;” July Clark’s collage “Indestructible,” based on  a poem the artist read “about a mythical warrior princess who was strong as a mountain and beautiful as a flower;” and “Capricious,” an acrylic painting by Sara Bardin of an escape into colors in the detail of a flower (“bold reds, yellows, and blues calm me as they are brushed across the canvas inducing a state of mindfulness,” the artist stated of her work). Those wishing to return to Impressionist views of nature would do well to look at Marilyn Miyamoto’s “Waterlilies 2” and Stuart Hindle’s “Golden Fields.”

Falls Church Arts’ exhibition of ‘Scapes encouraging various timeless escapes into seascapes, landscapes, and cityscapes will be on view from October 8 through November 13 in Falls Church Arts Gallery, Falls Church, Virginia. For further information, please visit