A unique collection of artworks in all media is currently on display at Falls Church Arts. Entitled “Street Life: Real Life Imagined,” the show wafts viewers by means of visual art to the streets of Bologna (reduction linocut by Suzanne Updike), Venice (watercolor by Diana Bozza), Budapest (oil by Maria Kinnane), Tallinn (watercolor by Bob Wentworth), Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. (acrylic and oil pastel by Elizabeth Matthews), and, locally, Eden Center in Falls Church (watercolor by Michael Potashnik). Here we offer flip-card views of some of these street-oriented works.
Bob Wentworth’s watercolor “Walking to Church,” as we read on the gallery card, depicts a “city street scene of people walking to church at St. Nicholas’ Church, Tallinn, Estonia. The narrow streets funnel the walkers toward the towering church steeple and are framed by the adjacent old buildings.” Artist Wentworth calls the painting to life with abundant contrasting values. As the most distant people turn the corner, the eye cannot help but be drawn to anticipate a highly spiritual mood which likely pertains as one enters the church itself.
Closer to home than the Estonian capital of Tallinn is the Washington, D.C. Metro! The work in question, “Going Home on The Yellow Line” by Carol Morgan, depicts a familiar scene for Metro riders: tired souls traveling to and fro on their commute. This drawing in pen and ink is accompanied by a poem by Gerry Hendershot that completely alters what might first be assumed about the subjects. When we first view the drawing, it might seem that the man and woman in glasses are a couple traveling home together after arriving back from a trip, though upon reading the poem, we find that this is not the case. The woman has never met the man until he accidentally mistook her suitcase to be his own at the baggage claim. She goes on to fall asleep on his shoulder as romance swirls around his lonely mind. Enjoying the company, the man thinks to wake her but does not. Arriving at “Prince Georges” the woman jolts awake, exclaiming that she has missed her stop. “Trailing her luggage, she slips through the door—/ his reverie ends, idyllic dreams die,/ depression descends, he stares at the floor.”
Street life at night, of course, includes street lights. The gentle buzz and warm unique glowing cast of sodium vapor bulbs so high above makes for a world all its own. “Night Light” by Oyunnaa Waskin is a fascinating and highly successful attempt at capturing this very specific and difficult-to-replicate atmosphere in a painting. We see the streetlamp itself at the center of the canvas, slightly offset to the left. Then appear both the warm and all-too-familiar splotches of light upon the pavement and the deep, yet transparent, shadows against the house at left and the far wall on the right. The artist has created a pleasing street vision capped off beautifully with stars in the night sky, adding a fanciful atmosphere to the world streetlights create.
“Ghosts” by Matt Makara of the Charles Bridge in Prague created in platinotype photography is an excellent example of a rare and unique art form. Platinum prints are a special kind of analog photography in which “the emulsion (the light sensitive compound that captures the image) is not suspended in a gelatin base like normal silver gelatin prints,” student of photography Joshua Mongardini informs us, “but rather is a platinum compound directly on the paper.” As a result of this unusual process, the viewer will notice that unique detail can be seen in the brightest brights and in the darkest darks. Highlighted here in bright light are the glass enclosures of the streetlights and in the darkest spaces the cobblestones of the street. This fascinating process mostly ended in the early 1900s, as platinum was needed to make platinum fulminate, a primary explosive used as detonators in World War I. This gorgeous example of the platinum printing process can only really be appreciated in person, where viewers will be stunned by new and exciting details they will find every time they look closely.
Indeed, the “Street Life” show itself, which runs through August 13, must be appreciated in person, with its varied views of urban “Real Life Reimagined.”