Falls Church Arts Gallery is offering the all-media exhibition “Luminous” with varied works revolving around the theme of light and emanations.
The digital drawing on canvas “Looking Glass” by Heather Widener, for instance, depicts a rounded mirror with the reflection of a dining room table with red curtains beside it. A slightly distorted perspective is offered and lovers of Flemish art may be reminded of Jan van Eyck’s famous “Arnolfini Portrait” which features a rounded mirror reflecting the room with windows, curtains, and even a chandelier. The approach of “Looking Glass” is a bit in the “macabre” style of Edward Gorey, whose animation is seen at the opening of PBS’ “Mystery!” In this spirit, and with the light theme in mind, we could not help but recall Edgar Allan Poe’s vision of “a waking dream of life and light” from his poem “A Dream.”
Moving through the gallery to Elin Whitney Smith’s “St. Adea, Patron of Unwed Mothers” (digital drawing and text, metallic paint, gold leaf): At first glance, this artwork appears to be an iconography painting depicting a saint dressed in a royal blue robe, surrounded by illuminated gold leaf background with her hands stretched outwards. This is no ordinary saint, for “St. Adea, Patron of Unwed Mothers,” is “not canonized by any church. Her life and her sacrifice for Augustine of Hippo should glow through the ages.” The traditional and the modern mix in this work bringing forward the illuminated tradition into the modern era.
More modern art movement references were found in Erick Buendla’s “Underground,” an oil portrait which the artist says was “inspired by Neo-Expressionist works” and has a reference to Vincent Van Gogh’s Impressionist “Starry Night.” Andy Warhol-style pop art was also remembered in Michael Sheedy’s pastel-colored “Dolly Aglow.” Here fans of Dolly Parton will be pleased as the country singer is presented in her iconic blonde hair, wearing a jeans jacket with a pink butterfly wallpaper background. Instead of the lithograph medium of Warhol, however, the artist has employed acrylic.
Matt Makara’s “Beach Blur #3” artwork depicts a seascape divided into three horizontal sections. The bottom suggests sand, and then we view the blurry seawater. The top part of the painting is a peach sunset with its last glimpses of light illuminating earth and water. The work appears to be abstract at first glance, not unlike Mark Rothko’s artworks of beaches, although this is a photograph. To achieve his effect, the photographer Makara has employed “long exposure and intentional camera movement.”
Cutting shapes into silhouettes in a “light box” of mixed media is the ideal device to convey luminescence in a fitting theme for the Falls Church Art Gallery’s show. Our current month of September is, oddly enough, the month of Bavaria’s world-famous Oktoberfest, and so perhaps it is appropriate that artist Melanie Kehoss presents the role of female brewers in history in her “light box” called “Guggle Fuddle Boil and Bottle.”
Framed by a barley motif while employing ancient Egyptian stylistics, four different horizontal levels reflect top to bottom different stages of the brewing process: the ancient world, the medieval era, the late nineteenth-century, and modern times. We were curious about what look like Halloween witches in the medieval panel, and we were fortunate enough to meet the artist who explained this unique feature of her Juror’s Choice Award-winning work.
Melanie told us: “Until the Middle Ages, most beer was made by women as part of their domestic duties. These ‘alewives’ wore pointed hats so that they would be recognized by travelers on the streets, and they displayed broomsticks outside their homes as an additional indicator of their trade. They kept cats, in order to keep rodents from eating their grain, and they were often stirring cauldrons of boiling brew. These trappings, of course, are also those of the modern image of a witch.”
Apparently, men who opened taverns as lucrative business ventures needed to eliminate the competition, so—according to Melanie—they “accused alewives of trickery, casting spells, and colluding with the devil. The symbols of alewifery remained connected to witchcraft, while the connection to brewing was largely forgotten.”
“Luminous” is clearly an intriguing show with many stories such as this, and we encourage readers to visit this exhibition which lasts through October 1.