Artmosphere

By F. Lennox Campello

Artmosphere

I’m one of those dwindling number of people who had a significant existence before Al Gore invented the Internet; was right there at the inception of it; bought Amazon at $5 a share (technically my wife did – I bought Commodore); and have developed right along the spectacular “spread” of cyberspace as a way to reach places where the written word had never reached before.

And in spite of all that, I am always surprised by things and facts that people pick up on, discover, and reflect back to me when appropriate. Last month I wrote about “Queer Glass” and in that piece had one of the DMV’s best-known artists, and perhaps the leading and earliest artist associated with this “new” term (new to me at least), Tim Tate, guest-write a piece which he had earlier authored for the Washington Glass School.

After that piece, I received a few emails, including one from a museum curator, pointing me to other artists who are also doing what is now being called “Queer Glass.”

I also got an interesting email from a local writer, who often writes about art for a well-known online publication. He pointed me to an interesting event which had developed a while back in Wikipedia. Apparently, right in the middle of Pride month, some editors at that Internet site decided that the term was not a “real” art term and deleted the article from the online site.  I do not know Wikipedia that well, and or how “articles” or facts are vetted, and thus I do not have an informed opinion why “Queer Glass” was deleted as an art term, but it doesn’t leave a good optic… especially during Pride month.

Enough said about that.

Ralph Paine “Walking Figure”

But it got me to think about how we in the “artmosphere” of major cities, or perhaps even wee Scottish villages, are always seemingly obsessing on the “new” when it comes to art.

The most expensive, and also the most useful “thing” to have is information. Think about it, information leads to everything that one needs to survive: where the food is, where shelter is, where clean water is, where the zombies are attacking, what new gallery is looking for artists, which museum has been suddenly funded to acquire local art, etc.

The art world is usually getting wrapped around its cultural axles trying to find the “new” and not a year passes where someone writes about some new movement or “ism”… and yet, because the way information is now distributed, especially visual information, more often than not we then and subsequently discover, as The Beatles so elegantly noted in the 1960s, “… There’s nothing you can know that isn’t known… Nothing you can see that isn’t shown…”

Maybe that’s the reason that Wikipedia editors decided that “Queer Glass” is not a thing.

Around the DMV, the brutal hot weather brought along some very cool shows, such as the one at Alexandria’s Art League Gallery, where Fanna Gebreyesus, who is a Curatorial Associate at Potomac’s gorgeous Glenstone Museum (where she collaborates on artist publications, exhibition planning, and public programming), selected the show.

Because it is the Art League – one of the true art jewels of the DMV’s art tapestry – and having juried this show a few times over the last 30 years or so (Art League: I’m due for another one by the way!) – I suspect that Gebreyesus had a lot of fun selecting this show, and probably learned a lot about diversity in art from being exposed to the spectacular range of styles, techniques, genres, approaches, and ideas.

Alina Tolkacheva, “Aware”

In fact, I would submit that the closest that anyone in the artmosphere ever comes to seeing something really “new” in the art world is after being exposed to the jurying process of a large group show such as the Art League presents nearly every month.

As a result of the diversity in Art League membership, the juror selected a dizzying array of artwork, almost overwhelming to the un-initiated, and certainly more diverse and wide-ranging than anything Glenstone would ever dare to hang in its pristine walls.

Gabreyesus awarded the “Best in Show” to a gorgeous painting titled Illumination by Yasmin Bussiere. It is an attractive abstract work and certainly merits special attention.

However, as it has become my annoying tendency in this column over the last few decades, after looking at all the submissions online, my version of awards might look a little different from the real juror.

I liked A. Tolkacheva’s sensual red painting of power personified by a strong woman, fully aware, and clearly transmitted in the painting, of her strength.

I also enjoyed Toulsaly’s deceptively simple sculpture of a pensive figure – almost the opposite of Tolkacheva’s powerful red woman, and yet as strong and omnipresent. Staying with the female model, there is also a sensual work by Ralph Payne which captures the young model’s odd pose in such a manner as to deliver every ounce of data about the visual strength of youth.

A painting entry by Felker is also able to capture the subtle sexiness of the painting’s central figure, while at the same time spreading the visual message with the three other figures in the work – which act to both diffuse the voluptuous pose of the central figure, and paradoxically augment it!

Sometimes it is the unusual approach to the subject itself which captures attention – such as in Dooriso’s painting of an older gentleman enjoying his water aerobics.  Or D. Vergaray’s somewhat scary piece of a woman near the Washington Monument (I think) with a touch of “let me disturb your visual senses” in her depiction.

Alex Tolstoy “Stormy Sea”

Abstraction is well represented – including intelligent works by area masters such as Marsha Steiger and J. Sherfy, as well as a strikingly moist painting by A. Tolstoy in which the artist delights in flexing his/her wet-on-wet mastery – a note to Tolstoy: lose the bad habit of signing your work in the middle of the painting. I believe that all artwork should and must be signed somewhere, but a signature cannot compete with the art itself, especially on a superbly composed abstract depicting of a landscape as this piece is… stick to the lower margin on the front, or sign the work on the verso – but never on the middle of the painting!

Now everyone who reads this column has gathered an important bit of information about signing artwork… cough, cough…

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