The Art Gallery…a Fragile Labor of Love

By F. Lennox Campello

The Art Gallery…a Fragile Labor of Love

Art galleries (according to the US Chamber of Commerce from the last time that I examined the subject) are the second most likely business in the USA to fail (first is restaurants).

John Pancake, a good friend and a former Washington Post Arts editor once told me that “running an art gallery in DC is a heroic endeavor”, and Pancake was not that off the mark with that assessment.

When I first opened the first Fraser Gallery in Georgetown in late 1996, we immediately had lots of people giving us advice on how to succeed, as well as someone who, once they heard what the galleries intended to focus upon, noted that he “gave us six months before we closed.”

Six years later we opened a second gallery in Bethesda, at the time the largest independently owned commercial fine arts gallery in the DMV, an acronym which I invented around that same time, at least according to an investigation of the origins of “DMV” to refer to the Greater DC region conducted in 2016 by the Washington City Paper.

Art galleries, when run by ethical dealers, are fragile labors of love, and while we sigh when we see them close, we should applaud and encourage them when they sprout from the most unlikely of places.

Freight Gallery is an artist run micro/pop-up gallery in a 1925 Hollister Whitney freight elevator in Washington, DC.  The space is 75 inches wide, 95 inches high, and 85 inches deep–a perfect container for displaying sculpture and small installations.  Its mission is to create more opportunities for artists.

In a recent review by Eric Hope of Diane Szczepaniak’s installation at Freight Gallery, (titled Floating Light) and published in that media jewel known as East City Art, Hope writes: “Freight Gallery, a new exhibition space in northeast DC’s Langdon neighborhood, creates experiential moments by displaying works in a non-traditional environment.  Located deep within an old brick warehouse, it takes the eyes a moment to adjust to the dark hallway leading to the space.  When the lights flip on, the “gallery” reveals itself to be a literal freight elevator.  While the incongruity of viewing art in an industrial locale could easily tumble into the realm of kitsch, the gallery’s debut exhibition, Floating Light featuring a site-specific work by sculptor Diane Szczepaniak, creates a compelling dialogue between the work and the environment it occupies.”

Next at the gallery is the talented sculptor Mary Early – her work is coming up at Freight Gallery on January 12.

Over at the Open Gallery at Montgomery College in their Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, we have Andrew Wodzianski’s works in Andrew Wodzianski is a Fanboy, which was the third show in 2019 of that year’s themed exhibition series, Self, which “invites artists to explore contemporary ideas of Self Portraiture by engaging with the self through either representational or conceptual means.”

Wodzianski is one of the most gifted painters in the area, a painter who makes MICA in Baltimore proud, and who has been exhibiting regularly in the DMV since he was a graduate student there (decades ago).

The gallery notes that “Andrew Wodzianski is a Fanboy represents a ten-year retrospective of self-portraiture wherein Wodzianski has intentionally concealed his identity. Instead of introspective depictions of the human condition, Wodzianski reveals little of his true self. Whether a painting, photograph, or performance, each work is another layer of artifice. When viewed as a collection, an inkling of personality begins to materialize. Through an amalgamation of late 20th Century adolescent Americana, identity roles and contradictions and complexities can be gleaned. There is much left unexplained, but two things are certain; Wodzianski is clearly a pop culture fanatic and a self-described man-child. He is a fanboy.”

The works on display are not only representations of Wodzianski’s fanboyishness, but in the manner in which they are composed and delivered, are also brilliant examples of what a talented painter, armed with formidable painting skills and an open mind, can deliver.

The gallery is located at The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Arts Center located at 930 King Street, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Wodzianski is also an active curator, as a fan boy, it is natural that a progression of that aspect of his nature crosses over into the Wodzianskian Empire, a minor empire of the Start Wars saga.

As a result, three years ago, Wodzianski curated an exhibition of “unusual” works from fellow Star Wars nerds who also happen to be superbly talented artists, and now… coinciding with the release of the most recent Star Wars films, comes a third and final show of paintings, photographs, and mixed-media sculptures by artists Scott G. Brooks, Chris Bishop, Jared Davis, Steve Strawn, and Wodzianski. The show titled The Last Holiday Starkillers was staged at 609 H St. NE in DC, and was a welcome addition to the epic intergalactic saga and was well worth a visit.

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