I Wanna Go to an Art Fair!

By F. Lennox Campello

I Wanna Go to an Art Fair!

“Untitled (A New Landscape)”
Video installation by Michelle Lisa Herman

Last month I wrote how the Covidian monster still had us in its grip, and art galleries were still mostly online, etc.  Since then, although I’m not so sure the monster has changed, and although the President is still wearing two masks and tripping all over the place, there has been a slight shift to the normalization of the Covidian Age.

Children are returning to school (I vote for mandatory summer school), art fairs all over the world are planning to stage art fairs, some governors are in deep doodoo and others have emerged as leaders of the pack and soon there will be more vaccine brands and kinds than Starbucks franchises.

And yet, art galleries seem to be a little reticent to open fully; at least around here. Not that art galleries are ever packed places to start with… cough… cough.  The average gallery hopes to pack it up on opening night, but after that it is usually crickets most days… and that’s why art galleries should do art fairs.

What else? Let’s hope that the Torpedo Factory can come back to its former glory – if the city of Alexandria does it right, its best days may still be ahead… fingers crossed! The City needs to listen to the artists – there’s a LOT of corporate knowledge there!

Wanna stay outside no matter what? Our area has some of the best outdoor art shows in the nation, and while nearly all of them were cancelled in 2020, they are all planning a comeback in 2021 – it is probably the best response to a Covidian model that demands being outside to see and buy art and for those who may still be afraid to step foot inside a space.

A couple of the best art shows not to miss in the DMV are (in no particular order): the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival; now in its 30th year, the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival, one of the top five outdoor art shows in the country, has a long-standing reputation for showcasing high quality artwork. In a cool, walkable outdoor 11 block setting, this juried and highly competitive festival, which usually takes place in May, has been re-scheduled for September 10-12 at the Reston Town Center, Reston, VA; Bethesda Row Arts Festival (October 9-12 and one of the top 30 Fine Art Shows in the United States), which attracts about 45,000 art patrons over the two-day event, which is staged on the streets around Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues in Bethesda.

Switching to indoor art galleries, I’m a BIG fan of student shows, especially MFA shows, and over at the VisArts Common Ground Gallery in Rockville, through May 14, the MICA MFAST 2020 Thesis Exhibitions are taking place.  This series of exhibitions is of the Maryland Institute College of Art’s low-residency MFA (MFAST) 2020 graduate students thesis work.  Of particular interest appears to be Michelle Lisa Herman: Always Already?

Always, Already? consists of “interconnected video and light installations that explore alternate realities by ‘re-presenting’ everyday aspects of our own. An absent-but-always-present force threads its way through the works—providing the viewer with subtle clues to unraveling but never fully explaining what is “off.”  Together, the works merge into an immersive, simulated environment that aims to transport the viewer to another-worldly space in order to allow them to consider different modes of being and embodiment. In one video projection piece, “default” assumptions—such as the height of a light switch—are questioned. In another animated work, a ‘decimated’ cityscape presents a juxtaposition of neoclassical architecture and the quick-stop convenience of capitalism.”

Vis Arts is at 155 Gibbs Street, in Rockville, Maryland.

 “Untitled (Technology / Transformation)”

Mixed Media Sculpture by Michelle Lisa Herman

Cooperative galleries can survive almost anything by the sheer power of artists banding together, and in the region we have some of the best co-ops in the country!  Over in Bethesda, Waverly Street Gallery, still going strong and still open by appointment currently has a very good group show as it welcomes a new member. Claire Wright is described as “an avid nature explorer, a biologist by training and a rock climber by passion, and her photography is intimately connected to nature. She attempts to comprehend its essence, the essence of life and Earth by capturing shapes, textures, patterns, and colors. Her photographs can be close ups or aerial shots, they are often foreign to our naked eye, yet we sense their beauty and familiarity as they are revealed by the camera.” Waverly Street Gallery is located at 4600 East West Highway, Bethesda and open by appointment on Thursdays and Saturdays, 1 – 4 pm.

Del Ray Artisans is another great member of the DMV art tapestry. Their “The Art of Nature” exhibit (May 7-29, 2021) “reminds us of Mother Earth’s gifts through local artists’ interpretations of the natural world.” View the exhibit at Del Ray Artisans, 2704 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria. Gallery hours: Thursdays and Fridays 12-6pm, Saturdays 12-4pm. Plus register for nature-themed creative workshops now! Del Ray Artisans is ALX Promise certified, requiring face masks and limiting gallery capacity. Details: http://www.DelRayArtisans.org/exhibits

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