Arts & Entertainment, Gallery Beat

A Visit to the Torpedo Factory

By F. Lennox Campello

If you keep up or are aware, then you know that there have been many disturbances in the Force where it pertains to Alexandria’s magnificent jewel of an art center known as the Torpedo Factory.  While the dust from all the changes, decisions and re-decisions have yet not settled, the artists move on, and the art gets created, hung, displayed, and hopefully sold.

While talking about the capital area on the Voice of America many years ago, I once referred to the Torpedo Factory as the “crown jewel of the Greater Washington area art scene.”

And while in dawn of the post Covidian Age some of the Factory’s best-known artists have moved on, some remain, and among those who remain, perhaps the most iconic and best-known, and immensely talented is Rosemary Feit Covey in Studio 224 on the second floor.  Covey is an artist who has mastered her medium (printmaking) and that mastery gives her license to explore a multitude of powerful subjects, themes and approaches far beyond printmaking.

“My current focus on environmental concerns is informed by 20 years of collaborations with scientists, during which biology, ecology, and mortality have remained steady themes of my artist practice. In the past three decades I have moved beyond my work as an established wood engraver, and expanded my medium to include large scale installations, experimental printmaking and mixed media. From the replication of the printmaking process to the carving of the printing block, my works attend to personal analogies of physical and emotional fortitude, evoking a darker psychological sensibility within complex figural representations. While maintaining my long-standing engagement with psychologically challenging—and oftentimes troubling—subject matter, this diversification of mediums highlights my continued innovation in the arenas of both technique and narrative,” she notes.

Another superbly talented artist who has been there for decades and deserves special attention is Anna Shakeeva in Studio 304. I have been following this artist’s growth, both in technical skill and subject matter, for almost 30 years, and every movement in her artistic progress just keep elevating her as one of the top artists in that epicenter of artistic talent in Alexandria.

Several of the nation’s top plein air festivals are around the DMV and places like Easton on the Eastern shore, and there are many talented plein air painters at the Factory: Check out Margaret Cerutti in Studio 326.

In the 3D world, head straight for Lori Katz’s (Studio 334) – you will thank me when you discover how this exceptional ceramic artist keeps pushing the boundaries of her genre.  If your 3D “thing” Is glass, then the Torpedo factory is home to one of the nation’s leading glass artists in Alison Sigethy in Studio 335.  This is work which is not only technically challenging to deliver, but also inherently beautiful and yet intelligent! She notes that through her artwork she tries “to bring the outside in. While I make no attempt to portray actual plants or animals, I do want my creations to look like they could have lived or grown somewhere. Living with beautiful objects that pay tribute to the natural world reminds us to slow down and helps us reconnect with nature.”

And, as far as jewelry, check out Brandi Couvillion’s historically inspired jewelry (Studio 209) – as a history nerd, she had me at “hello”, and her jewelry work and accessories are “inspired by architectural details such as decorative wrought iron and plasterwork, as well as historic maps and imagery—some dating from as early as the 1700s culled from archives.”

Finally, from the “new” selected artists who started in November 2022, I am attracted to the work of Mehmet Üskül, in Studio 25, who discusses his work by writing that the main point of his work is “… the concept of time. My aim in line with this concept is to bring together a single moment or moments on the same ground by utilizing different perspectives.”  Courtney Koulker (in Studio 4) is also worth a visit to see her gorgeous paintings.

No visit to the Factory is complete without also visiting the many galleries inside the Factory, which includes the top photography gallery in the DMV in Multiple Exposures Gallery (Studio space 312), which for almost 40 years has been showcasing some of the best photographers in our area.

If your interest is in printmaking, then please make sure that you visit Printmakers Inc. in Studio 14 – they’ve been around for decades and feature exceptional work by “real” printmakers such as Veronica Barker-Barzel, Jennifer Dunbar, John Gosling and others who create real prints.

I write “real prints” because that word and genre has been kidnapped by the general art discourse. Repeat after me: if the “print” that you’re been offered comes from (let’s say) a painting, then it is a reproduction – not a print! A print is an etching, a woodblock, a linocut, a lithograph, etc.! But not a reproduction of a painting, no matter how many “hand enhancements” or whatever the artist does to make it look different from the original!

Finally, The Art League on the ground floor, which offers monthly juried exhibits for exhibiting artist members to enter, and because they get hundreds of entries, they always seem to have the best group show in the DMV month after month. Juried by Jenn Bratovich, the Director of Exhibitions & Programs at the Print Center New York, the December show will run through January 8, 2023.

About the Author: F. Lennox Campello’s art news, information, gallery openings, commentary, criticism, happenings, opportunities, and everything associated with the global visual arts scene with a special focus on the Greater Washington, DC area has been a premier source for the art community for over 20 years. Since 2003, his blog has been the 11th highest ranked art blog on the planet with over SIX million visitors.

5.00 avg. rating (97% score) - 2 votes