Arts & Entertainment, Gallery Beat

The Compass Atelier: Art Schooling At Its Best

By F. Lennox Campello

The Compass Atelier has what I consider the best artist schooling in the DMV – better, in fact, than all of the major Universities in our area.  That’s a big statement to make, but it comes from me, and thus I am ready to back it up as needed. Notice that I wrote “art schooling.”

I choose my words carefully – what Glen Kessler and the other professionals who teach at the Compass Atelier do is to school people who want to develop and expand their artistic prowess, plus their artistic acumen, in leaps and bounds.

The results are spectacular to say the least.  I’ve seen the work of artists who just started painting a few years ago and already deliver immensely intelligent work.  One of them is the superbly talented Dora Patin – I think that Patin is a painting prodigy.  She has also only been painting for a handful of years, and yet her trompe l’oeil paintings are breathtaking in their ability to fool the eye.  Either Patin has painting super powers or owns the most enviable painting learning skills on a planetary level!

On to the review… Currently and until February 11, 2023, the Compass Atelier has the first of two Master Thesis shows at the galleries of Strathmore Mansion.

Strathmore Mansion is one of the great jewels of the cultural tapestry of the Greater Washington region. –  The Mansion’s art galleries are at 10701 Rockville Pike in North Bethesda/Rockville, right off Rockville Pike and within walking distance of the Metro stop by the same name and with plenty of free parking. Its vibrant director, Lesley Morris manages to organize one great visual show after another, and is herself a terrific asset to the Mansion’s hardworking staff.

The current show is ample evidence to back up my first paragraph – there’s not a single pedestrian painting in the show, and there are some spectacular gems to be found as well.

I really liked Kara Lin’s “Enveloped” – this is the second time that I’ve seen this painting around the DMV in the last six months and it is the second time that it has hypnotized me.  Lin writes about her work: “Being authentic to ourselves can be overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time.  I take on personas through elaborate costuming to half-hide and half-reveal my authentic self.  Clothing, body modifications and makeup are my armor as I explore my inner and outer worlds. Painting is where I allow myself to become vulnerable.”

I was also impressed by Jennifer Lynn Beaudet’s work at the show. This artist has that hard-to-describe ability to capture the human essence of her subjects in paint. That sentence is so easy to write and so immensely difficult to deliver on canvas. Her human subjects in two dimensions of paint are able to transmit visual clues and nuances that help to decipher and understand something individual about them.  This is an exceptional gift that few artists have in such abundance as this one does.

Sophie Spencer’s thematic subject caught my eye; she writes about her work: “This set of work I’ve started to create depicts photos I’ve taken throughout my last five years working at different night clubs. I use oil paints and bright colors to make portraits of various women I have worked with. I am working on a combination of portraits on the floor and in the dressing rooms.  I wanted to start this project because as a place with so much baggage of taboos and stereotypes I think it’s important to have representation by a woman within the scene. I think it is not just important for this subject matter to be shown through the female gaze but from someone who is familiar with the industry and people within the line of work as it receives a lot of misogyny and assumptions from men and women.”

She strikes gold with “Veronica”, a very good painting that captures a snap in time that’s both weighed with compositional presence, but also with meaning and narrative.

I also liked the excellent landscapes by Andrea van den Heever, who clearly has a lot of fans for her work, as she had loads of red dots even before the show opened! Talking about landscapes, there’s a spectacular sunset painting in the show by Michael Schoppman that showcases the power of warm colors! Also noted the erotic nuances in the work by Suzi Balamaci – well done!

Fourteen artists will exhibit in this first of two one-month-long exhibitions. This first of two shows include Suzi Balamaci, Jennifer Lynn Beaudet, Anne Brooner, Sheila Hadley, Kara Lin, Christine Merry, Rob Pearlman, Deborah Pollack, Sameer Sharma, Michael Schoppman, Sophie Spencer, Dianne Stewart, and Andrea van den Heever.

Mr. Kessler: Well Done!

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.

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