Arts & Entertainment, Gallery Beat

A Torpedo Factory Studio Stroll

By F. Lennox Campello

Along with hundreds of other visitors to Old Town Alexandria, a few days ago I spent about three hours wandering around the Torpedo Factory, visiting every single space, gallery and studio that was open.  The place was very busy, full of tourists, locals, artists, and all kinds of people walking around the DMV’s most precious art jewel.

Over the years I’ve written multiple articles and blog posts about this very special place, including two recent ones via this column discussing my thoughts on what is happening at the Factory since the City of Alexandria took over.

On the subject of “open”, I was both surprised and very disappointed by the significant number of studios which were closed on a Saturday afternoon. “Saturdays are our busiest day,” noted a prominent Torpedo factory artist who has been there for decades… as I left her studio after chatting with her for a while, she was working to close an $8,000 sale.

On the third floor alone, I would estimate that half the studios were closed, which in my opinion is not acceptable, especially when they are apparently routinely closed. By that I mean that I saw signs on the studio doors that stated the open hours, and in several of them they were Monday through Friday, with Saturdays and Sundays being either “Closed” or “By Appointment Only.”

Since the heavy hand of the city now dictates every and all things Torpedo Factorish, I would recommend that the City Commissars order the next wave of artistic comrade workers selected (when the three year leases expire) to be open on weekends. In an amendment to that motion, as there are 52 weekends a year – let’s settle on 42 weekends.  Current artists are exempted, since this is a new rule.

At the Art League Gallery on the ground floor, I walked through the current group show, which was curated by Regina DeLuise.

As art jurying is very subjective, I usually knock heads with jurors when I form my own decisions as to prize winners, etc., but in this case, Ms. DeLuise and I agree 1000% that Party on East Park Place by Wendy Donahoe indeed earned that Best in Show prize!

Also on the WOW scale of the art ratings was The Feast Of The Gods by Teresa Oaxaca, a huge oil on linen which as usual lets Oaxaca showcase and remind us why she’s one of the most gifted artists in the DMV.

I also liked Ravishing Strength by Stephanie Chang, Joy by Dian McDonald, and several others.

In studio 204 I met and chatted with Sarah Bentley, a classically trained young painter with elegant paintings done and delivered with the kind of technical accomplishment that is only achieved after thousands of hours of laborious practice and study of the Old Masters. She notes that:

I began copying at the National Gallery of Art in 2017, drawn to copying paintings as I further my education and skills. I have found that copying from the old masters allows me to examine the surface of the paintings, the texture of the paint itself. While being allowed to copy is an honor, I feels as though copying the works from the NGA allows me to have a conversation with the painters who have come before me, further continuing my education as an emerging artist.

On the third floor I walked into Jacelyn Orellana as she was painting a small portrait in another artists’ assigned studio on the most remote corner of the third floor.

Orellana is a Pro Tem artist at the Factory, and yet this very young and gifted painter already shows and displays the painting bravura and skills of a much more seasoned painter.

Orellana has already mastered one of the most difficult tasks in the realm: the rare ability to create intimate portraits that are not only a true representation of the likeness of the subject, but also (and equally as important and hard to do) to capture that ethereal psychological imprint that is also part of any portrait.

And here is the shocker: Incredibly inexpensive and affordable prices! Her Gouache portraits start at $100 for a 5×7 inches, $200 for an 8×8 inches Acrylic, and $300 for an 8×8 inches Oil!

I suspect that we’re going to hear a lot more in the near future about this bright young star.

Throughout the hours I visited and continued to re-visit the Target Gallery, where “Sound Horizons” was being featured. The exhibition was being presented by the City of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts and Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT).

The exhibition includes four video, sound, and time based artworks by professional staff, students, and colleagues at Virginia Tech University selected for Alexandria and the surrounding region.

With the possible exception of a superb five-minute audio and video presentation titled “Dear Younger Me” (Keisha V. Thompson, Jada Hoffman, Gilette B., Adele, Ben Knapp, Dacia Kings, Tianyu Ge, Eric Lyon, Geefa Adane, Sydney Johnson, Meaghan Dee, Andraé L., Brown & Tilandra Rhyne), I was overall very underwhelmed by both the presentation and the presented works.  In fact, I felt as if I had stepped back into the late 1990s technology birth of video and artists.

The exhibition runs through January 28, 2024, so it will be boring a lot of people for a long time to come.

The Torpedo Factory and its family of artists and galleries is one of the jewels of our DMV’s cultural tapestry – keep visiting it and keep supporting our artists!

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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