Shelley Lowenstein: Painter of Crowds and Spaces


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Shelley at the opening of Quotidian: The Art of Interaction

Shelley at the opening of Quotidian: The Art of Interaction

As a 7-year-old living in Connecticut, Shelley Lowenstein rode the bus downtown with her best friend to explore the stores on Main Street, and to spend their allowances in Woolworth’s five-and-dime.  The shopping was fun but Shelley loved watching people and making up stories about them in her mind. What did they do? Where were they from? Where were they going? Around the same time, Shelley discovered movies.  Once a week she settled down into the dark recesses of the local theater and escaped into other worlds which sparked her imagination even more.  Ever since these youthful experiences, Shelley has been fascinated by how people are in public spaces.

Shelley attended Boston University, graduating with degrees in English and Secondary Education.  Faced with a saturated job market for teachers, Shelley moved to New York to work for Simon & Schuster on audiovisual materials, focusing on editing and writing educational film strips.  In 1972 Shelley moved to Washington DC.  She attended graduate school at the University of Maryland, and built a successful career writing, designing, and producing a wide range of multimedia educational materials for National Geographic, The Discovery Channel, Maryland Public Television, and many others.

French Gothic, Lisieux Train Station, Normandy

French Gothic, Lisieux Train Station, Normandy

In early 2000, after years of writing, Shelley turned to painting and found that her imagination was reawakened. As she painted, she created stories in her mind about the scenes and subjects.  She studied with nationally recognized narrative painter Kathryn Freeman, California impressionists Peggy Kroll Roberts and Camille Prezwodak, Washington, DC area realists like Diane Tesler and Ed Ahlstrom, and colorist Walt Bartman. Each one of these gifted artists shaped Shelley’s style and artistic direction.

Today, Shelley is still fascinated by watching people: their gestures, their expression, their relationships to others around them. She is especially intrigued by transitional terminals– airports, train stations, and bus stations.  Masses of people wait or come and go in these places, giving her ample opportunity to observe how they relate to each other, and to imagine what their life stories might be, just as she did as a 7 year old on a bus going downtown.

Waiting Chairs Union Station

Waiting Chairs Union Station

But her new works reveal a new reality in everyday life.  For regardless of setting, we don’t see many people engaged with one another.  It’s no mistake that there are “devices” in so many of the paintings. “I’ll talk to anybody, anywhere,” says Lowenstein.  “But with smart phones and other mobile devices, we no longer need to connect with the people right beside us.  Need directions?  Get a map on your phone.  Need something to read?  Check the news online.  Take a photo rather than be here in the moment.  I‘m not the first to wonder if the very devices meant to keep us connected are increasing our isolation from one another.”

Lowenstein explains further:  “I’m an observer; I am not trying to make earth shattering social or political statements.  Still, it wouldn’t hurt if we slowed down, stopped, observed what is happening around us as we go about the routines of daily life, and actually talked and laughed with one another.” Shelley’s most recent works emphasizing people in transition, “Quotidian: The Art of Interaction,” are on exhibit at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC, 20001.  202-347-2787;  April 2 – 27; Encore party April 25, 6-8:30

Frankfurt Airport

Frankfurt Airport

Rosemary Luckett: Uncovering the Unseen


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Rosemary Luckett

Rosemary Luckett

Rosemary Luckett has been on good terms with the earth since she was a young girl weeding sugar beets and caring for the animals on her family’s farm in the desert plateau of south central Idaho.   These earliest experiences of taking care of the environment that then, in turn, took care of her, were the seeds of Rosemary’s sense of this relationship as vital and mutual.  Over time, she has developed a visual language–plastic ducky’s, bones, tree forms, maps, and birds to express her love and worry for the earth through her artwork.  The techniques used varies with what she is exploring.  Sometimes collage.  Sometimes sculpture.  And more recently photography.

Wheelbarrow Ark

Wheelbarrow Ark

In her current solo show, Earth Blankets, at Touchstone this month, Luckett continues in her quest to draw our attention to making visible parts of the landscape that we have made invisible.  In particular, the trash and detritus we eliminate from our everyday lives—the glass bottle that held our sparkling water, the colorful hard plastic that formed the toys our children played with – are cast away in to the “unseen” and Luckett rediscovers them.  She takes these broken and decayed fragments we have lost interest in and re-ignites our interest.  We can’t help ourselves but to reconsider what we left behind.

Industrial Blanket for blog

Industrial Blanket I

Luckett photographs detritus, and in this very act, she begins the transformation.  By transferring the photographs of a broken and scratched CD found in the grass onto a cloth blanket, Luckett creates a conflicting experience in us:  we are both painfully reminded of our daily contributions to the blanket of trash that covers our earth, and at the same time, we are experiencing beauty and interest in the 3D form before us.  The “blanket” is an object we associate with softness, taking care, and protecting from discomfort.  Through Luckett’s work, we see in ourselves both the capacity for warmth, beauty and protectiveness as well as for decay, destruction and disinterest.  While we may already be familiar with these conflicting aspects of ourselves, by feeling it all at once, Luckett has us in a conundrum.

Luckett’s work can be seen April 3-27 At Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC.  Opening Reception Friday April 4, 6:00-8:30. Closing reception April Friday April 25, 6:00-8:30,

Dana Brotman

Trash Blanket Blocks IV

Trash Blanket Blocks IV

Tossing the  Ark

Tossing the Ark

Charles St. Charles: Coming Face to Face with Creativity


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best Charles St Charles

Charles St. Charles

Charles St. Charles toggles between working as a lawyer and expressing his creativity through art and the improv stage.  In other words, he lives life to the fullest, a Renaissance man with a broad range of intellectual and artistic interests.

As a  child growing up in Detroit, Charles was always interested in the arts, but respected parental expectations to study business and law, finally ending up with a law degree from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.   As luck would have it, he won a car on a game show while in Los Angeles, sold it when law school ended, and headed for Europe with the proceeds to pursue the proverbial bohemian life.  He spent four years in Rome, touring, taking art classes and teaching at an American college in Rome.  His obsession with art continued unabated during his next  two years, living in Paris.

Manager’s Group Mind

Eventually Charles returned to the U.S. and landed a job with a law firm in DC.  But art was still dominating his soul.   He’d invite friends over for dinner then enthusiastically bring out canvases for everyone to paint just for the fun of it.  Gradually he saw that his guests weren’t as head over heels about painting as he was.  So he decided to stop sharing art supplies and, as his evenings cleared when he moved to a government day job, he took a dozen classes at the Corcoran. Particularly obsessed with faces, he took the portrait painting class twice.  He found studio space at the Millennium Arts Center and, when that closed, in Mount Rainer.  He’s been a member of Touchstone for nearly ten years, during which time he’s had four solo shows, each with a face theme.

At the same time he was beginning at the Corcoran, his release of pent up artistic force steered him toward acting classes at the Theatre Lab where he was in the Conservatory’s first graduating class.  After performing in several scripted plays, he discovered comedic improv, completed Washington Improv Theatre’s curriculum, and is now on WIT’s faculty and its Season Six and Spirit Bear ensembles.  He continues his improv training at The Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater in NYC. Performing without a script, he says, keeps his imagination active on and off stage and makes in-the-moment engagement with the world easier and more fun.  It’s helped him become a better listener.

When he is not doing improv, he’s probably in his studio making art.  In his trademark monotype technique, Charles paints onto a glass or plastic plate with printing ink then transfers the image one time to paper, usually by applying pressure with a roller or his hands.  He carefully pulls the paper from the plate to see the surprises in the transferred image resulting from the ink’s thickness and moisture, and the amount of pressure applied.  Recent experiments in direct oil and acrylic painting, use of textured cloth and inclusion of text point the way to future work; yet the faces inhabiting his current show will probably remain.


Heads Will Roll

Charles has been influenced, not only by his stint in Europe but by Parisian expressionist painter/printmaker Georges Rouault, German expressionist Emil Nolde and Belgian artist/musician James Ensor.  Each was interested in how paint and printing inks can make visible the personality of a figure and reveal the psychological power of the face or mask.  Charles finds this relevant to his art, acting and, most likely, his lawyering as well.

Charles St. Charles solo exhibit, “Faces Many Ways,”  focused on workplace life and relationships, continues through March 30, 2014 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave, NW, Washington DC.; 202-347-2782.


Manager’s Group Mind Detail

Wheeler, Shaw, Luckett, Frazier, Brotman: Creating in 3-Dimensions


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5 sculptors posing web

Janathel Shaw, Janet Wheeler, Rosemary Luckett, Dana Brotman, Michelle Frazier – Luckett Photo

Touchstone sculptors Wheeler, Shaw, Luckett, Frazier and Brotman transform earthen materials and detritus into elegant sculptural forms using fire, colorants, adhesives, carving tools and imaginations keyed into limitless possibilities of three dimensional construction. They share a love of materials, storytelling, and an internal inclination to  build–to transform one form into another form.

Michelle Frazier’s figurative sculptures are created in a dialogue with sources as diverse as mythology, social commentary and a contemporary eye for life.   Clay figures begin with armatures covered with fiber materials such as wool, crochet yarn and jute, wood chips, soil, and sand. Soapstone and alabaster fetish-like figures recall ancient artifacts, but express contemporary vision. She considers the process of discovery within to be that which gives her work life.

Frazier 1

Mi Goddess #2 (lower), Mi Goddess #4 (upper) – Luckett Photo

Dana Brotman turns her attention from faces painted in a pallet of flat oranges, greens and reds bordered by heavy black line into three dimensions, incorporating dried gourds into her work.  These gourds are, for Brotman, found objects, Seussian and androgynous shells, hollowed carcasses, upon which she seems to have transcribed some primeval mother tongue, some type of hieroglyphics that, like the eyes of the women she paints, are both foreign and known, distant and intensely intimate.

Brotman 1

Vestige #5 – Luckett Photo

Janet Wheeler’s affinity for natural forms reveal a sensitivity and deep respect for humble materials: delicate seed pods, branches whose strength belies their slight form, feathers bamboo, red osier sticks, iridescent oil sticks on Hosho paper, bark, and raffia.  She shapes forms into large ceremonial constructions, boxes, nests, vessels, totems and  masks,  focusing  on color, composition and balance.  Each composition exudes a sense of the sacred found in Nature, at once ancient and yet contemporary.

5 large

Vessel #4

Janathel Shaw’s ceramic figurative sculptures center on universal and social themes and provocative historical scenarios regarding the human condition. Her latest clay figures are autobiographical, sometimes raw, expressive, and layered in meaning.  Revealing her spiritual outlook, Jan draws from her experience as self reliant woman, parent and educator. In the studio Janathel  marries clay, glazes and oil paints. Emphasis is placed on form, surface and color.

Jan sculpture1

Rebirth – Luckett Photo

Rosemary Luckett transforms found objects into sculptures and collage. Rather than chipping away at wood or stone,  she melds together used wood, metal, paper, fiber and other recycled elements, mixing different media most of the time. Her life-size figures  are characterized by images inside images.  Each finished piece tells at least one story through its vocabulary of forms and textures. Metaphor, psychology, spirituality, physicality, and the relationship of these spheres to each other and to issues of equality and justice are at the theoretical center of her figurative work.

Gun Gospel Guy detail web

Gun Gospel Guy – Luckett Photo

Enjoy these and other sculptures by Janet Wheeler, Janathel Shaw, Rosemary Luckett, Michelle Frazier Dana Brotman in the Form Transformed: 5 sculptors exhibit in Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave, Washington DC, 20001.  202-347-2787;;

show duration: january 3-february 2, 2014

reception: fri. jan. 3, 6-8:30 pm

encore party with sculpture roundtable: thurs. jan. 23, 6-8:30 pm


Charles E. Meissner: Flights of Imagination


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During the month of December at Touchstone, Art Enables artist Charles Meissner displays delightful and intricate artworks, mapping moments from his own life as well those of “The Fresnos,” a time-traveling couple from the 28th century who observe our present day activities.  His prodigious visual memory for landscapes and events of historical and personal significance are depicted in great detail along with textual narratives. Flying cars rove over the rooftops and tall buildings overlap toward the horizon.  Figures, drawn with pen, look past the viewer from indoors and out. All of his work is engaging, completely honest and fantastical, not unlike the work of some artists in Baltimore’s American Visionary Museum (AVAM).  “A breath of fresh air,” commented one of Touchstone’s regular artists.

An expert at rendering landscape spaces with pen, pencil and watercolor, he typically presents from a bird’s-eye view – a remarkable feat of imagination, since he cannot have actually seen them that way.  Scenes often feature connection points about his personal history – text, symbols and codes dotted throughout to help unlock mysteries of their locations.  Charles works quickly on whatever piece of paper is available, often scribbling his code on the margins of discarded newspapers, memos and advertisements.  He has been working at Art Enables Studios for over ten years.

Art Enables is a non-profit art studio and gallery in Washington DC for adult artists with disabilities, creating the opportunity, environment, materials, and marketing they need to succeed as professional artists. 

Funding for “The 28th Century: The Work of Charles E. Meissner” was provided by Touchstone Foundation for the Arts, a tax-exempt organization created by the artists of Touchstone Gallery to create opportunities for emerging artists through its Young Artist Fellowship program and to support art-related projects, such as this exhibit, that engage a broader community.

“The 28th Century: The Work of Charles E. Meissner”: November 29-December 29, 2013.  Wed-Fri–11 – 6 pm; Sat-Sun – 12-5 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 NY AVE NW, Washington DC 20001; 202-347-2787

Tré: Photographer of Dreams and Visions


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Possibilities by Tré

Possibilities © Tré Inc. 2013

Tré may not have been born with a silver spoon, but she did come into the world clutching a golden paint brush. Certainly, her creative eye was astute from the get go. At age two, after pondering the elaborate wall paper in her parent’s bedroom with a critical eye, Tré decided to make it better. She found her father’s pen and drew balloons with long wavy strings directly on the wallpaper. Rather than scolding her, Tré ‘s mother recognized her daughter’s precocious bent and spirited her to the art store where she picked out her own art supplies. 

The Explorer by Tré

The Explorer © Tré Inc. 2013

Tré always knew she would be an artist and her parents (a Virginia native author and a former Brooklyn graffiti artist) encouraged her. She illustrated some of her mother’s fantasy stories and became computer adept at age seven. At age 14 she began selling her illustrations, took part in art festivals, and accepted commissions. At 18, Tré founded her art photography and direction company, Tré Inc. which specializes in portraiture and music album cover art. In 2010 she began building Trémotion Pictures, her film and music video production company. She films creative shorts, webisodes, and teams up with musicians to create videos in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington DC, London, Paris, or Tokyo.

The Lover by Tré.

The Lover © Tré Inc. 2013

For her still photography, Tré uses Nikon DSLR cameras and a panoply of lenses. Her recent personal branding campaign features constructed staged sets around her costumed self in the manner of Cindy Sherman. However, the results are unique to Tré who further develops her photo compositions in the computer: enhancing and exaggerating forms and colors while questioning and challenging perceptions of certitude. Her main body of artistic work is diverse in subject matter, yet stylishly identifiable. “My creations manifest into dreamlike glimpses, in which fiction and facts meet, well-known tropes merge, meanings shift, the past and future fuse, and wonderment is currency,” she states.

The Scholar by Tré

The Scholar © Tré Inc. 2013

Just this year, Tré was endorsed by The Museum For Massurrealist Art (Berlin, Germany), a collection of artists who pair up aesthetic styles of surrealism with mass media, mixing up traditional imagery with pop art philosophy and other post modern ideas. Massurreal expressions include multilayered imagery, scavenged images from dreams, unusual and intense coloration, and mind altering juxtaposition of common pictorial elements. The Museum for Massurealist Art; Tré’s Website

Tré’s most recent works emphasizing the psychology of color in human and garden forms, “Lucid Dreams: The Archetypes of Humanity,” are on exhibit at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC, 20001.  202-347-2787;  November 1-24.  Rosemary Luckett

The Healer by Tré

The Healer © Tré Inc. 2013

Betsy Forster: The Call and the Creative Response


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Betsy Forster

Betsy Forster

Responding to the call of big skies and far horizons, Betsy Forster stuffs her back pack with art supplies and camera before heading into the countryside – Wyoming and Montana in the summertime and Virginia in the cooler months.  Drawing and sketching with oils, she works diligently several days a week no matter what landscape lies before her.  “I need the countryside,” she states emphatically, “I need a window that faces toward a distant horizon.”

Betsy was born in Madera, California where the sky seems like it goes on forever.  The dry tawny grasses and clusters of dark green trees characteristic of southern California and the open spaces near Dallas, Texas became embedded in her psyche during her childhood.


Sandy Hill

Betsy’s mother and great grandmother were also serious painters.  “My mother’s painting stuff was all over the house and wonderful art hung on every wall.” That environment plus maternal genes proved to be influences in her later life as an artist.  Still, as a young woman, her goal was to study elementary education and she worked toward that end in college obtaining a degree in that field.  Later on she went back to school where an art history course  hit a hidden nerve.  It literally changed the direction of Betsy’s life.  She switched her major to art, eventually obtaining a Masters of Fine Art from American University.  Ever the student, she continued her studies for nine years with William Christenberry in Washington DC.

Inspiration comes not only from wide open spaces, but also from romantic northern European early 19th century painters, especially Caspar David Friedrich who found a supernatural presence within nature and painted his emotional response to it.  Betsy, likewise experiences “holy ground” as she draws and paints in the early morning mists or in the hush and warmth of late afternoon light.  Nature calls her with its beauty and vast space.  She responds by capturing what she can outdoors, then takes it inside the studio.  There  she lets loose with pastel chalks expressing with emotional gestural gusto–not only the features of land and sky, but the spiritual side of it all, directing our gaze toward what she sees and what the Native Americans before her saw: the metaphysical dimensions of each place, the transcendence, harmony, beauty, and lyricism of Nature.


Virginia Fall Pastel


Winter Tree

John Edmonds Award Winner


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John Edmonds (Janathel Shaw photo)


965405_10151609106346589_181310477_oFine Art Photographer John Edmond is the recipient of two awards.  In October his  work was curated by Margaret Heiner of Heiner Contemporary and George Hemphill of Hemphill Fine Arts to be exhibited along with six other photographers for Fotoweek DC’s Uncover/Discover 2013 at the National Geographic Museum.  This exhibition will be up from Nov. 1st- Nov. 10th as part of Fotoweek DC’s festive photography fair filled with exciting portfolio reviews and workshops.

In July 2013 John received a Touchstone Foundation for the Arts Young Artist Fellowship Award, thus becoming one of two artists to receive this grant this year. The Fellowship is awarded based on artistic merit and promise. Fellows become members of Touchstone Gallery for two years, culminating in a solo show at the end of this period.

Look for John’s large scale photos at the National Geographic Museum and in Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC.

The Privileged Series: Pests By Anthony Dortch


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Anthony Dortch

Anthony Dortch

A fine artist and graphic designer, Anthony Dortch’s realm is one of precision and grace. Do not allow the lovely colors and silken textures to distract you. Take care not to be taken in by the golden flesh and blue body’s charms. Dortch does not create pretty pictures, he constructs a meaningful experience. Layers upon layers of seductive details, revealing societies clandestine verity. When standing before his pieces, one cannot help but feel, imagine, and reflect. Cleverly wrapped in bold and daring colors are elegant motifs whispering of struggle and hope. Veins of beauty and yearning reach out to captivate, to beg questions of ourselves, and break down the facades of our seemingly structured world.

© Anthony Dortch

© Anthony Dortch

Anthony Dortch grew up in Ohio, fascinated by art’s great masters, and with his nose pressed in his favorite comic books. His young mind was shaped with a buildup of brush strokes and story lines that are echoed in his present artworks. At The Colorado Springs School, under tutelage of Judy Campbell, Dortch honed his classic roots in canvas and paint. Later he moved on to study Graphic Design at Savannah College of Art & Design, GA. He also received a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy with a focus in Art Education/Psychology and Art at Miami University, MA, and at Oxford, OH.

© Anthony Dortch

© Anthony Dortch

When asked about the meaning behind his latest series, Dortch answers:

“‘The Privilege Series’ illustrates what it means to be socially and financially above others. The underclass perpetuates the myth that achievement is possible for some, not all. Status becomes privilege and equates with money—new or old. The upper crust of such a society relies on minions, dropouts, and lower classes to get the distasteful and unworthy jobs done. Socialism and capitalism clash. This series brings to form in words, paint, photo, and ink the unspoken challenge we’d rather not hear – in pictures we’d rather not see.”

© Anthony Dortch

© Anthony Dortch

“The Privileged Series: Pests” is on display at Touchstone Gallery now:

October 2-27, 2013

Please join us for a special evening of Performance Art:

Sunday, October 26, 6-8:30 PM

Mary Trent Scott: Storytelling with a Brush


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Mary Trent Scott

Mary Trent Scott

Today and in eons past, storytelling is a way for humans to convey events in words, and images; to improvise or embellish, to educate, entertain,  preserve culture and instill moral values.

Upon reflection Mary Trent Scott came to realize that her art work is the way she records and tells the stories of her life. Her family circle, the Virginia land, and paintings in Italian churches all summon Mary Trent Scott, inviting her to describe what she sees and lives through drawing, painting and writing. Mary says she is “always imagining pictures in my mind,” and then finds a way to express them in oil and collage.

A New Adventure

A New Adventure

Mary  grew up in Arlington VA where her family toggled between the city and family farms several hours south in rural Patrick County. In 1974, she moved from Arlington to Oakton to what was left of an old dairy farm. There  she was inspired to paint the farm, horses, dogs and kids.  In the process of grieving the death of a favorite dog, she wrote a story about the pet and illustrated it. Family participation in rearing and showing horses was also fodder for the canvas, recorded in a Grandma Moses sort of way. When her girls got married, she painted scenes of their weddings, those turning points in her life as a parent and in the life of each daughter.

Study in Black and White

Study in Black and White

While her family paintings are an emotional response to life events, Mary also incorporates religious imagery  into oil paintings of Biblical stories. Her Predella series was inspired by segmented altarpiece story panels in the cathedrals of Europe and by her own faith journey. More recent religious expression took form in collage on paper, resulting in a more contemporary expression.



“Blessings of This Life: An Exhibition of a Family’s Shared Existence” is a show of Mary’s current work at Touchstone Gallery, including oil paintings and a book written from the viewpoint of one of her grandchildren.

Exhibition runs October 4th-27th

Join Mary for a Sunday Afternoon Family Tea. It will be a time to nibble on cookies and sip tea, a time to relax, to allow your imagination to put yourself in Mary’s painted stories where blessings do abound:

October 20 from 3-5PM


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