Rosemary Luckett: Uncovering Nature’s Dream and Us

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Rosemary Luckett

Rosemary Luckett

Rosemary Luckett has come full circle this April in her Touchstone solo exhibition Earth House.  She continues with a circle of life theme that she started in a Round River series some years ago, probing relationships between the earth, its living creatures and humankind.  Through images of the seen, she points to – hints at – what is often unseen.  “The apparent visible and the hidden visible… in nature are never separated,” wrote Magritte, an artist she admires.  The fun in looking at her works is to discover both visible and related hidden.

Which Came First collage on paper

Which Came First
collage on paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Earth House, Rosemary focuses less on human proliferation and consumption and more on the living creatures and elements that support human life. Her medium this time is collage and poetry which tell stories of the bonds and intertwinings between life forms: minuscule phytoplankton to tall trees to us, for example.  Inspired by Northwest coast Indian transformation masks, Southwestern Hispanic retablos, and writings of Loren Eisely, she houses some of her works in wood shrines, emphasizing their iconic nature. This current exhibit is, all in all, an exploration of the impressive achievement and adaptive competence of living creatures who preceded humans, begetting more diverse and complex forms over eons on a fiercely wild and often inhospitable planet. And the Great Dreamer Creator behind the mask of the universe in all its majesty and in all its minutiae. Rosemary Luckett

See prior blog:

 Https://touchstonegallery.wordpress.com//?s=Rosemary+Luckett&search=Go

Earth House March 30 to May 1.  Opening Friday May 8, 6-8:30 pm; Meet the Artist Saturday May 23, 5-7 pm. Regular viewing hours W-F  11-6, S-S 12-5

Figure 8 plus 1 (part 2)

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In January we introduced you to four of the artists who will be exhibiting at Touchstone Gallery in March. In their exhibit FIGURE 8 PLUS 1, the artists continue the historical tradition of exploring the human form in a variety of media and styles including photography, oil, acrylic, watercolor and sculpture.

Opening Reception: Friday, March 4, 6 – 8:30 pm
Artists Talk: Saturday, March 19, 2 – 4 pm

In this post we introduce you to four more of the artists participating in FIGURE 8 PLUS 1:

Dana Brotman – A Focus on the Gaze     Janathel Shaw – Expressionist Sculpture Gail Vogels – Magic Realism Narrative   Timothy Johnson – A Contemporary Slant on Traditional

Dana-WomanOnBluePillow

Woman on Blue Pillow

Dana Brotman has spent her artistic career conveying the power the face evokes. The face for her is a landscape of feeling, memory, and desire. She presents the face in archetypal poses and positions, recalling the agelessness of religious icons and idols and the still beauty of daguerreotype portraiture. Her subjects come to her from a magazine photo, a person seen across the room, and, inevitably, from memory and the ineffable sensations that filter through the seams of daily life.

Woman on Cardboard

Woman on Cardboard

Trained and working full time as a clinical psychologist, Brotman’s world is filled with faces in thought and transfigured by the reverberating echoes of the past. Her art, while not in any way about her patients, is saturated with the poignancy of the stories that they tell and with the impact of the faces upon which she gazes and which gaze back at her.


JanathelShaw

Janathel Shaw explores the figure, expression, and narrative in her ceramic sculptures. Her figures primarily focus on social and political themes.  “My sculptures portray people of color, Shaw remarks, “which I view as part of the American genre. Clay is a natural medium to navigate the expression of love for the human form, abstract figure or juxtapose the two. “

Shaw continues, “There is something intimate, vulnerable and seductive about the human form.   What will the surface, texture and coloring reveal?  Clay is the ideal medium allowing me to convey strength, joy, empathy or pathos and aesthetic appreciation in three-dimensional space. Clay is fluid, adaptable, rigid and beautiful.  This is how I view life.”

With each new figure, Shaw pushes her personal envelope in style, quality, form and personal voice. Her recent pieces include sgrafitto images that appear as carved tattoos, adding deeper meaning to a political or social message.


While She Slept

While She Slept

 

Gail Vogels most recent body of work  Oh Life!  She explores  micro and macro themes happening simultaneously–those natural forces and choices that make us human beings.  “Using mixed media elements -instead of painting – I tried to figure out how to make various themes intersect on a picture plane. Plus, using scissors and glue is fun.  The process is old school and the experience evokes childhood.”

Beauty

Beauty

Gail uses an assemblage of her life drawing fragments, hand altered papers and found objects. The forms found in nature and architecture are juxtaposed with the figure revealing the everyday world in new and unfamiliar ways.   The magic realism narrative is intentional.  Vogels’ work tells a story of the beautiful and the temporary and seeks to remind people that there are still many mysteries in this life. More information about Gail Vogels and her work can be found at www.gailvogels.com.


 

Beef Carcass

Beef Carcass

Traditional portraiture with a decidedly contemporary slant, a mouth full, but is the closest wording I have found to describe the style with which Timothy Johnson paints.

In this current series Johnson has taken a small sidestep out of his standard use of friends, family and work colleagues as stand-ins for mythological or historical figures. Here the likeness of an individual and their portrayed personage is left out of the equation entirely. The figure and the figure alone, unidentified/anonymous, is what takes center stage. Tim’s self-coined phrase, single figure narrative, to describe portrait as storytelling still applies to this new work, but the impression you are left with is less about facts and information, but more about a sense of emotional inquiry.


The other artists in the exhibit are:
April M. Rimpo  – Exploring Culture through Color   Paula Lantz – The Human Condition through Abstracted Figures  Shelley Lowenstein – A Painter of Stories Michael A. Lang – Street Photographer on the Museum Experience   Steven M. Alderton – Impressionistic Paintings of Human Essence—Form and Spirit

Join the artists at the Opening Reception on March 4, 2016. If you would like additional one-on-one time with the artists, consider attending our Artists Talk event on March 19th beginning at 2  pm. Format includes a short talk by each artist, followed by time to interact individually with the artists. To learn more about the artists in FIGURE 8 PLUS 1 visit the Touchstone Gallery website: http://www.touchstonegallery.com/index/

Scroll below the next blog post to see blog about Figure 8 plus 1 (part 1)  Then head on down to Touchstone Gallery for a first hand look.

OR click here to see Figure 8 plus 1 (part 1) https://touchstonegallery.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/figure-8-plus-1-part-1/

 

Guest Artists: John Blee and Dee Levinson

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John Blee Orchard Suite

John Blee, a Washington DC artist, explores new spatial and emotional dimensions in Orchard Suite, his latest series of acrylic paintings on exhibit at Touchstone Gallery.  While most of his works vibrate with the intense spring blossom hues that are signature to his palette, several other paintings offer  deeper, nocturnal shades, reflecting inverse color themes. Playful geometries activate abstract, luminous sky-and-earth compositions and dance with one another to create an unlikely balance and playfulness.  The effect in the viewer is usually an uplifted spirit one might call joie de vivre.

Nick's Orchard

Nick’s Orchard

While painting Blee strives to be open to creative forces that allow for spontaneous expression. “I am here with the work and it ‘comes’ to me. I am the recipient as much as anyone else,” he states.  Like spring blossoms, the moment of creation can be fleeting, so he has to be in a frame of mind to capture what comes to him.

While a certain color palette inspires Blee’s work, he is especially moved by Rainer Maria Rilke’s orchard poems, as well as Paul Klee, Hans Hofmann, Pierre Bonnard, and Helen Frankenthaler color experiments. While living in New York City, he did meet Helen Frankenthaler – who he calls the “Mother of Color Field” – and asked her how she selects her color.  “It’s like choosing a word in a poem,” she replied. Blee took this message to heart.  Since then color and poetry walk hand in hand with his memories of a childhood in India (and Indian miniatures) to influence the way he views the world, thinks and paints. Rosemary Luckett

Armenian Orchard

Armenian Orchard

Artwork by John Blee and Dee Levinson  February 5 – 28, 2016

Meet the Artists: Sunday, February 21, 1 – 3pm

Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC 20001

www.touchstonegallery.com


 

Dee Levinson Inspired by the Moment

Washington DC artist Dee Levinson learned at an early age to collage imagery and colors together.  As a child she began by pasting small museum art reproductions into little booklets her mother provided.  This seemingly inconsequential activity instilled in Levinson the notion that one could mix just about anything together to make a piece of art.  Today she does this “collaging” by mixing classical forms painted in a linear manner with highly saturated colors reminiscent of early 20th century German Expressionists.

Las Reinas Tres

Las Reinas Tres

As with those expressionists, she keys her colors to the saturation point in each oil painting.  Still she likes to draw with her paintbrush, which explains the inclusion of religious and mythological figures that also inspired the sculptors of the Baroque and Renaissance periods.  “Art is a line around your thoughts,” stated Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, another of her influences.  This seems apropos to Levinson as she draws figures and patterns depicted in brocade fabrics of Renaissance era (circa 1490-1600) in her very contemporary paintings.

Of her process, Levinson comments, “I build the ground [for a new painting] using paint from a previous day’s palette obliterating the texture of the canvas by covering it with the texture of paint.  I preselect my subject and have figured out my basic color scheme before I pick up the brush. From then on I am “inspired by the moment.”

Artwork by John Blee and Dee Levinson  February 5 – 28, 2016

Meet the Artists: Sunday, February 21, 1 – 3pm

Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC 20001

www.touchstonegallery.com

La Reina Plata

La Reina Plata

 

Figure 8 plus 1 (Part 1)

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The human form has captivated artists and viewers alike throughout history. Today this tradition is alive and well at Touchstone Gallery.  In the process of fleshing out the human form, eight Touchstone member artists working in two dimensions plus one sculptor working in three dimensions present an exhibit in the Gallery during the month of March 2016.

Their figurative works include photography, sculpture, and paintings ranging from the abstracted to representational. The diversity of their approach, style, media, and choice of color palette provide an intriguing look at figures in the 21st century.

Opening Reception: Friday, March 4, 6 – 8:30 pm
Artists Talk: Saturday, March 19, 2 – 4 pm

In this post, and in another during February, we will take a look at the artists participating in FIGURE 8 PLUS 1:

April M. Rimpo  – Exploring Culture through Color   Paula Lantz – The Human Condition through Abstracted Figures  Shelley Lowenstein – A Painter of Stories Michael A. Lang – Street Photographer on the Museum Experience  Timothy Johnson – A Contemporary Slant on Traditional Portraiture   Dana Brotman – A Focus on the Gaze   Steven M. Alderton – Impressionistic Paintings of Human Essence—Form and Spirit  Gail Vogels – Magic Realism Narrative  Janathel Shaw – Expressionist Sculpture

To enjoy the remaining artist’s work in Figure 8 Plus 2 go to: https://touchstonegallery.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/figure-8-plus-1-part-2/


Even as a young girl April M Rimpo loved learning about other cultures and places. In college she studied ancient cultures and social anthropology, which focuses on modern cultures around the world.

Rimpo with A Moment to Relax

Rimpo with A Moment to Relax

Rimpo’s fascination with people continues today and is reflected in her figurative work. Her semi-abstract method of working results in portraits that are about a mood, an everyday activity, or a way of life, rather than detailed portraiture. She uses a variety of textural techniques in her paintings, but only uses a technique when she believes it enhances the story. In this exhibit you will meet people Rimpo saw when traveling within the United States and in Guatemala. In each case something grabbed her attention and made Rimpo feel she just had to tell the story. Can you find a story in her paintings?

Movement II

Movement II

 


 

For artist Paula Lantz painting is a passion. About her abstract figures she says, “I seek to reflect and respond to the nature and drama in our life experiences.” Paintings in this exhibit are part of a continuing body of figurative work. Lantz breathes life into her paintings through her color choices, collage, and paint texture.  Large boldly painted figures tap into personal and intuitive elements important to her. Lantz says her themes are universal to us all and include passion, joy, and sorrow.  Dramatic color and gestural paint application take center stage in her expressive figures.

 

Backward Glance

Backward Glance

 

Nude with Blue Face

Nude with Blue Face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

“Each day, my eyes are drawn to the small vignettes of everyday life,” says artist Shelley Lowenstein. “I like my paintings to prompt the viewer to make up their own story behind the image on the canvas because this establishes a conversation between the artwork and the viewer.  It makes the art more interactive and personal.”

Lowenstein captures these vignettes of life using dark shadows, strong colors, and paths of light that flow through the compositions. You can’t help but wonder when looking at her paintings whether the people know each other, love each other, respect each other, or like being solitary and alone. Are they bored, lonely, happy or sad…or none of the above? Come explore her work and decide for yourself what the answers might be.

French Gothic

French Gothic

901 K

901 K


 

Michael Lang is a street photographer who, in this exhibit, expresses the museum experience through photographs at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in NY. One photograph contrasts order among the museum visitors as they view the art display on the upper level versus randomness on the lower level, lacking an art display to organize them.

The second photograph shows how combining many images of people visiting the same Pollock painting conveys the energy not only of the painting, but now the audience that it attracts.

Contrast

Contrast

 

 

His Admirers

His Admirers

 

Join the artists at the Opening Reception on March 4, 2016. If you would like additional one-on-one time with the artists, consider attending our Artists Talk event on March 19th between 2 and 4 pm. Format includes a short artist panel in which the artists can respond to your questions as a group, followed by time to interact individually with the artists. To learn more about the artists in FIGURE 8 PLUS 1 visit the Touchstone Gallery website at http://www.touchstonegallery.com/index/

 

Finding a Home in Art

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Carl Foley

Carl Foley “Red Canyon”

Miriam’s Kitchen Studio Artists are homeless individuals trying to find jobs and homes in Washington DC.  During this process they participate in art activities that nurture their creative sides.  Some of their works are on exhibit at Touchstone Gallery during the month of November 2015: “Handpicked: Works from Miriam’s Kitchen Studio Artists.”

Not only do the artists of Miriam’s Studio express their vision through paints and clay, but they also have a lot to say in verse.

“It was written that humanity is in the image of God.
I say art is the proof that God lives in Man.
Through the images we create,
we equate reality.” Anthony Mills

“My art is called me
inside and out;
I love art;
it is peace of mind,
and a peace from me.
Life itself is like art,
people paint a picture every day. “ Travis McGee

“The flowers represent the nature,
the leaves,
and the change of temperature,
and trees are the lungs of the world.” Miguel Quezada

The paintings in this exhibit are equally thought provoking.  Satire makes its appearance in Donnie Mayer’s painting “Hoofball National League: Where the Pigs play the Hogs with Donald Trump’s Head as the Ball” and “A Passion for War: A Satire About our Love to Destroy the World.” Wil Lake’s painting, “Don’t Bomb Iran” echoes this theme. Vibrant colors characterize most of the work.   Rural and urban landscapes roil with energetic brush strokes.  Floral motifs crowd the edge of the canvas.  Human figures interact with each other and presidential dog Bo steps toward the viewer.  Brushwork may be textural and active, or carefully applied and nuanced, depending on the artist’s frame of mind.

Dannie Mayer

Dannie Mayer “Hoofball”

Works can be seen from November 6-29, 2015 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington courtesy of  The Touchstone Foundation for the Arts. Located at Touchstone Gallery, this is the latest exhibition in the Foundation’s “Handpicked” series, which brings non-traditional artists to show their work at the Touchstone Gallery in downtown DC for one month. wwwtouchstonegallery.com

Anthony Mills Bird

Anthony Mills  “Spiritus Peacock”

Miriam’s Studio.  Their award-winning art therapy program promotes feelings of dignity through art expression, provides marginalized individuals with a sense of belonging, and is an effective vehicle for guiding people towards positive change.Miriam’s Studio offers a safer space, materials and guidance for participants who draw, sculpt, collage, paint, and make jewelry.  Some projects are completed in a single session, while others take several sessions. During the creative process, the art therapist, art therapy intern, or skilled volunteer observes and engages participants as they speak openly and gain support from each other in a safe and trusting environment.

“The paintbrush has a little more power in it than I do,” observes one participant.  Senior Art Therapist Brittney Washington adds, “While the paintbrush is powerful, so too is their voice.  The paintbrush is an instrument and art is the vehicle by which we hope to empower people to self-heal, be seen, meet their goals, achieve and maintain wellness, and use their voice.”

Opening Reception: Friday, November 6, 2015, 6-8:30 pm at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington.

Howard Snyder

Howard Snyder “The First Dog”

Miriam’s Studio groups are offered Monday through Friday, 8:15-9:45 AM and 2:30-4:00 PM. Included each week during Studio hours: Open Art Studio, Art Therapy Groups, Creative Writing activities and groups, and Yoga classes.  Additional activities include theater, art exhibits and other field trips.

Owen Makel

Owen Makel “Silence”

McCain McMurray: From Architectural Drawings to Geometric Paintings

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McCain McMurray

McCain McMurray

Malleability is a relative term depending on the material a person is trying to shape.  For architects, wood, metal, masonry and glass are molded as necessary to build a structure inside and out.  McCain McMurray worked with these materials during his 37-year career as an architect designing a variety of residential and commercial projects. It’s no surprise that he was drawn to architecture, because he started constructing things when he was a child growing up in North Carolina. Equipped with tools and wood scraps, he built many a tree house.

m10 acrylic on canvas 74 x 68 x 1.75 inches

m10
acrylic on canvas
74 x 68 x 1.75 inches

For two summers McCain spent time at a nearby boys camp housed in the old modernistic buildings that once housed Black Mountain College of Art, the famous Bauhaus-inspired school attended by the likes of  Josef and Anni Albers, Jacob Lawrence, Cy Twombly, and so many other contemporary artists who subsequently made strong marks on American art and culture. One could stretch things a bit and call the College a camp of sorts, because all members of the college community participated in its operation, including farm work, construction projects, kitchen duty, and a fair amount of horsing around.

m22 acrylic on canvas 70 x 42 x 1.75 inches

m22
acrylic on canvas
70 x 42 x 1.75 inches

But McCain didn’t know his boys’ camp had a history as an art college until after he grew up and started college himself, enrolling in Wake Forest University for his undergraduate studies and then the School of Design at North Carolina State University for a Master of Architecture degree.  Prepared with a fine set of skills he set off to live and work in Alexandria, Virginia and then to Washington DC. He got his architectural foot in the door by working for the firm that renovated an old munitions factory on the Potomac River in Old Town Alexandria and turned it into The Torpedo Factory Art Center–which houses galleries, studios and hundreds of artists.

By the time the 2009 economic slow-down put a damper on his architectural practice, McCain decided to try a different pursuit.  He had recently seen a show of Ann Truitt’s work at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and was blown away by her use of simple rectilinear forms, hard lines, and clean colors. At the same time he was looking at work by the Swiss artist Hannah Roeckle, Russian Supremacism artists, De Stijl artists, and Dutch architect/designer Gerrit Reitveld.  Aside from Ann Truitt, who often used pastel colors, the rest reduced their designs to primary colors and hard-edged forms: red, yellow, blue, black, gray, white.  McCain made up his mind then to try minimalist painting too, enrolling in the Studio School in Washington DC, the Rob Vander Zee School of Painting in Alexandria, and Marcia Steiger’s abstract painting class at the Art League School in Alexandria.

m26 oil on panel 48 x 24 x 2 inches

m26
oil on panel
48 x 24 x 2 inches

McCain’s shift from the structural materials of architecture to the malleable materials of acrylic and oil paint led  him to his basement in 2010 to practice techniques he was learning while trying to think like an artist.  In 2013 he was selected by the Torpedo Factory Art Center to be a visiting artist, and after that a full member—coming full circle from assisting in the restoration design of the Factory to “living” in it five days a week. Today McCain explores different painting foundations and types of paint. He has created several themed series and shown in several area locations including Touchstone Gallery and the Art League Gallery.

Works in his current exhibit Metropolis represent city shapes in an abstract geometric colored segmental compositions.  Colors are intuitive, modulated and applied in layers with homemade wood and Plexi squeegees and grout trowels.  McCain drags the malleable paint thickly over the surface of board or canvas, wipes some off, and then adds more until the texture and finish are rich enough.  After paint dries, he glazes each piece to shift the colors as necessary.

m221 oil on panel 48 x 24 x 2 inches

m221
oil on panel
48 x 24 x 2 inches

“Within the work, each element emerges with its own identity through the intention and coincidence of the painting process. This process results in freedom to take advantage of serendipity and the surprises it can bring,” McCain states.  “The result is an ordered or structured composition of color and texture, orthogonal forms stripped to their essence.” His love for structure and form, he says, comes from working as an architect for so many years. — Rosemary Luckett

See the Metropolis Paintings by McCain September 9-27, 2015 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Avenue NW, Washington DC. http://www.touchstonegallery.com .  Opening Reception: Friday, September 11, 6-8:30pm Preview: September 9-11, 11am – 6pm Touchstone. McMurray http://www.mccainmcmurray.com

w80 oil on panel 48 x 24 x 2

w80
oil on panel
48 x 24 x 2

Rima Schulkind: Dancing With Change

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Rima Schulkind2Rima Schulkind, a native of New York City, came to Washington DC at age 15 and has remained ever since.  In 1972 she obtained a sociology degree before realizing the profession was not for her.  Wondering what to do next, she “almost accidently took a ceramics class with the worst teacher in the world.” Rima recalls.  “But the clay felt heavenly to my hands, and I knew I wanted to make things with it.”  Serendipity #1.

Having fallen in love with ceramics, Rima took many more classes and hung out with potters every day in DC.  By then she had married (Serendipity #2) and lived not far from Glen Echo Park where the National Park Service collaborated with artists and arts organizations to create a rich arts program in the spirit of the original Chautauqua movement. She learned kiln building and helped build an outdoor brick reduction kiln for the program.

Although she became reasonably proficient at the wheel, most of her thrown vessels were altered from functional forms into more sculptural ones.  Thinking a bit like ceramist Peter Voulkos – whom she had not yet heard of – she dented and punctured her vessels, crossing the traditional divide between ceramic crafts and fine art.  After Rima discovered porcelain clay,  she sculpted delicate thin shapes into “petal pots.” Serendipity #3.  These pots became prize winners. In the mid 1970’s she began showing at Frederick MD Art Fairs. “I was a scared neophyte then,” she says, “and didn’t know exactly how I would complete orders from the 30 people lined up at my first fair booth.” She figured it out and met the orders as promised.

Nymphaea

Nymphaea

Change was in the wind eight years later, when Rima switched to low-fire earthenware clay and experimented with the play of glossy and metallic glazes on their surface.  Glazes seemed magical to her.  After buying ten pounds each of several oxides, the alchemist in her began to transform them into potions that transformed dull clay vessels into colorful sculptural forms during the firing process. This work was accepted in the American Crafts Council shows in New Paltz NY after which she hired four assistants to help her meet orders from 32 galleries around the country. Serendipity #4

Vision 165

Vision 165

Ten years later Rima again changed course, reinventing her expression using rigid Plexiglas instead of malleable clay.  The play  between clear plastic sheets, neon, feathers, and other items intrigued her.   “The thrill of my life was getting into the NYC Art Expo and then, while driving a truck full of sculptures into the city, seeing lots of show posters splashing an image of my work alongside that of Judy Chicago on the light poles!” Serendipity #5

Revels and revelations

Revels and revelations

 In 1976 Rima joined Touchstone Gallery as a founding member, has been a leader in the group, has shown consistently there ever since, and is now an Emeritus Member.  Her most recent Touchstone solo exhibit, Eclipsed By the Cloud: The Detritus of Obsolescent Technology, is another expression of work in mixed media.  This time she used telephones and other techno gadgets to build sculptures.  “I am both in awe of human ingenuity and in despair at our propensity to create trash,” she says, “the environmental damage caused by our readiness to dump our stuff is immeasurable.”

Fermat's Last Theorum

Fermat’s Last Theorum

Each of the sculptures in that exhibit demonstrated her concerns.  Each addressed a different technology – calculation, photography, time measurement, etc.  The base with of each piece is formed from technology’s earliest expression before rising to the top with its latest and newest – which by the time the piece was finished, it was itself obsolete.

Having begun her career as a ceramist, many years and many later media (Plexiglas, neon, steel, cement, wood, paper mâché among others), she has returned to clay. It was her first love, and now she finds it as seductive and satisfying as it was in the beginning. Combining it with other organic materials – wood, reeds, vine, stone – she draws on a natural affinity of materials that complement the abstract yet grounded work she is producing now.

It could be said that Rima’s life of change is characterized by the Alan Watts thought: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” As Rima danced through a life of artistic change and personal growth, she has made the world a more beautiful place. Rosemary Luckett

Meditation on the Void

Meditation on the Void

Aleksandra Katargina: Painting the Road to Happiness

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Aleksandra Katergina

Aleksandra Katargina

The color of a bud opening in spring, dismal gray leafless trees looking slightly reddish from a distance, and the almost crass lemon yellow of blooming daffodils announce the freshness of each new spring.  The transformation of dormant life into energetic green and wild color is so powerful that poets wax on about it and artists paint about it. Aleksandra Katargina, a blossoming young painter living in the DC area, is on the same path. She is the Touchstone Foundation for the Arts first Emerging Artist Fellow Winner mounting her first oil painting solo exhibition In Pursuit of Happiness.

Aleksandra became captivated by Nature at a very early age while spending summers with her grandparents in Penza, Russia. She lived in Moscow during the school year, and early on found the urban environment too artificial for her tastes.  Although Moscow offers its 12 million inhabitants the tallest skyscraper in Europe, the colorful onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Spasskaya Clocktower in Red Square, for Aleksandra city fun was to be enjoyed in small doses. The quieter realm of the countryside was more suited to her personality.

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In Pursuit of Happiness

Aleksandra’s summer experiences in Penza, a smaller town south of Moscow, allowed her to bask in the peace and quiet of her grandmother’s garden.  There she developed a green thumb, scrutinized plants and animals, and learned to draw the figure. While her mother wrote and illustrated little books for her little Sasha, Sasha practiced her craft by drawing on top of the original images.  During her teen years, Sasha recalls, “Drawing was peaceful and gave me happiness.  I realized that making art was the best thing I could do in this world.”  So she settled comfortably into drawing and painting with watercolors.

Coming to the USA at the age of 14 to live with her father was quite an adjustment for Sasha.  In this new place her previous studies of English and interaction with Russian friends already in the states made the transition easier than it would have been otherwise. After high school she studied art at Maryland College of Art (MICA) and then earned a master’s degree in art with a painting concentration at Towson University near Baltimore, MD.

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Displacement of a Random Urbanite

In her studies Aleksandra really wanted to learn traditional technical processes to hone her skills.  “I wanted to collect a set of tools so I could express what I want to express,” she says. Through the help of teachers she did attain her goals.  Michael Economos taught her anatomy and figurative techniques.  Additional figure and landscape classes from Mark Karnes, built up her skill and confidence.  Sangram Majumdar pushed her very hard to develop the necessary work attitude. Lance Moore’s technical process class unraveled the mystery of oil painting for her.  “It was kind of like cooking,” she says.  “One adds a little bit of this and a little bit of that to make an explosion of taste, but I had to learn which spices to use in each project.”

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Tale of the Golden Fish

While inspired by nature, Aleksandra is not a pure landscape painter in the sense that any given landscape dominates the canvas.  Faces, figures, and animals that capture her attention are set into each natural living (landscape) environment.  Using her friends and herself as models, she forms the composition of the painting focusing on the body language of the posed model.  Although she does refer to her own photos of people, Aleksandra says that “work from life makes me work faster, but that doesn’t mean the painting will be quick to complete.  Brush strokes are more expressive and loose when I paint from life.  Light is much more expressive and has a strong presence in life drawing, whereas photo references don’t show light or depth of space accurately.”

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Rain

Even as humans these days try to distance themselves from the natural world, Aleksandra purposefully pairs animals with people in a natural environment.  In the process she paints parables, connecting the disappearing dots between humankind and the natural world.  For instance, her painting Shaman was inspired by the manga movie “Princess Mononoke.”  Director Hayao Miyazaki also thinks about connections.  He says, “Modern life is so thin and shallow and fake.  I look forward to when developers go bankrupt, Japan gets poorer and wild grasses take over.” In Aleksandra’s maiden solo exhibition In Pursuit of Happiness, she asks what avenues contemporary humans take while trying to find to happiness.  Her mastery of painting techniques are a visual feast, and the deep philosophical subtext worth deciphering.  Leo Tolstoy said that, “Art is a microscope which the artist fixes on the secrets of his soul, and shows people these secrets which are common to all.” Viewers should expect to spend contemplative time here, because Aleksandra’s paintings focus on the secrets of her soul, which are, in reality, as Tolstoy observed, common to all. –Rosemary Luckett

Touchstone Foundation for the Arts first Emerging Artist Fellow Winner Solo Exhibition

In Pursuit of Happiness

Paintings by Aleksandra Katargina

Touchstone Gallery May 1-31, 2015

Opening Reception: Friday, May 1, 6-8:30pm

Preview: April 29-30, 11am-6pm

Quick Portrait Event: Sunday, May 31, 2-4pm

Cynthia Young: Color Field Painter

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Cynthia Young

Cynthia Young

As I write this essay, I’ve got one eye on the keyboard and the other on the sunset.  Glowing peach and gray clouds streak across an aqua sky. It’s the kind of color phenomenon that penetrates Cynthia Young’s eye and then transfers to canvas when she starts a painting.  She begins by positioning her canvases on the floor, then pouring oil paint thinned with turpentine on to them.  She watches the colors percolate and swirl around each other forming shapes. After the paint dries, the canvas goes up on the wall where she paints with a brush to finish up the composition. While observing her surroundings Cynthia learned intuitively to “see forms instead of objects.”  She sees color patterns instead of tree canopies, and meditates on colors in the dark shapes forming storm clouds.

The circuitous journey to becoming a color field painter began in Ravenna, Ohio where she pretty much had the run of the neighborhood during childhood.  Though shy, she and her best friend (who lived in the undertaker’s house) found places to let their imaginations run wild.  Sometimes in the attic telling ghost stories until they scared themselves silly.  Sometimes dancing among the caskets.  Sometimes hiding in a club house made from a huge casket carton.  Sometimes sitting quietly in a corner drawing or out of sight climbing trees.

Storm Cloud

Storm Cloud

Cynthia’s life changed at age 12 when her parents divorced and her mother remarried and moved with Cynthia and her new stepfather to Youngstown, Ohio.  In this town of steel mills she enrolled in high school and, during the summer, worked for a florist picking cabbages.  Cynthia left the fields after she was hired by the local radio station.  Cynthia learned how to give the required weekly speech from memory in French class and how to endure the trials of belonging to a high school sorority. Receiving the PanHellenic Award for All-Around Student topped off her senior year.

Blue

Blue

Cynthia started college in her mother’s alma mater, Connecticut College for Women, in New London, Connecticut not far from the Coast Guard Academy.  Her shyness gone now, she became a party girl as well as a student.  “I had a good time and every year I changed my major,” she recalls. “Many courses looked interesting: history, philosophy and finally art where the teacher gave me more negative input than positive.” She spent a wonderful summer studying art at Rhode Island School of Design, a course that pointed her in the direction of art studies.

In New London, while in college, Cynthia began dating Avery Young, a Navy man from the submarine base across the river. He was one of the first to make his career in the newly-minted nuclear submarine program. Avery pursued her relentlessly for three months until she finally agreed to tie the knot. Everywhere they were stationed she studied art.  After Avery retired, they moved to McLean, VA. Here she was close to the Corcoran where she took classes.  She also enrolled in George Washington University eventually obtaining an MFA there while working as receptionist at the Reading Center.

Riot of Spring

Riot of Spring

The day finally came when, under the tutelage of Arthur Smith and inspired by Helen Frankenthaler and Willem De Looper, Cynthia found her voice creating non-objective paintings. She and a friend, rented a painting studio in the old Atlas Building (now the Spy Museum on 8th and F Streets, NW). The sixth floor was full of pigeons and thought to be haunted.  There was only one bathroom in the whole place.  “Every spring we were broken into and our radios were stolen,” Cynthia recalls, “but the thieves paid no attention to our art.” Erotic shops on the first floor, museums just around the corner, and the support of 25 other artists in the building made it a perfect place to create. Happily she painted there and taught drawing and watercolor for 15 years at Northern Virginia Community College across the Potomac River in Virginia.

Unfolding

Unfolding

Cynthia, who identifies herself a 20th Century Traditionalist, is a long time member of Touchstone Gallery where her work is displayed year round.  Since her beloved husband is now gone, she spends time with her daughter living in New Jersey and two grandchildren: one who studies at the University of Vermont and the other who is a ski instructor on the verge of starting a medical career.  She is still looking for a suitable painting studio.  New ideas and colors just keep percolating to the surface.

–Rosemary Luckett

Twilight

Twilight

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