Rosa Vera: Painting Narrative Paths to Peace

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Rosa Vera 2018

 

When hearing about immigration, the word “crisis” comes to mind.  Perhaps it’s because so many people are migrating everywhere in the world now.  It seems like a new humanitarian predicament, but migrations have occurred in every age and time stirring the human population pot and generating conflict as well as new traditions and cuisines.  In the late 1800’s for instance, the multinational population of Peru was transformed by an huge inflow of Chinese indentured laborers.

Passing Through

Rosa Vera, who was born in the melting pot of Lima, Peru, became an immigrant herself at age three when her father brought the family to live in the United States, then to several other countries.  Rosa was schooled in Washington DC before studying architecture in Mexico and then obtaining advanced degrees in economics at both McGill University in Canada and George Washington University in Washington DC.  Speaking three languages made her a good candidate for a job at the International Monetary Fund where she worked for 32 years. A mix of cultures and passages through borders all over the world characterized her life.

Detenido

One constant in her nomadic life is the feeling of unease. “I’ve never felt comfortable no matter where I am.  I’m always in-between.  I’m neither one thing or the other, but always trying to find a path through one border or another,” Rosa recalls.  Author Jhumpa Lahiri describes this very feeling. “From the beginnings of literature, poets and writers have based their narratives on crossing borders, on wandering, on exile, on encounters beyond the familiar…. The tension between alienation and assimilation has always been a basic theme.” Rosa’s current Touchstone Gallery solo exhibition Passages and Borders is a complex narrative of the immigrant experience.  Life experiences  insert themselves into her compositions, colors and materials, telling stories to herself as well as the viewer.

Paintings like Detenido/At the Frontier, Ellis Island Immigrant,  Borders, Bilingual, Tantos Caminos, Tantas Banderas (So Many Paths, So Many Flags; not included in this exhibit), depict the migration story.  Silhouette figures, either alone or in groups, emerge from richly painted – sometimes warm, sometimes cool – reds, blues and yellows.  Blurred or undefined faces are common throughout perhaps suggesting that identity gets lost during upheaval and turmoil.  Those oft-portrayed ancient goddesses known as the Three Graces appear in Passing Through and in the Tantos painting, where they express strength of purpose in addition to  charm, beauty, and resourcefulness. More intimate family paintings include three-dimensional niche boxes, each a portrait painted on 1/8-inch MDF plywood cut out digitally from drawings done with size .005 ink pen.  These paintings are characterized by flat colors and stencil overlays in contrast to the more actively brushed and textured paintings on the surrounding canvasses.

Salida

As Michael Ondaatje writes in Divisadero, “Everything is biographical…  What we make, why it is made, … who it is we are drawn to, why we cannot forget.  Everything is collage, even genetics. There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly.  We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border that we cross.”  –Rosemary Luckett

Rosa Vera shares her own complex personal migration story in  Passages and Borders: at Touchstone Gallery, 901 NY AVE NW, Washington DC September 5-29.

Opening September 14, 6:00 – 8:30 pm.

202-347-2787; info@touchstonegallery.com  http://www.touchstonegallery.com

Borders

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Carol Moore: A Printmaker’s Response to the Natural World

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Carol Moore

Printmaker and Touchstone Foundation for the Arts Fellow Carol Moore presents her solo exhibition during the month of May 2018. This accumulation of work reflect’s Carol’s long standing exploration of nature in which she searches for a personal connection with the plant specimens that she collects and manipulates.  As a child she always felt at home in nature, she would spend long hours in the woods playing in trees, foraging for “natural supplies” or crushing rocks under bushes.  As an adult she continues taking refuge in the natural world and reveals her encounters and imaginings in her original lithographs and intaglio prints.

As a printmaker, the technical process of creating the imagined image is addressed as part of the inspiration.  The relationship with the stone or plate is one of respect, and the interaction is very stimulating. A lithographic stone offers little room for revision creating an exciting tension.  A metal plate sparkles and excites the eyes, yet it tugs at the etching needle, forcing a slow hand.  When rendering her images, intuition takes over; plant specimens are reconstituted into new forms. As she works, she finds herself transported to moments in her life and those memories become infused into her work.

“Seeking Refuge” By Carol Moore, Intaglio, 12” x 24”, Hand Colored

As the image evolves, technical limitations often call for invention. Currently, Moore is experimenting with what she calls “Layered Intaglio” where thin, etched aluminum plates are layered either onto zinc plates or other aluminum plates to leave room for variation and/or color. Frustrated by the traditional processes of adding color to a print, she has developed a technique by which color is added directly to the print and then run through the press a second time, creating a cohesive result. This process is very time consuming, but it allows her to become intimate with each print in an edition.

“Winter Gold” by Carol Moore, Layered Intaglio, 18” x 24”, Hand Colored

The journey begins with the moment of discovery, then manipulation and inspiration. Technical considerations are then made and a working composition is rendered. The plate or stone is prepared and the image is drawn onto its surface. The plate is then etched, usually several times, and then proof prints are made. Once satisfied with the image, printing begins, this is the time when she “learns the plate” and how it receives the ink. The printing process involves a variety of papers, and hand manipulation to the surface of the plate that is being used. After the plates are dry, hand coloring is applied and then the print makes a final run through the press. The whole process can take months.

“Over In The Meadow” By Carol Moore, Lithograph, 15” x 13”, Hand Colored

The process is important, there is little room for impulsiveness, but a printmaker must to go through it. Each step of the journey allows to image to grow and evolve into a blend of emotion, metal, stone, acid, ink and paper. Refuge is not only found in the inspiration, but also in the printmaking process. –Carol Moore

Viewers are invited to explore Carol’s intricate prints during her solo exhibition Seeking Refuge during the month of May at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NE, Washington DC. May 2-27, 2018.  Opening Reception Friday May 4 from 6:00 – 8:30 pm.

“Nevermore, Nevermore” By Carol Moore,
Layered Intaglio, 12”x18”, Hand Colored

 

Susi Cora: Art from the Earth

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Susi Cora

Susi Cora’s May 2018 show Highwire at the Touchstone Gallery at 901 New York Avenue, Washington DC is a study of the impact of memory on one’s physical presence. The show features ceramic figurative and coneptual work, and composite photography.

Susi Cora’s art practice comes from a lifelong interest in the natural world. Her childhood in a rural dairy-farming community in New England brought her understanding of the work of one’s hands and the knowledge gleaned from observing nature. “Our eyes watch the skies for changing weather and scan crops to know when to harvest. The soil tells a story as does the behavior of animals. Our hands plant seeds, harvest hay, shear sheep and give a friendly scratch to a passing cow. It is a visual and physical life bound to nature.” With her art, success is contingent on the interaction of a myriad of components as well—from concept to clay, organic matter, minerals, and fire.

Cora sees herself primarily as a sculptor and focuses on the conceptual nature of art: the planning, thought and ideas that go into each piece drive the making of her work. Her intuitive union of the concept and the artwork is on display in her solo show. The work explores memory as a burden that manifests itself in the human body, effecting the way a person might stand, walk, lean or stoop. “Some of the sculptures represent a metamorphosis of someone sitting in a defeated place and then rising up from that defeat,” she says. “My focus was on the sheer weight of memories and the physical impact of this self-imposed burden. We have the choice to jettison it all and stand tall, but that act is terrifying when these memories are a part of our daily script.” Cora says that “my art gives me the opportunity to look at the vulnerability in our lives. We wrestle with our oppressive memories.”

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones; ceramic, wood. 48”x 36”x 18”

Process Is Paramount

Cora’s work is process driven.  She begins by sketching out ideas to explore how to best communicate the concept to determine how a piece will be supported; whether it will stand independently, be attached to the wall or sit on the floor. These considerations include what type of clay is to be used, construction methods, whether to glaze the piece, and how to fire it.

If the sculpted work is to be pit-fired, as is often the case, Cora forms a pit in the ground, then carefully lays a fire and positions the work. Igniting and tending the fire requires vigilance to keep it from burning too fast or too slowly. She generally does not glaze pit-fired pieces, instead including minerals such as copper carbonate, salt and fertilizer, and organic materials, such as coffee grounds and banana peels, as she builds the fire to impart color and texture to a piece. If the work is to be fired in a conventional kiln, she formulates glazes for the pieces, usually choosing a matte or crackle finish. “You have to be a chemist as well as an artist to do this work,” she says.

 

Oblivious Figure, Ceramic, 7 x 5 x 5 inches

Highwire includes both pit-fired and kiln-fired pieces. The smaller kiln-fired Emerging Figures sculptures are not glazed. “I was looking for simplicity, and I wanted the form to guide the discussion, rather than an applied decoration,” she says.

Inspirational Artists and Nature

Cora draws inspiration from the work of Polish sculptor Alina Szapocznikow who said “My gesture is addressed to the human body. I want to exalt the ephemeral in the folds of our body, in the traces of our passage.” The constructed, eroded, and decaying surfaces of Italian painter and sculptor Alberto Burri are another influence. “These artists engage  intellectual and physical senses and then leave space for personal contemplation,” she says.

TFA Emerging Artist

The Touchstone Foundation for the Arts awarded Cora an Emerging Artist Fellowship for 2016-2018. “It has been a great experience to have the mentorship of a large group of artists all doing very different work. I have also benefitted from the opportunity to learn more about how the gallery operates and to talk to people when they come into the gallery,” she says. She is currently serving as co-president of the

Touchstone Gallery board of directors. –Susi Cora and Patricia Williams

Susi Cora is a visual artist who works in Alexandria, Virginia and Washington, D.C. She trained as an architect and is a graduate of the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She completed the Master of Fine Arts program at The George Washington University in 2016.

See Cora’s Highwire exhibition at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC.  Opening Fri May 4, 6-8:0 pm; Meet the Artist Sunday, May 20, 1-3 pm.

 

Shelley Lowenstein Links Science and Art Through Paint

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Shelley Lowenstein

Albert Einstein said that mystery is at “the cradle of true art and true science” In her new solo show  opening April 6 at Washington, DC’s Touchstone Gallery “(as far as we know),” artist Shelley Lowenstein explores the mystery and wonder of the human beta cell, a major force essential to human life, and sometimes a victim of autoimmune attack.

(as far as we know) marries art and science in a variety of colorful, mixed media works of the insulin-producing beta cell–from representations of its role in converting glucose into the energy we need to live each day, to a series of abstract depictions of the cell itself. T1D is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks and damages the beta cell. Ms. Lowenstein has a daughter who is among the more than 1.25 million Americans of all ages living with T1D, one of many autoimmune diseases that are growing exponentially, for reasons not understood.

I dream of bcells
ink on paper

“These works are about biological and artistic exploration,” said Lowenstein. “It is my way of celebrating the amazing beta cell, so essential to all human life, and yet still so mysterious. While I was drawn to this story through my personal connection,” Lowenstein continued. “I welcomed this opportunity to tell a scientific story and play with new art forms, both to expand my horizons and to raise awareness about this wondrous cell, making it more accessible and understandable to people of all ages and interests.”

Islet 5
bottle caps 

As she worked on this series, Lowenstein consulted with many scientists doing innovative beta cell research across the USA. “What was surprising to me was that while our knowledge of the beta cell has exploded just in the last decade, there is still so much to learn. “All these works are grounded in scientific fact, at least ‘as far as we know’,” said Lowenstein.  “Yet this lack of certainty gave me the freedom to experiment with new materials and come up with bold ways to represent these cells without making scientific illustrations,” she explained. “I was determined to bring them to life using vibrant colors that convey the energy they literally produce in all of us.”

Magnificent Mini Factory
24 x 24

“(as far as we know) is a labor of love, intentionally colorful, and steeped in optimism that we can restore normal beta cell function to all in the foreseeable future,” Lowenstein concluded.  See more at http://www.jdrf.org/greatercp/2018/03/15/local-artist-finds-beauty-in-beta-cells/  and http://www.jdrf.org/   Artist proceeds from sales of the works will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the largest global funder of research to cure, prevent, and treat Type 1 diabetes.

(as far as we know) at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC 20112; http://www.touchstonegallery.com; info@touchstone.com; 202-342-2787; April 6-29, 2018; Wed, Thurs, Fri 11-6; Sat, Sun 12-5.

Meg Schaap Paints Joie de Vivre

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Meg Shaap

In her first solo exhibition, Marie Antoinette, at Touchstone Gallery Meg Schaap explores the    personality, beauty and power of the last Queen of France.  This project began by a reading of Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser and then viewing Sophia Coppola’s 2009 movie Marie Antoinette.  Both portrayed the compelling story of an Austrian teen who was forced to enter a political marriage with King Louis XVI, an introvert, pretty much her opposite. Meg’s painterly portrayals explore the quandaries Marie faced as she was swallowed up by the new French Court environment bound by outlandish rules, extravagance, and unbending traditions.

Meg, who has a lifelong love of fashion, paints images that show an appreciation for Marie’s fashion designs invented by Rose Bertin (founder of the first French fashion magazine).  Costuming required huge wigs decorated with news objects of the day, such as replicas of a ship Marie funded on behalf of the American colonies getting ready to throw off British rule. Money was no object and Marie took advantage of that.  After painting the first major official portrait of Marie Antoinette in 1778, to everybody’s satisfaction, the young woman Vigee Le Brun was regularly asked to portray the queen. So it is this infatuation with portraits that Meg uses as a springboard for her own interpretive portraits.

a la rose

While portraiture is a major viewpoint in this exhibit, freedom is also a major theme.  Meg shows a side of the queen not usually seen.  One in which Marie eventually leaves the court with all its masks and falsities behind, residing with her children in a less pretentious house in Versailles.  In one mixed media piece, Meg constructs a figure from Vogue magazines and situates it coming from a wall of Gucci inspired images—illustrating the liberation of Marie from the court and all it represented.

Let Them Eat Cake

Likewise in her own life, Meg who was born in Holland and schooled in Nijmegen and Groningen at the Academy of Art Miner,  also experienced a major transformation that led her to Spain.  There she learned English and German before moving to London where she became a flight attendant.  A yearning for the arts called and enrollment in St. Martin’s College followed.  There she met her future husband.  Together with their young family they located in Washington DC by way of Naples FL.  The one constant in this nomadic life was painting, whether outside museums or with friends in classes and inspired by Frieda Kahlo, Diego Velázquez and Kehindi Wiley.

Meg has a special affinity to Wiley who notes, “We have…received historical ways of viewing portraiture.  And I suppose in some way I’m sort of questioning that by toying with the rules of the game….And so in the 21st century, when we’re used to clicking and browsing and having constant choice, painting simply sits there silently and begs you to notice the smallest of detail.” Meg is especially interested in these fields of detail, especially those that surround her painted figures — details that include collaged paper, gold leaf and jeweled elements.  Her meticulously painted delicate-yet-free expressive lines are reminiscent of the painter Dufy.  And intense color in other works accentuate the narrative.  Each painting is filled to the brim with bustling commotion, a “joie de vivre” that demands your attention. –Rosemary Luckett

Meg Schaap invites viewers to visit her exhibit during the month of March and view her take on historical portraits and the intimate complex impressions of Marie Antoinette.  Meet the Artist/Artist Talk: Sunday, March 25, 1 – 3pm.  Touchstone Gallery,  901 New York Avenue NW Washington DC 20001 ● Wed-Fri 11-6 Sat-Sun 12-5 ● 202-347-3787 ● @touchstonewdc http://www.touchstonegallery.cominfo@touchstonegallery.com

Marie Antoinette

Makda Kibour: Raw Paintings

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Makda Kibour, a quiet gentle woman who immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia by way of Zambia, has under gone many transformations on her way to becoming an artist.  After reaching Pennsylvania, she become part of a Mennonite family for five years, learning to navigate that religion’s discipline of “the simple life.”  This austere Bible-based faith was quite a contrast to ancient traditional rituals of the Greek Orthodox Church she grew up knowing in Ethiopia. Her artistic sensibilities responded to the expert woodworking and hand sewn quilts pieced with deep reds, blues and other dark colors that were part of the Mennonite culture.

Once acclimatized to a new life in this new country, she enrolled in cosmetology school, studied business, and then opened her own Mak Salon in Alexandria VA, while raising a family—and finally turning her attention to art.  During the 1990’s Makda began taking classes at the Art League, finding her niche in Deanna Schwartzberg’s painting class.  Having been influenced by painters Jackson Pollock and especially Jean-Michel Basquiat, she dedicated one room in her salon to painting.  In addition to Ethiopian and English, she has become fluent in the language of paint, producing emotional works that speak a universal language.

Earth Element

Makda’s first Touchstone solo exhibition, She Runs Wild, reflects the total surrender of herself to painting, to speaking the truth in color, line and form.  The gap between cultures she has experienced in her life comes into play as she works.  “Like me in one culture and then moving into a new culture, I have to find ways to fit in—to make sense of it all.”  That concept seems akin to what Jean-Michel Basquiat felt when he remarked, “I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life,” Makda does too.  She paints the gaps, sews up the wounds, and adds stories she hears to her own very big story. “We can connect with everyone we meet by listening, by being open to each, and finally by recognizing we all are one in the body of humankind.  Painting relieves the burden of so many profound stories and it can be shared with viewers so they can relate to each image.  Maybe to be healed too,” she reflects.

Council

The abstract acrylic paintings in She Runs Wild are gutsy stories and they are raw.  Canvases are cut and sewn back together, dripping with paint and emotion.  Violets, black, purple, blue and red reinforce the wounds caused by breaking open hard experiences.  But the process also opens the psyche to deep understandings, allowing brighter colors to emerge.  Vigorous brush strokes, colored shapes, and textures speak Makda’s third language—a universal painted expression, and one that she relishes.  “I’m in a great place in my art as I work toward peace and fulfillment,” she states. And the viewer is invited to enter into the conversation with these wild works to enjoy and understand their import. –Rosemary Luckett

Show Dates – March 2-March 25, 2018. Opening Reception: Friday, March 2,   6-8:30 pm; Meet the Artist/Artist Talk Sunday March 25, 1-3 pm.  

Touchstone Gallery— 901 New York Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001 — 202-347-2787 — Info@touchstonegallery.com  — http://www.touchstonegallery.com  Wednesday- Friday 11-6, Saturday-Sunday 12-5; 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC 202-347-2787; Wed-Fri 11-6; Sat-Sun 12-5

 

Breaking Open

Rosemary Luckett: exploring the terrain within

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Rosemary Luckett

In her February 2018 solo exhibition Landscapes: the terrain within, Rosemary Luckett steps back from exploring the environmental landscape to make art about the archetypes she recognizes in her interior landscape.  Over time she discovered the inner guides or archetypes portrayed in art, literature, mythology, and religion, heroes that have been with humanity everywhere since the dawn of time. Inspired by female contemporary heroes and writer Carol S. Pearson’s book on the topic (Awakening the Heroes Within), she constructed collages about the twelve archetypes, putting herself into the picture.  They percolated in a drawer for years until she decided to explore them further in larger format.

Orphan Times

The paintings and collages in this exhibit reflect her interactions with archetypal heroes she recognized in her own life: preparation for life’s journey (Innocent, Orphan, Warrior, Caregiver); journey to becoming real (Seeker, Destroyer, Love, Creator); the return to becoming free (Ruler, Magician, Sage, Fool).  Her painting vocabulary includes: Dragons, trees, a child in swing, doors, birds, female figures, a spindle, the moon, plant foliage and flowers, grids, a dangling woman, masks, and horizon lines.  If questions are asked of these symbolic images, then the stories they tell reveal much more than is seen in a surface or cursory glance.

Seeking Confidence

The collages in this exhibit are housed in niche boxes made of unique wood pieces sculpted together.  They amplify the figure within and recall religious wood retablos found in the Southwest, as well as icons common to churches in ancient Byzantium and modern Italy.  Large acrylic paintings also include collage elements whether subtly or overt.  All in all, they represent some familiar and some less-recognized heroes as seen through Luckett’s life lens.

Athena: The Great Protector II

Pocket Madonna

Elaine Florimonte: Layering and Balancing

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Elaine Florimonte

Elaine Florimonte is drawn to the simplicity and consistency of the horizon, specifically the proportions of sky, water and ground in paintings comprising her solo exhibition, The Pursuit of Balance at Touchstone Gallery, February 2018. Through her use of acrylic media and collage, she creates landscape images in an effort to find balance in an ever shifting world.

Untie the Weights 24 x 36

The shift includes not only weather, but also our current capricious American reality. Each new sunrise seems to throw light on a new set of circumstances with which we must try to digest and respond to. Our world continues to rock back and forth in terms of political and cultural shifts that make us question our own ethical compass. In the studio Elaine found stability by painting landscapes–focusing on the horizon at the beginning of each painting.  Even so, a horizon may shift and then reassert itself.  Sometimes the foreground slides into background and line wanders in and out of focus as the weather changes or clouds ascend in dominance. While the horizon is relatively stable, the space can be ambiguous. Through her vigorous brushwork Elaine creates layered compositions that cover and reveal the history of her creative process and ultimately her pursuit of balance.

The Way Waters Flow 20 x 30

The Pursuit of Balance will be on exhibit at Touchstone Gallery in Washington, DC from January 31-February 25, 2018. www.touchstonegallery.com

901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC 202-347-2787; Wed-Fri 11-6; Sat-Sun 12-5

Treading the Space Just Above Ground 36 x 24

BD Richardson: Repetition, Pattern and Form–From Intimate To Immense

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BD Richardson

In what turned out to be a prescient decision, BD Richardson, fresh from earning a master’s degree from American University, began a habit of carrying a camera everywhere she went.  Beginning with a trip to China as part of a women’s press group in 1980, she captured bits and pieces of that huge country just prior to its national efforts to modernize. After that, no place in the world was exempt from her restless eye: Paris, South America, North America’s heartland with its aging buildings and big skies, and coastal villages replete with fishing boats and seamen.  Lately she has focused her camera up close on plant forms turning their growth patterns into mandalas.

Schoolhouse in the Round

Taking photos was only the first part of BD’s artistic process.  Saving the negatives and slides for future development during a long hiatus (raising a family and a business) was key.  Then taking the leap from dark room techniques like salt print developing to using digital techniques opened more possibilities.  On the computer she remastered and reinterpreted older images, bringing them alive again–a laborious process, but a gratifying one.  Exploring metallic photographic papers and other contemporary professional tools now at her disposal heightened her passion for the photographic process.  Some images are hand-printed onto film and then transferred by hand to aged metal plates. Others are printed on metallic paper and sandwiched between Plexiglas and aluminum.

Bushel of Buoys

In Richardson’s Touchstone Gallery exhibition Moments & Methods: Mosaics, 45 images taken between the 1970’s and 2017 are on display during the month of January 2018.  The muted warm gray tones of spacious land, sky and sea are home to solitary buildings, lone figures, and boats. In most of the works, subdued environments include brief interludes of red or yellow color in stacked plastic pails and buoys, or a field of pale green grass, or an overturned red and white lifeguard stand.  Dramatically lit cloud formations emphasize huge skies in the heartland of America, and symbolize both the deleterious power of storms and rain they bring to make farm life possible in the Midwest.  Intricate crop patterns and plowed fields lie powerfully under these skies, sometimes punctuated by a lone aging building or a single figure. In contrast, her more recent plant form images flaunt more vibrant colors while excluding the grays.

No Lifeguard on Duty

Human presence is overt in many works, or implied through park benches, light poles, balustrades, wheels, buildings, vehicles and ships.  A lone Chinese woman embroiders tapestries by the feeble light of a single bulb.  In the mist a waterman tends to his small boat.  Richardson’s color palette depicts a world similar to that of painter Andrew Wyeth, whose monochrome tones with touches of color speak of the simplicity of the American spirit as it once was a century ago.  “It’s all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of the design is the motion,” he says, and Richardson is equally careful, capturing repetition, pattern and form with her discerning eye.  –Rosemary Luckett

Moments & Methods: Mosaics exhibit can be seen from January 4 – 28, 2018 at Touchstone Gallery— 901 New York Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001 — 202-347-2787 — Info@touchstonegallery.com  — http://www.touchstonegallery.com  Wednesday- Friday 11-6, Saturday-Sunday 12-5

Working the Water

 

Benches in Parc-Monceau

Maureen Squires: Partnering Painting with Words

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Maureen Squires

While writing Touchstone blog essays, I ask the question, ”How do artists arise in America?” The answer, of course, is that exceptional artists come from small towns and large all across the land, predictably and unpredictably.  I thought about this recently while driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike, where my attention alternated between fast-moving 18-wheelers and glimpses of green pastures sculpted from long-ago deciduous forests when horses were the main mode of transport.  Road signs mention the small towns that are quickly by-passed.

Maureen Squires, like one of her favorite authors Annie Dillard, recognizes these landmarks because they were both raised in Pittsburgh’s east end.  As a child Maureen was preoccupied with drawing and attracted to handwriting.  She had definite ideas about which scripts she liked and which she did not, and practiced her favorites over and over.  As a Seton Hill University freshman she took her initial calligraphy class as part of her first Drawing and Design course.   It laid the foundation for her lifelong fascination with words and how to give them form in an expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner.  Design and painting became natural partners for the words she loved to script.

Solar Wind V, 30 x 23, sumi and acrylic, pointed brush, 300 lb watercolor paper

Maureen spent two post-graduate years in calligraphy studies headed by Arnold Bank at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.  Bank was one of the founders of the Type Directors Club in 1946, which added momentum to establishing 20th century calligraphy and typography studies in mainstream visual art in America.  Bank coached his students struggling with the inevitable mistakes inherent in the meticulous production of calligraphy that, “If it’s worth doing once, it’s worth doing over again.” Scraping mistakes off the paper was only one solution.  Although also inspired by Gottfried Pott, Donald Jackson and Thomas Ingmire, Maureen attributes much of her calligraphic thinking and skill to Bank.

Creation II, 20 1/4 x 22, acrylic, Sumi on cold press, pen and brush

Upon completing studies, Maureen was employed by the AT&T Bell Labs art department for a while.  But her most enjoyable work experiences happened after she became a freelance artist, picking up projects and meeting other calligraphers the world over.  She also developed her painter’s eye, focusing on “the secret of seeing” during the creative process. Before toning Arches Text Wove paper or canvas, Maureen chooses inspirational words that suggest a color scheme, which in turn, gives life to words.  Maureen’s first Touchstone Gallery solo show, Words as Muse, typifies this process. The work in this exhibit celebrates the concepts and wordplay of Annie Dillard: “After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down eons of emptiness, heaping profusions on profligacies with ever-fresh vigor.”  It’s the language of movement and vigor.

Profusions on Profligacies, 30 x 30, acrylic on canvas

The field of calligraphy is a fluid one, so associating with other artists keeps Maureen current with what is happening in her field.  She attends annual International Calligraphy Conferences, and has directed three of them.  This year Maureen is curator and editor of the most recent issue of Scripsit magazine, a publication of the Washington Calligraphy Guild, many of whose member artists work in federal government agencies and the White House, scripting certificates, special documents, and formal invitations.  A copy of Scripsit is part of her December 2017 exhibition Words as Muse. It’s an exhibit in which, in the words of calligrapher Massimo Polello, “…letters become a means to exist outside myself… going beyond the letters, captured by a sole need to see. They become signs, images, evocations, urgent needs, emotions.”   It’s a unique exhibit and one in which viewers will see how words and painting marry up to form unique expressions.—Rosemary Luckett

Opening Reception Friday, December 1, 2017, 6-8:30 pm

Meet the Artist Maureen Squires/Artist Talk Saturday December 16, 2-4 pm

Touchstone Gallery — 901 New York Avenue NW, Washington DC 20001

202-347-2787 — Info@touchstonegallery.com  — http://www.touchstonegallery.com

Wednesday- Friday 11-6, Saturday-Sunday 12-5

The Secret, 20×30, acrylic on canvas