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


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

Pete McCutchen Wins Honorable Mention in the Monochrome Awards International Black & White Photography Contest, 2/2015

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Pete McCutchen

Pete McCutchen

Winning an Honorable Mention in the Monochrome Awards means a lot. I began photographing at eleven years of age, and like most of my generation I started in the black and white darkroom. (No iPhones back then.)   I did black and white almost exclusively for years.  With the advent of digital technology, I began exploring color.  The tools of digital editing allow for precise control that isn’t possible in the color darkroom and inkjet printer have a color gamut and archival qualities that far exceed any chromogenic process.

For the last decade or so, I’ve produced mostly color work. My solo shows have featured color work, and nearly all of the awards received were for color work. My color work is rich, lush, and saturated.  I use color expressively, more like a painter than a traditional photographer.  My first award in an international competition — the Neutral Density Awards — was for a color portfolio.

http://ndawards.net/winners-gallery/nd-awards-2014/other/hm/606%22.

Five Lights

Five Lights

It’s really gratifying, therefore, to be able to return to black and white and be recognized for a traditional black and white photograph.  It’s even more rewarding to be acknowledged in an international competition along with photographers from Spain, Italy, the UK, Brazil, the Ukraine, Israel, Iran, and many other countries. The work produced by the other awardees is great, and the number of countries from which they’re drawn is impressive.  I feel honored to be included.

Crime Pays

Crime Pays

My winning image “Five Lights” was shot in an abandoned power plant. Another photographer had borrowed my tripod; I was wandering around, shooting hand-held. Look up, I always say, and so I did, Above me I saw big suspended lights. The bulbs were long gone, but the light streaming from the windows hit the reflective coating of the fixtures.  They glowed.

 

Final Antechamber

Final Antechamber

The light was beautiful. There just wasn’t a lot of it.    Shooting hand-held, I cranked the ISO (light sensitivity) up to 10,000.  Even with a Nikon D3, an image at ISO 10,000 is going to have a lot of noise.  In color, noise is ugly, but I knew I would convert it to black and white.  In black and white, the noise looks like film grain, enhancing the image with a gritty textural feel.

The light from the windows was harsh and bright, while the rest of the interior was in deep shadow.  I could have exposed the image to retain highlight detail in the windows, but the result would have been total darkness n the shadows. Instead, I exposed for the shadows and allowed the highlights to be blown out.  I didn’t want detail in the windows; I wanted them to glow, making this old power plant seem almost like an ancient cathedral. –Pete McCutchen & Rosemary Luckett

See the winning Monochrome Awards photos at http://monoawards.com/winners-gallery/monochrome-awards-2014/professional/fine-art/hm/332

Henry County Illinois, December, #6

Henry County Illinois, December, #6

Harmon Biddle: Transforming Landscapes

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Harmon Biddle

Harmon Biddle

Army families and those in the diplomatic corps move around the country a lot and often get stationed “overseas.”  Harmon Biddle’s family fit those service categories.  She lived in many states and  European posts including Germany, Japan and England.  While she didn’t think of herself as an artist at a young age, she was often at the side of her mother who painted pastel portraits. Perhaps some of that artistic sensibility and some of those varied landscapes seeped into her psyche only to become an active force in adulthood. Harmon always dabbled in art but this took second row seat to becoming a psychoanalyst.  She currently practices psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in tandem with her art.

Magnificent Wave

Magnificent Wave

In the 1980’s, Harmon made an art studio over the garage.  She intuitively knew that she wanted to get serious about painting. Now with “a room of her own” and inspiration from Southwestern landscapes, Harmon began to paint.  Her format often takes the shape of long horizontal rectangles, as if she’s trying to capture 180 degrees of horizon. Other paintings are pure emanations of her imagination, particularly those based on oval egg shapes.   Being a psychoanalyst, one would think Harmon could explain where those eggs came from, but she’s not exactly sure. It’s up to the viewer to discern meaning from this complex symbol whose meanings range from potential to vulnerability, and from strength to latency or potential.

Remembrance

Remembrance

As in her landscape compositions, Harmon just starts with a particular color and then sees what happens as she flows watercolor paints into the paper.  Something happens in her unconscious between the time she records an image and when she actually begins to paint it.  Color becomes arbitrary.  Sometimes it’s bright, as in the egg pictures, and sometimes its subdued browns and grays.  She has the aptitude for accepting what comes forth from her imagination and letting the process lead her to an unplanned completion.

Celestial Body

Celestial Body

Taking her paintings a step further, Harmon sometimes pairs up with an Italian glassmaker at Adriano Berengo Fine Arts on the island of Murano.  There, her two dimensional egg paintings are transformed into very heavy and transparent glass structures that capture light in unexpected ways.  Both paintings and the large glass 3-D pieces in her Touchstone Solo Earth Elements can be viewed between February 4 and March 1. –Rosemary Luckett

Heat

Heat

Gail Vogels: Exploring and Transforming

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Gail Vogels

Gail Vogels

It’s not surprising that Gail Vogels was inspired by the novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr when she set out to construct her new multi-media art works. She’s been interested in literature most of her life, studying it in college and coming away with a bachelor’s degree in the field. “That book was a launching point for me.  I wanted to explore  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 your childhood.”

 

While She Slept

While She Slept

Gail started these transformative works by eschewing her favorite paint, cutting up several figure drawings and collecting other papers and monotype prints.   Keeping in mind the entire galaxy of our existence and the space between that largeness and tiny life forms, she began to arrange her elements on the surface of cradled clayboards.  (Archival and acid-free, Claybord is created by applying an archival kaolin clay ground to a True Artist Hardbord substrate, then sanding it to a velvet-smooth, absorbent finish.) This rigid backing is ideal for accepting textures, hand altered papers, found objects and the permanent black ink she uses.  The technical aspect of gluing required experimentation with many adhesives.  Several coatings of matte medium cover the finished design and protect the layers underneath.  These works are mostly black and white except for a bit of sienna and metallics.

 

Beauty

Beauty

Gail grew up in “Wyeth country”,  a rural area outside Philadelphia, PA.   At an early age  she developed the language of perception by watching her mother and a neighboring artist create oil paintings.  Fearing she could not make a living as a painter, she pursued a graduate degree in counseling college-age students. Because of her husband’s career,  she moved  to Atlanta, GA. The transition from this particular northern city to this particular southern one was a daunting undertaking.  At the same time, it provided an opportunity.  The opportunity was to realize a dream of hers–to study fine arts at the graduate level.

In this solo exhibition Oh Life! at Touchstone Gallery, Gail seems to reflect Wyeth’s outlook.  “I paint my life, ” he has noted many times.  Even though he’s classified as a realist, his paintings have an abstractness about them.  Upon examination, even the simplest painted object has a profound meaning.  Gail likewise celebrates life, objects of nature and architecture, and the human figure.  Her assembled stories of the beautiful and the temporary remind the viewer how the small intersects vitally and mysteriously with the large.  Her abstract multi-media works are  now on exhibit from January 2 – February 1, 2015.  Opening Reception ▪ Friday, January 9, 2015, 6-8:30 pm.  Visitors will be able to watch Gail’s work process on Artists at Work ▪ Sunday, January 25, 2-4 pm.  She will answer questions and discuss her work. 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC. info@touchstonegallery.com

 

Contemplation

Contemplation

 

 

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