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

 

 

Pat Williams: Coaxing Abstracts From Reality

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Pat Williams

Pat Williams

“I enjoy painting more than anything else I’ve ever done, and I’ve done quite a few things,” says Pat Williams, a native of North Carolina who now lives in Falls Church, Virginia.  This is quite a remarkable statement coming from a person who majored in engineering and spent most of her career working for electrical cooperatives and other energy companies.

When creativity eventually bubbled to the surface, Pat exited her electrical finance career to put her writing skills into practice.  As a communications consultant, Pat’s writings are highly controlled. “

The simple watercolor sketch that sparked the beginning of Pat's solo series

The simple watercolor sketch that sparked the beginning of Pat’s solo series

I edit in my mind before I ever put a word on paper. I edit myself further as I polish drafts, and then the drafts are edited by an employer, an editor, often a committee. The end result is a collaborative effort, which can be wonderful, but it isn’t necessarily me.” That editorial format left Pat searching for another way to express herself more freely.

With trepidation and self-doubt,  she enrolled in a watercolor class. Practically speaking it was a good choice. Her paintings were portable, they dried fast, and she could work on them when traveling with her husband on business.   The classes seemed a bit daunting at first as they generally are for beginners of any age, but Pat laid out some basic rules for herself.  She would paint for enjoyment and not worry about what anyone else in the class was doing.  She soon realized that there is a reason the teacher is the teacher, so she focused on learning what her instructors had to offer.   Phillip Hocking, her first teacher, patiently guided her through the nuances of watercolor.  “Yes, you must buy $3 sheets of paper even to practice on! And don’t be timid about putting enough paint on that paper,” she remembers him saying as he coached her in the techniques she wanted to learn.

Internal Dialog

Internal Dialog

Everybody needs a teacher that is able to draw out the creativity of an individual student,” remarks Pat.  Deborah Ellis did that while showing her how to manipulate the interaction between water and paint.  Steve Fleming offered enlightening critiques and encouraged her to exhibit work, while Marsha Staiger taught her to express her own vocabulary of abstraction with fluidity and fluency.

Urban-crowding

Urban-crowding

Starting in 1989 Pat painted reality in fine detail, but over time she achieved a long-held goal of being able to painting abstractly. Her January 2-February 1, 2015 Touchstone Gallery solo exhibition, Hidden Things Revealed, is a culmination of that learning process.  Using a Multimedia Artboard ™ foundation  (a rigid paper substrate consisting of an innovative combination of paper and thermalset resin), these paintings are explorations of the similarities and differences among common plants and animals.  Glimpsed behind veils of Pat’s abstract washes, disparate life forms are connected by color and shape divulging both hidden and revealed aspects of each.

See Hidden Things Revealed at the opening party on  Friday, December 9, 2015, 6 to 8:30pm and during Gallery hours throughout January.  In addition, Pat will be painting at an Artist at Work event at Touchstone on Sunday, January 25, 2-4 pm.  In a relaxed Gallery atmosphere that includes light refreshments, she’ll explain how she works — while she works.  Questions are welcome.  info@touchstonegallery.com; 202-347-2787

Rosemary Luckett

Be Present

Be Present

Annika Haas: Observing with a Photographic Eye

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Annika Haas, Estonian Photographer

Annika Haas, Estonian Photographer

Photographer and Touchstone Gallery Guest Artist Annika Haas lives and works in Estonia, a small country located between Latvia and the Gulfs of Finland and Riga—a cool, but fertile land.  Annika grew up there and received her BA from the University of Tartu in Finno-Ugric languages.  Subsequently she studied photo journalism in Tartu.  Traveling to London provided her with the chance to continue studies at the Photo Opportunity Studios and foto8 gallery.

A member of the board Estonian Association of Press photographers, she has entered and won many contests.  The latest being 2014 Grand Prize for Estonian Press Photo.  In 2012, she received Honorable Mention in the 2012 FotoWeekDC International Awards Competition, Washington DC, USA. For a complete list of exhibition and awards visit her website at www.annikahaas.com.

planewatchers03web

Ivan Melnitski

Annika’s work includes several series: Gypsies in Estonia, portraits, landscapes, Lake Peipus Russian Old Believers, and why some people are bald and others not. These series are in color, while Underground bar scene works are shot in black and white. Annika eshews the computer and uses a Ljubitel camera and latitude negative film to make chromogenic colour prints (C-prints).

Tamara

Tamara

Annika’s Touchstone solo “Plane Watchers” are a series of photographs that follows the extinction of the last of the Soviets in Estonia who are being displaced from their 54 year old little dachas and gardens so that the Tallinn Airport runways can be expanded. Began in 2010, the series contains both portraits and documentary photos.  It reflects the conflict between the followers of a fading era and a new social order pressing down on them.  “It shows how a group of people hangs on to the past in the teeth of the new rules,” Annika explains.  The complex human stories in this exhibit may remind viewers of similar work produced by William Eggleston and Washington DC’s William Christenberry who document the lives of people of the southern United States.

Annika’s works are sponsored by the Embassy of Estonia in Washington and can be seen from December 5-28, 2014 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC.  www.touchstonegallery.com; info@touchstonegallery.com.  Rosemary Luckett, Annika Haas

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Paula Lantz: Designer of Plans and Paintings

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Paula Lantz head shot copy

Paula Lantz

Paula is one of those rare persons who can make and follow a detailed plan of action and yet act spontaneously in the next moment.  For the first half of her professional life, she focused on corporate jobs as a “structural planner” of employee self-improvement programs.  In  the second half she became an abstract painter.  Perhaps these seemingly contradictory abilities are innate, or perhaps she learned them along the way.

Paula’s life began in Marfa, Texas, a small town in the high desert of the Trans-Pecos, located between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park.  Her family were ranchers.  Marfa  was a quiet place whose population numbered around 1900 folks.  It’s claim to fame is that the movie “Giant” was (appropriately) filmed there.

As often happens in this giant territory, rains cease, long droughts set in and some ranchers lose their shirts.  Luckily  Paula’s father had a college degree in accounting, so when their ranch dried up, he found a fiscal job in Columbia, South America, and took the family with him.  Paula spent the next 10 years traveling between a boarding school in Charleston, SC and her Columbian home, voyages that sparked a life-long love of travel.  Her college years were spent at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Resting Ballet Dancer

Resting Ballet Dancer

Equipped with a masters degree in health, Paula settled on the east coast to begin a double career as mother and health professional.  Paula became a designer of smoking cessation and employee fitness programs for the corporate world as well as for hospitals in Northern Virginia and Maryland.  After 20 plus years in this field, Paula turned those organizational skills in a different direction, designing a two-part art plan for herself! She decided (1) to be a docent at one of DC’s art museums, and (2) to began taking art classes.

Paula followed her plan and has been a docent at the Smithsonian American Museum of Art for 20 years.  Art classes continued parallel to the docent job.  She learned from Alice Neal, Andy Warhol, the Impressionists,  Bonnard, Diebenkorn, Matisse and so many others while exploring monotype printmaking, mixed media materials, and painting.  The drawing she began in college anatomy classes evolved into new ways of seeing.  “But nothing is ever lost or goes away,” she notes.  Along the way Paula became an artist using the bold intense color relationships she saw in the Texas sunsets of her youth. Add to that use of mixed media texture and a sensibility for abstraction and non-representation.

Couple at the Bar

Couple at the Bar

In her solo exhibit of dramatic psychological portraits, Observations, Paula leaves organizational structures behind, improvises, plumbs the depths of her travel experiences and paints abstractly the people she observes.  With brush dipped in acrylic paint and empathy in hand, her creativity pours forth energy and color in a spontaneous yet cohesive way, capturing the temperament of ordinary people– the essence of a moment in their life onto the canvas in a powerful way. Her nine gestural figurative paintings will be on exhibit at Touchstone Gallery December 3-28, 2014. The opening reception is Friday, Dec. 5 from 6-8:30 pm. 901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC. Rosemary Luckett

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Breakfast

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