By Janet Rems
Special to The Times
Proof that the Northern Virginia region is home to a wealth of dynamic creative talents, especially in the visual arts, is now vividly on view at the Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) through Aug. 23.
The current exhibition at GRACE, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, features the works of 28 member artists, exploring a variety of themes and working in a wide range of visual styles and media.
A highly competitive juried exhibition, this member-focused show was reintroduced to the arts center’s gallery, located in Reston Town Center, by GRACE’s new executive director, Holly McCullough, who plans to make it a biennial event.
“The heart of this very diverse show is the artists,” said McCullough at its July 17 opening. “Some of the artists were a critical part of our founding and some are new artists [to GRACE].”
The exhibition’s juror was Helen Frederick, a well-known metro-area curator, educator and artist, who has been a proactive participant in the region’s art scene for at least three decades.
Frederick is founder of Pyramid Atlantic Arts Center in Silver Spring, Md., and a professor of art at George Mason University’s School of Art and Design in Fairfax.
In her juror’s statement, Frederick, who worked closely with GRACE’s associate curator Erica Harrison, explained: “I asked myself a number of questions as I looked at each work. Did the work have visual impact, was the image well composed and well designed? … I look for a blending of form and content that is evocative and compelling.”
The fact that both GRACE and Pyramid are community-based nonprofits gave her a greater appreciation of what remarkable things are made possible by such cultural organizations, Frederick said at the opening. She added, “The whole blooming of Northern Virginia is really amazing.”
Linda Sullivan, president and CEO of the Arts Council of Fairfax County, also made a special announcement at the opening. She noted that GRACE has been selected by the council to receive its 2014 Community Impact Award, which will be officially presented in the fall.
Among the works that most synchronized with Frederick’s juror standards are two provocative and painful but physically beautiful—almost Vermeer-like--photographs printed on multiple veils of silk organza.
One of the photographs shows two hands above a white, slightly creased bed sheet—the one hand, alive and reaching out, clasps the second hand, which is pale and lifeless. Juxtaposed is a second photograph of the empty creased sheet.
The artist, Catherine Day, a resident of McLean, explained that the first photograph showed her own hand clasping her 82-year-old father’s just after he had passed away after a tortuous eight months battling lung cancer. The other photograph is the impression left in his hospital deathbed after the funeral home took him away. “The last evidence of his being.”
Day, who shoots digitally including with her Iphone camera, said she always has a camera in her hand, and her work “has long explored the notions of loss and memory.”
A number of other artists’ works in the exhibition derived their inspiration from nature.
Longtime GRACE member-artist Elizabeth Kendall’s all-white abstract bouquet of organic, botanical forms is created of porcelain and stoneware. According to Kendall, who grew up in Herndon and now lives in Vienna, her sculpture is a “celebration of opposites,” a celebration of “shadow [which] does not exist without light.”
Sculptor Brian Kirk, a Purcellville resident, is displaying one of his new artistic explorations, a rust print. “I have always been intrigued by the forces of nature. …. By mixing water with steel plates and steel objects pressed into archival paper, I utilize the resultant compound, rust, to create unique prints,” explained Kirk, who also is chairman of the Fine Arts Department of Loudoun County Public Schools.
For Dorothy Fall, a Washington, D.C. resident, trees are a potent inspiration. Her work in the GRACE exhibition, “Enfolding,” created by oil bar on paper, was inspired by a tree she saw on a trip to Costa Rica. Trees, she suggested, are like the mythological figure Daphne, who transformed into a laurel tree to escape Apollo. They have a spirit inhabiting them, either “waiting to be released” or “to capture us,” she said.
Other featured artists include: John Adams, Lina Alattar, Ann Barbieri, Nancy Bass, Brenda Belfield, Julia Bloom, Jessica Chong Kang, Julia Dzikiewicz, Jo Fleming, Susan Hostetler, Jackie Hoysted, Robert Hunter, Jessica Kallista, Melanie Kehoss, George Kochev, Mary Ellen Mogee, Michele Montalbano, Craig Moran, Connie Slack, Paul Steinkoenig, Nasir Thamir, Anna Watson, Ann Williams, and Fred Zafran.