Art Minus Color Reveals Deep Stories

Photo | Marylou Bono Poolesville artist James Vissari exhibits classic etchings of Georgetown scenes in the “Black and White” exhibit at the Arts Barn through May 12.

Photo | Marylou Bono
Poolesville artist James Vissari exhibits classic etchings of Georgetown scenes in the “Black and White” exhibit at the Arts Barn through May 12.

An unseasonably warm Sunday provided the backdrop for “Black and White,” an appealingly bold yet sophisticated Arts Barn gallery show exploring the monochromatic realm. The classic combination forces the eye to sharpen and focus on the beauty of light and shadow—the graphic, spatial, compositional and formal elements in its space as well as the moody and emotional vibes. Featuring sculpture, glasswork and ceramics as well as drawing, painting and photography, all in black and white, the show was juried by Arts Barn resident artist Jaree Donnelly.

Lakelands photographer and photo compositing artist Carol Walsh’s “Alone and Lonely” depicts a candid shot of a man with his back turned walking on the beach at Amelia Island, Florida. “He didn’t know he was being photographed,” said Walsh. “I love the dark cloud hanging above him and the beach in winter—the most dramatic views.” The photograph has an almost spiritual quality and evokes a personal response from each viewer. “I love the candid shots,” Walsh confided. “It was a serene moment.”

Arts Barn educator and Germantown-based artist Astrid Adler’s “Dreaming 10” is a paint pouring experiment. “I was trying to see if I could get away without making too much gray,” Adler explained. “All the advice I’ve run into about pouring says to stay away from black and white because all one can get is grays. Well, when told I can’t do something, my nature is to respond by doing exactly that (to see if it can be done)! Every time I can’t think of a name for a painting, I call it ‘Dreaming’ and give it a number; ergo, ‘Dreaming 10.’”

Photographer Michael Adler’s “Silver Tree” is an interpretation of the sculpture “Graft” by Roxy Paine, which sits in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden. The branches’ dark shadows radiate with a metallic sheen that creates definition and catches the eye. Adler’s “Building Exterior 5” captures afternoon shadows on a Bethesda office building on Old Georgetown Road. The image was inspired by the platinum palladium print “Wall Street” created by American photographer Paul Strand in 1915.

Frederick sculptor Joshua Shelley’s large striking vessels and sculptures—fired porcelain painted with a black underglaze that fires at a high temperature—are centerpieces for the show. His “Moon Vase-Movement of 100 Lines” is a large, globe-like creation fashioned from approximately 50 pounds of clay in two sections. The continuity of the pattern and relief carvings accented with gold truly capture the essence of the heavenly body. Lines that at first seem made by pen are actually done using a variety of tiny paintbrushes. Shelley said that his whole body goes into it. “I’ll lock in my arm and brace my wrist so just my fingers move.” A sort of companion piece is entitled “Sculptural Vessel-Movement of 1,000 Lines”—a large base that reminded me of a women’s torso mannequin features a huge bowl shape balancing on top. The technique of line and pattern is amazing.

A series of nine classic etchings of Georgetown scenes by Poolesville artist and Yellow Barn at Glen Echo drawing teacher James Vissari are particularly noteworthy. Vissari said, “I’m recognized for my pencil and pen work. … I always carry a sketchbook.” He started doing etching at a teacher’s prompting and because he really loves to explore line. Etchings are done on a steel plate coated with a tar-ish ink formula. A steel stylus etches lines, and time in an acid bath elicits color variations in the black ink. The plates are run through a printing press to create an image on paper. Several runs produce the desired number of prints in the series. Together they are vignettes of a historic DC area.

The playful “Senor Al Paca” by lithographer Carol Moore was created from a photograph of an alpaca at the Catoctin Zoo. “I liked the human expression on his face. All of the food machines were empty that day!” The Frederick artist creates woodcuts, monoprints, lithographs and etchings. Another lithograph, “Take Your Seat,” is a provocative look at the mind’s eye—”how you have to quiet your mind to get to a creative place,” Moore revealed. Surrounded by infinite space and inspired by plant specimens, the piece features a center chair that is reminiscent of one she had in childhood.

Everyone finds something intriguing in black and white art. Come and find your inspiration at the Arts Barn through May 12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday.