Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat




“Uncommon Beauty,” at the Ellipse Arts Center (4350 Fairfax Drive, Suite 125, Arlington). This exhibit runs through Dec. 13. The gallery hours are Wednesday – Friday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. and will be closed the week of Thanksgiving. Garage parking is $3 on weekdays.Horowitz_AnuRaNo3.jpg

Note: A special event directed towards engaging the deaf community with the arts community will be held this Friday evening, from 7 – 9 p.m. on Nov. 7. A sign language interpreter will be on hand.

“Uncommon Beauty” was produced in conjunction with the Washington Project for the Arts, and presents the photographic work of six area photographers. The premise of the show was to find works offering unusual visions of feminine beauty. Uncommon being defined as off the well worn paths of our youth and weight obsessed (fat or thin) notions thereof. While showing excellent work, it’s something of a moot point as to whether or not this show actually hits its intended target.

Kay Chernush seems the most successful in presenting truly uncommon views of beauty.

Here, Chernush documents her struggle with breast cancer, double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. As gruesome as the subject matter is, Churnush manages to craft pleasing and thought-provoking images. While all the other photos in this show are what we refer to as “straight” photography, Churnush employs color shifts, gauzy views and photo collage techniques.

Mary Coble, last seen at the Arlington Art Center with her take on electroshock aversion therapy for homosexuals, goes a couple steps further with her offerings here. Having culled 75 epithets from a prior audience participation event, she then took the slurs and had them tattooed, sans ink, on her body. Rather than “Uncommon Beauty,” this portion of the show would be better titled “Common Ugliness.” The accompanying video shows the art made by a thousand pinpricks process. The resulting blood letting was then blotted and pinned to the wall here – a squeamish work to see. Not only for its gore factor, but for its magnitude. These 75 “tattoos” are not small – we are talking about a significant amount of pain she went through to make this work. The most disturbing of all is the willingness to absorb such negativity. It makes visible the typically unseen hurt of slurs and rejection in general.

Frank Hallam Day was recently reviewed here for his show at Addison Ripley gallery featuring photos of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloons the night before. For “Uncommon Beauty,” Day shows a series of Ethiopian Beauty parlor signs. While presenting a fairly common view of beauty to Western eyes, they must be uncommon within their Ethiopian context. Many of the women on these hand painted signs have their mouth area defaced in some way; it seems to be traditional values rising up in protest to this bit of Western style beauty.

Out of thousands of entries, Jason Horowitz is currently a semi-finalist in the National Portrait Gallery open call show. Finalists won’t be decided until the middle of next year, with that show hanging in the fall of 2009. Here we see four more of Horowitz’s giant views of human anatomy. The scale magnification varies, but often turns inches into feet. To be sure, they offer us uncommon views of human landscape. There is a naturally challenging aspect to these photos, as Jason seeks to find the tension between attraction and repulsion.

Lucian Perkins short video titled “Divine Divas” gives a “Sex in the City” type view of the women in his chat group. Athena Tacha has done what very few of us have the guts to do. In a rather clinical fashion, Tacha photographed herself every year for 36 years; five photos document each year – three facial shots, one straight on, one profile, and one straight on while smiling. Those three head shots are supplemented with two full body nude images; one straight on, one profile. The exhibit documents the passage of time and the way beauty changes as we age. Her dedication to the project is evident early on when a few years after starting, she underwent a hysterectomy, resulting in scar right there for all the world to see.

As a short follow up to the Shepard Fairey/Obama Poster review from two weeks ago, we have to note the rapidity, as well as the thoroughness, with which this has swept through vernacular image-making. Normally this “edgy to exhausted” cycle takes years to complete; in this case, it’s taken 10 months. The Basketball magazine SLAM features hoopsters in an Obama portrait-style cover. Mad magazine is doing a spoof interpretation featuring Alfred E. Neuman, plus a two-page pullout poster featuring Mad figurehead, tagged with the text “Hopeless.” The set for a local presidential play, reviewed with photo in The Washington Post, has a similar image featuring – wait for it – Warren G. Harding! Firestorm is about the only way to describe this phenomenon, and clearly reflects Obama’s broad spectrum popularity… at least with graphic artists. For a medley of rip-offs high and low, see www.posterpage.ch/exhib/ex216oba/ex216oba.htm. For more information, call 703-228-7710, or visit www.arlingtonarts.org/ellipseartscenter.htm.

International Crafts Fair, at Curves (240 W. Broad St., Falls Church). The event happens from noon – 4 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 8. The parking lot is in the rear off Maple Avenue. Ten Thousand Villages of Alexandria will be showing craft works from 30 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with all proceeds going back to the artisans in those countries. For more information, call 703-536-0140.

Lee Arts Center Holiday Sale, at the Lee Arts Center (5722 Lee Highway, Arlington). The event runs from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 8 – 9. This annual show features studio artists from Lee Arts Center’s excellent pottery and print studios, offering their wares for sale. Each artist gets their own display table, so there’s a lot to see here.

A Unique feature of this event is a Raku Party Fundraiser, where you select, decorate and watch your own crafted pot fired before your eyes! For more information, call 703-228-0560, or visit www.arlingtonarts.org/artistsales.htm.

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