Arts & Entertainment

Northern Virginia Art Beat

Portrait 2.0, at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center (8230 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md.). The event runs through Dec. 5. The gallery is open Monday – Saturday, noon – 6 p.m., and on Sunday by appointment. For more information, call 301-608-9101 or visit www.pyramidatlanticartcenter.org.

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VICTORIA GAITAN’s TRIPTYCH, on display at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center.

Pyramid Atlantic runs a first-rate printing and paper-making studio. However, it’s also participating in regional photography events with this six-person show of photo portraits.

Four of the six photographers here are working with egalitarian attitudes towards their subjects.

Chan Chao is well known around town for the various portrait series he’s shot over the past 20 or so years.

Chao’s current series is of Peruvian women prison inmates. The strangest thing about Chan’s images here are their complete normalcy. Lacking uniforms, Peruvian prisoners wear street clothes. “Sofia & Mayra” are two half-sisters arrested for drug smuggling. One shows a bare midriff, while the other wears skin tight blue jeans. The pair look like a couple of Hispanic 20-something girls on the street in Los Angeles. It’s hard to vilify people who look so much like ourselves, and as such, we’re more inclined to ask what life path lead them to this?

Joshua Yospyn shoots posed portraits of people he finds around town, deliberately cropping out the faces from the nose up. While the subjects are obviously individuals, we tend to read them as stereotypes, thereby drawing attention to how we classify and view people merely based on body language and their dress.

Matt Dunn also focuses on fashion, often seeing it as a form of personal or professional uniform. His image of a frail female Park Ranger nearing retirement age seems especially humorous when we note the book she has in hand – The Witches of Eastwick.

Similarly, a Shaw neighborhood kid named Jamal poses in his basketball T-shirt. Looking about as pure and innocent as any 12-year-old boy possibly could, we’re taken with the notion that life will all too soon harden and twist his view of the world around him.

Paul Vinet celebrates the working class in his large-scale triptych image titled “Wedding at Cana.” A cook, waitress and janitor are all floated against a gold ormolu background that recalls centuries-old religious icon paintings.

Husband and wife team Nicholas and Sheila Pye present two nude images of Sheila standing with a thin mud slurry dripping off her face. It’s part of their continuing fictitious series about the decay of a relationship.

Victoria F. Gaitán provides the show stealer here. At roughly 6-by-12 feet, the monumental scale of Gaitán’s triptych head shot demands and holds the viewer’s attention. Of course, the brownish black substance flowing out of the subject’s mouth has a good bit to do with that as well.

The three images show a young, attractive platinum blond woman staring back at the viewer without the faintest hint of emotion. There’s nowhere to hide when you make a face six feet tall. We’re left hanging with absolutely no clue as to what is going on here nor her role in it.

The first image has her staring back at us. She blinks in the second and resumes the dispassionate stare down in the third, resulting in an expanded, even cinematic, sense of time and action. With the passing of time, the subject’s inaction becomes a form of willful action.

We can’t determine if the rather vile substance flowing out of her mouth was ingested, or expelled. Is it the result of a chocoholic’s frenzied binge? Or perhaps the symptom of a perforated ulcer or some other medical disaster?

Similarly, we can’t say if this is something that she has done to herself, or something that has been done to her. Despite an overwhelming supply of fairly disgusting graphic punch, we’re left with virtually no real information.

The one, and possibly only thing we can ascertain for sure, is that this is one strong, self-assured young lady. It’s the sort of inner strength we’re naturally attracted to, and as such the viewer is simultaneously left both repulsed, and attracted to Gaitán’s image of her. Leaving the viewer unable to resolve the tension between the two states.

If the source of this oozing mess is something that’s been done to her, she is defiantly giving her victimizer zero pleasure from her pain. If this is something she’s done to herself, she is completely at ease with it, and has zero intention of making any apology for her actions. Either way, the psychological balance of power is irrevocably tipped in her favor.

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