A Moveable Feast: Art in the Time of Pandemonium

By Kelly MacConomy

Come April, tourism in Alexandria and the entire DMV should have been nearing full tilt. Winter has at long last succumbed to the siren songs of spring. Cherry Blossom Fever lingers in the air, cafes alfresco should be back in business, spring festivals are marked on the calendar, and art’s muse is all around. The Coronavirus pandemic has capsized much of life as we know it these last weeks. Public and private events have been scrambling to reboot calendars – cancellations and extensions have proved inevitable and oftentimes moot.

The local art scene has been hard hit. The City closed the Torpedo Factory Art Center to the public in March once Governor Ralph Northam mandated that public gatherings not exceed more than ten people at a time. The Art League had already prudently cancelled exhibits in their gallery, classes, and special events. Just as the Target Gallery scheduled their tenth anniversary celebration opening for the March 150 exhibit to go on as planned, the Governor declared a prohibition of events with more than 100 people. The soirée went on as social distancing was cautiously implemented and City health and safety guidelines were practiced, with sales of the donated art work made despite a more subdued atmosphere. At this time the ever-popular tourist magnet art center is closed to the public until May 17.

Target Gallery Director Leslie Mounaime explained that while no scheduled exhibits would be cancelled there would be some shuffling of dates. The March 150 show is an open show, without jurying, attracting exhibiting area professionals, Torpedo Factory studio artists, art students, and hobbyists who donate their work created on uniform 10×10 inch wood panels which are all priced to sell for $150.

Originally named March Madness after the annual college basketball tournament, the fundraiser is one of the most well-attended and successful events of the year. When else can you score an original Guy Jones, whose exquisite allegorical works run into the thousands, for only $150? Many of the most popular Torpedo Factory artists, whose works are coveted, donate generously so that competition for the first-come/first-served purchases is fierce to say the least.
Once the show is hung, nose and hand prints can normally be found covering the glass doors before opening day with a long queue waiting for doors to open. Not this year. Currently the show has been extended until May 31. On Saturday, May 30 all unsold artwork will be priced at $100. March 150 is also on exhibit online with works available for purchase by phone or email: 703-746-4590 or targetgallery@alexandria.gov Check out the website gallery and vote for your favorite panel! The artist who has the piece with the most votes by the end of the show wins a prize!!

Prophetic work by Travis Bidahl “Eyes of the World III” paper/gel, Panel 67 of March 150 on exhibit at the Target Gallery. Photo Target Gallery

Across town, the Del Ray Artisans Gallery had remained open to the public, acclimating to the in-flux situation by allowing no more than six people in the gallery at a time. Subsequent to changes in City policy and directives by order of Governor Northam, the gallery is now closed to the general public. DRA Indoor programs, classes, and events are cancelled as well for the foreseeable future. The current show originally open until March 29 and has been extended until June 10.

The “War of the Roses” show celebrating 100 years of the 19th Amendment has been moved to November, 2020 with the “Art of Nature” show planned for May now rescheduled for May, 2021. The good news is that you can still take a virtual tour of the current show on exhibit, “Tell Me a Story” on the DRA Flickr album. Go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/delrayartisans/

You are also able to purchase the unsold art you see there. Although there is no “galleryside” pickup at the time of purchase, DRA art patrons will be able to collect their art investment once the exhibit closes and the gallery reopens. Via social media, Del Ray Artisans will also be sharing some of the stories behind the 189 pieces of artwork juried into the show by the 95 participating artists as well as 134 pieces contributed to the art-to-go marketplace.

Follow DRA on Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter for views, news, and updates. If there’s artwork you wish to purchase email DRA at gallery@delrayartisans.org with the artist’s name, the piece title, description or a screen shot.

“Tell Me a Story,” curated by Lesley Hall, opened March 6 to a record packed crowd of art aficionados. Based upon the tried-and-true cliche, “A picture is worth a thousand words”, this narrative art show will transport you. “Tell Me A Story” is a marvelously diverse collection of various media on exhibit floor to ceiling: from illustrative artwork actually telling a pictorial story to expressive, emotive abstraction. One work is even an actual book carved out to accommodate a Lilliputian sculptural diorama.

Lesley Hall’s own eloquent paintings “Look Up” and “Something’s Brewing” sold at the opening. Leslie was amazed at the caliber and breadth of the submissions, regrettably needing to cull one-third of the artwork she reviewed. “When I was developing the theme for this exhibit, it was important to me to be able to include a variety of visual art and literary works by local artists . The idea was to be able to look at any piece of art and then let the story unfold. Everyone’s story is different and there are many ways to express their story.”

“Look Up” painting by “Tell Me a Story” curator Lesley Hall at Del Ray Artisans. Photo Kelly MacConomy
The veritable showstopper has been Doug Fuller’s “Faces of America: The Immigration Crisis, 2019” a mixed- media piece utilizing a hodgepodge collage of 50 shades of cover-torn, worn and weathered, newer and older obliterated baseballs along with found objects on upcycled wood. When asked how he collected so many seemingly vintage/antiqued baseballs, Fuller’s reply is, “My process is simple: Hike, Find. Make.”
“Faces of America: The Immigration Crisis, 2019” mixed media by Doug Fuller on exhibit at Del Ray Artisans. Photo Kelly MacConomy

Doug explains his inspiration given the title: “The photos reminded me of the pictures taken of immigrants at Ellis Island and the immigration debate/crisis was really heating up at the time so I decided to make something that used the baseballs (a symbol of America) to comment on the topic. The 50 baseballs symbolize the 50 states and the piece of plywood suggests a tattered flag or dusty landscape. Hopefully, it shows that while we may look different on the outside we’re all made up of the same things.”

Doug was recently challenged by a friend to tell another story- to depict the experience of isolation as a result of sheltering-in-place, pervasive work suspensions, and social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He collected more lost and found baseballs creating contemporarily thematic work in some new mixed-media pieces. To see more of Doug Fuller’s work on exhibit go to @rustdoug on Instagram.

While most of the art on exhibit at Del Ray Artisans sells for modestly low prices, some of the more elaborate works command higher prices. Kathy Turner and Lynn Fernandez’s astonishing complementary duet masterpiece of three watercolors and a salvaged three-fold antique 100-plus-year-old Japanese antique screen is the most expensive artwork in the show. The main and top portions of each panel are hand-painted and hand-tooled leather, with the dark blue portion employing old African indigo-died fabric that is reversed to use the more subtle backside. The back of the screen is also decorated. Each of the screen panels painted by Fernandez and the collaborative water colors by Turner illustrates a Japanese story about a child that has wandered from her village lured by a snow woman. The panels and the corresponding watercolors are selling together for $4,900.

“The Story ofYukionna” a collaborative effort by Kathy Turner and Lynn Fernandez selling as one work of art at Del Ray Artisans Gallery. Photo by T. McCarthy Art

Comparatively, Torpedo Factory artist and illustrator Guy Jones’ pen and ink “The Story” is $3,000. Doug Fuller’s homage to America’s great pastime as a symbol depicting the multicultural disaspora, a human kaleidoscope of color, shape, and creed – one that is hopefully keeping America tolerant again – is priced at $800. All told these imaginative reinventions of storytelling go to show that art is worth a thousand words – if not dollars.

“The Story“ by Guy Jones, pen and ink on clay board on exhibit at the Del Ray Artisans “Tell Me a Story” show. Photo Kelly MacConomy

Del Ray Artisans at 2704 Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria will be open Monday – Friday for administrative duties, online contact information, and phone sales or email contact. Del Ray Artisans gallery is always free and accessible. DelRayArtisans.org

NOTE: At this time the DRA 2020 Spring Art Market has been rescheduled to Saturday, June 27.

As we all adjust to an evolving global crisis as well as the latest new normal, be reminded that it is always better to err on the side of caution. Many of the great art institutions of the world have opened their virtual doors to peruse the vacated exhibit halls and walls free of charge. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, and the National Gallery of Art here in DC offer virtual tours of their collections.

The National Gallery’s recently opened Degas at the Opéra is especially at this time a vicarious visit to 19th Century Paris. On Exhibit was able to tour the blockbuster show before the National Gallery closed until May 31. It’s a tour de force and a must see. Don’t despair – to quote Ernest Hemingway, “Paris is a moveable feast.” So is art. And Degas at the Opéra is on exhibit until July 5.

“The Curtain” pastel over charcoal and monotype on laid paper mounted on board, sheet by Edgar Degas circa 1880 from the “Degas at the Opéra” exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. Photo Kelly MacConomy