Retreat, alienation, insecurity—and hope—in DRA’s first 2021 exhibits
Alexandria, VA – The year we just left behind taxed every facet of life, but January brings new hope, the promise of opportunity, and the prospect of better days ahead. Del Ray Artisans’ first three exhibits of the new year explore the breadth of challenges faced throughout the 2020 pandemic siege: reflection and introspection within “The Hidden World”(January); retreat, alienation, and desolation in “After Edward Hopper: Themes of Solitude and Isolation” (February); homelessness and shelter insecurity in our community via “Give Me Shelter” (March).
The Hidden World is an urbane demonstration of both artistic existentialism and Nancy Galib and Nicole Mahoney’s studious curation. This all-media exhibit ranges from the real and the imagined to abstract executions, both macro and microscopic. Photography examines perspectives of the natural world from flora and rock to the vast expanse of space. Abstract sculpture and canvases are both evocative and provocative, irresistibly drawing the viewer into a hidden world of movement, depth, shadow, and color.
Curators Galib and Mahoney have installed an elegant exhibit. Without overloading the walls with thematic works, the minimalistic installation lends itself to a calm, contemplative environment. One wall is dedicated to a single canvas reminiscent of a Mark Rothko abstraction that is frequently exhibited solo in museums. At the Philips Collection in Washington, there is a Rothko Room.
The Curator’s Choice Award went to Ada Oppengeim’s “Ebbs and Flows of Exploration,” a mixed media work of watercolor, gouache, color pencils, and ink in a translucent interplay of color and shape. Reminiscent of Braque, Dali, and Picasso, it’s commanding unto its own stylized sense of contrast and movement. Best in Show went to Mary Elizabeth Gosselnick’s “Bubble Up,” a textural panoply of pink glorifying 50 shades of fuchsia complemented by crimson and umber.
Curator Nancy Galib’s photography zooms into a glacial expanse for “Eye of the Abyss,” a metaphor for coming winter hardships and the unknowns of COVID-19, and then out into the unknown with “Is Anybody Out There,” an image on metal of a comet streaming across a blackened night sky.
After Edward Hopper: Themes of Solitude and Isolation, at Del Ray Artisans February 5-27, was inspired by the collective experience of separation engendered by stay-at-home/safer-at-home life in the time of COVID-19. Hopper’s iconic 1942 painting, “Nighthawks,” depicts the solitude of a few people in a late-night diner during wartime New York.
Hopper is famous for such eloquent urban scenes as well as deftly painted depictions of the vast, sweeping Cape Cod coastline. Coming on the heels of the Phillip’s Collection’s “Hopper in Paris” exhibit, this upcoming DRA show has garnered a lot of interest, even from the Hopper House Museum in New York.
Full disclosure: As The Zebra’s arts editor and columnist, I curated the DRA Hopper show. My photographic work channels Edward Hopper’s style, and I traveled to Cape Cod to follow in his footsteps for this exhibit. But the art displayed reflects the individual artists’ experiences during a year living with COVID isolation, constraints, and protocols.
Some artwork is a creative and thoughtful Hopper homage on living in a pandemic world. Digital artist Gordon Frank created a satirical reimagining of “Nighthawks.” “Homage Bar” depicts an altered state of pandemic reclusiveness. Humanity has been extracted from social intercourse as the living become stilted, wooden recreations of their former selves. Yet the dog gets walked. Life goes on.
The March show “Give Me Shelter,” March 5-27, is curated by Theresa Kulstad and Pamela Day. Throughout COVID, we have all taken shelter from the virus, from our families, from each other. Forty million renters in the U.S. are at risk of losing their homes due to the catastrophic economic fallout from the COVID crisis.
This exhibit examines the struggles of living in the 21st Century without the security of shelter coupled with the devastations of COVID-19. Aspects of the show benefit the Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria. Look for donation boxes for items on the shelter wish list in the gallery. Monetary donations and Target gift cards are always welcome too. Go to www.carpenterssheleter.org/give/ for the donation wish list.
Del Ray Artisans is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art gallery located at 2704 Mount Vernon Avenue in Alexandria. Hours at this time are Thursday and Friday 12-6 pm and Saturday 12-4 pm. The gallery requires masks to be worn by staff and guests at all times. DRA maintains strict social distancing and employs all COVID-19 ALX Promise protocols for patrons’ health and safety. Only ten people are permitted inside the gallery at one time. For more information, go to the website at www.delrayartisans.org or phone 703-838-4827.