A Conversation with Cathy Abramson
“Dreams of the Underground”
On display in the Margaret W. & Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery through December 23rd, 2019
Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center
Can you describe your artistic process?
I start by taking photos, lots of photos. I try to carry my camera or iPhone with me and will stop and take a picture if something strikes me as noteworthy, a building in the golden hour, a shadow, people gathered at a public event, a reflection in a window. Often the images won’t make a full composition but have an interesting texture of an element that could be part of a painting. I spend a lot of time thinking about the images I’ve gathered and something will call out to me and then I’ll start composing an image in Photoshop. Frequently this image becomes a small painted color study and if the potential is there for a larger painting, I’ll go ahead and will begin sketching the image in paint on a toned canvas or panel. First I work up a value study and when I’m pleased with the result I add color. I often use squeegees and rollers in addition to my paint brushes to get a desired effect.
When did you know that you were in an artist?
I always loved to draw. I never got good grades in art courses but it was just something I loved doing. I needed a job and took illustration and graphic design courses and became an illustrator and art director even though my first degree was in Political Science. One of my first jobs was as an art director at a political magazine and I drew a pretty good Ronald Reagan. One letter to the editor commented on a cartoon I did for the magazine. It said that one of my cartoons was offensive...I knew I was off and running!
When I retired as an art director, I was able to take a 3 year course of master painting techniques at the Compass Atelier in Rockville, get a studio and paint as much as I could. I can now spend a good amount of my time painting.
What are your artistic inspirations? Are there particular artists or art movements that are an inspiration to you?
I’m a representational painter and like the structure of painting something recognizable. I’ve always loved Edward Hopper and my work is often compared to his although I think my paintings are not as lonely and the characters are not as isolated. I’ve always been interested in narrative and looked to illustrators for inspiration. I’ve spent many hours looking at the art of Ben Shahn, Edward Sorel, Ralph Steadman, David Levine, Leonard Baskin and copying their work. As far as painters are concerned, aside from Hopper, there are any number of contemporary painters that I admire: Burton Silverman, Alyssa Monks, Steven Assael, Lucien Freud, any of the California figurative painters.
More recently I’ve been following Alex Kanevsky and David Kassan. Often the last show or artist I’ve seen becomes my new favorite.
Why does the urban environment inspire you over other environments?
I love the activity, interplay of light and shadow, and the sheer mass of architectural forms. Everything is constantly changing in the urban environment and there’s an urgency to really look and see what’s going on. There’s also a need to examine the underlying politics and social interactions and decode what is apparent and what lies just below the surface.
What is it that you hope to capture of your experience in Washington DC and other locations?
Many of my past paintings in the district had to do with neighborhoods and people in transition. Many neighborhoods including the Kennedy Street corridor are being overhauled and there are stories to record and examine. Now I’m interested in the Brutalist buildings in Washington, DC. There’s a gritty beauty in parking garages or the many government buildings that are wall-to-wall slabs of concrete. Believe it or not, even the FBI building has a certain charm. I like to see how people interact with these sterile buildings and think of a narrative for those settings and people.
You have a painting in the exhibition entitled “Cathedral”. What about the subject matter inspired you to call the painting after a type of church?
“Cathedral” is an underpass at the beginning of Magazine Street in New Orleans, near the National WWII Museum. I’ve done a number of paintings at this location and there’s the potential for many more. I loved how the light filtered in between the massive highway supports, much like the light filtering through stained glass windows and falling on the columns in a cathedral.
The texture of the concrete and metal are similar to textures found in cathedrals. The parked cars add a human scale to the setting much like the congregants who are dwarfed by the soaring ceilings in a cathedral. The final note is that cars and technology are worshiped in America.
Tell us about the people in your paintings? For example the women that is the subject of “ In her Shadow” or “ Dream of the Underground”
The woman in “In Her Shadow” is Ms. Vee, Veronica Cooper. She is a force of nature and began her career as one of the first female pullman porters, She has worked as an accountant, seamstress and artist. She owned and operated Culture Coffee on Kennedy Street and opened Culture Coffee Too in Fort Totten a couple of years ago. She is always stylish from her brightly colored glasses to her gold lame pants.
I don’t know much about Sara, the model and dancer in “Dreams of the Underground.” Sara Lavan is the Founder, Executive and Co-Artistic Director of local motion project and was a model the day of a photo shoot and fundraiser that I attended I loved the way she hugged herself and seemed to be wrapped in her own world and dreams. And, what’s not to love about her pink hair.
What is that you would like the viewer to take away from their experience of seeing this exhibition?
I’d like people to come away with a new appreciation for our urban environment, it’s stories and it’s people. Living in a city is a moment to moment experience and I try to isolate a moment, capture it, and move on. These fleeting moments often resonate with the viewer’s own life and narratives. I love to hear the stories the viewers invent on the spot!
Is there any advice that you would give students who have made the decision to pursue art?
It’s very simple, if you love it, do it. Making a living as an artist can be a stretch but you can find a little time here and there for your art. Scale your projects to the time you have available so you don’t get frustrated. If art is important to you make it a priority and expect others to respect your time. Try to schedule time for art just as you schedule time for work, family, friends and all your other interests. Making art can be a joyful, sensual experience and making good art is probably one of the most difficult things you can attempt. The sense of accomplishment you get when you produce something you are proud of is unbeatable.
What can we expect from your work in the future?
I have so many projects and paintings in mind. My next few paintings will be portraits, some personal and some of the women I met while teaching some art classes at a local women’s shelter. I struggle with portraiture and want to get much better. After that it’s back to paintings of DC. I took a number of photos at last year’s Funk Parade and can’t wait to paint from those amazing, colorful images.
You are invite to attend a free public art exhibit reception Saturday afternoon, September 7th from 2-4PM.
Our early fall exhibitions are on display now and will run through October 7th, 2019.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: Paintings by Andrea Limauro
Occupational Hazards: Multi Media by Aziza Claudia Gibson-Hunter
Margaret W & Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery
Milagros in My Pocketbook: Work by Alexandra N Sherman
Atist Talk with Jonathan Ottke: May 23rd, 2019: 6:30-8PM.
Jonathan Ottke lives by Lake Braddock in the Washington DC area where he took many of the photographs in this series. He has lived in many places including in Waldenbuch, Germany, Nairobi, Kenya and Vienna, Austria. His travels and his training as a biologist affect his art. He has exhibited in numerous exhibitions in the Washington DC region including Falls Church Arts, Art Enables, and Del Ray Gallery. He has an M.S. in Biology from George Mason University with a focus on environment microbiology and a B.S. in Fine Arts and German from the University of Virginia. “In a Drop of Water” is his first solo exhibition.
These series of photographs of water taken by Lake Braddock focus on the small often overlooked beauty that is in the details of nature. Raindrops falling on a leaf, a blooming flower after a rain, the frozen lake, are all the sources and materials of these photographs.
Jonathan takes inspiration from William Blake’s quote “see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower”.
“With my photography, I observe the world closely around me looking for the beauty in the everyday. I am especially interested in the spiritual implications of materials in art and the way we create the world every time we see it anew. I hope my photography gives people a timeless, universal feeling and shows the otherworldly in the everyday.”
We are very pleased to announce our early spring exhibitions and invite you to the opening receptions. We will have two new solo exhibitions opening on March 9th, 2019, Saturday afternoon 2-4PM.
NOMAD: The Art of Alonzo Davis
Forum Gallery and the Margaret W. & Joseph L. Fisher Art Gallery
We pleased to present work from two of Alonzo Davis’s recent series, the Navigation Series and the Migrant Series. The Navigation Series is inspired by Alonzo’s long-time fascination with Micronesian navigation stick charts. Once used by the Marshall Islanders of Micronesia, the charts, studies of Pacific swell patterns and island locations, helped mariners navigate the waters in and around the region by canoe. The “Migrant Series” is a body of works that express our need for national and world concern of peoples having to leave their homeland because of inhumane conditions.The work in the series are approximately 14″w x 16″h x 5″d; each containing encaustic boats made of bamboo on a mixed media collage painting, with encaustic wax on board with burned and painted bamboo.
To learn more about Alonzo’s work, visit his About the Artist page.
COMING TO LIGHT: The Encaustics of Angela White
Angela White is a fine artist inspired by physical, spiritual and emotional memories that create the visual depth and density of her work. Abstracts and seascapes compose the majority of her compositions. Natural and sensual materials such as oils and encaustic paint allow the blending of edges to create visual depth. By superimposing layers of media, the varied themes and processes of her work are exposed.
To learn more about Angela, please visit her About the Artist Page.
We are very pleased to invite you to an evening of artists talks with Lisa Noble and Travis Childers next Wednesday evening December 12th, 2018 6-8pm. Lisa and Travis have distinct visions where they explore memory and our experience of the day to moment.
The address for the Schlesinger Center is 4915 East Campus Drive, Alexandria, VA 22311. There will be parking available in the Visitor Parking Garage right across the Circle from the Schlesinger Center.
Chee-Keong Kung – Notes on Nine Dragons
“For a long time now, I have been fascinated by Chen Rong’s Nine Dragons from the Southern Song dynasty (13th century). An exemplary work of technical virtuosity and ineffable grace. The brush-and-ink painting depict churning clouds, winds, and waves among jagged rocks while dragons mysteriously appear and disappear amidst the turmoil. Compositionally, there are large swaths of open space and dark shadows, recognizable elements and abstract shapes, and a sense of depth and movement through time. ”
“A small print-out of the painting (actual painting including inscriptions is 50 feet long) hangs on my studio wall as an inspiration and a reminder that the simplest of gestures can transport us to uncommon places. Most recently, I was looking for a way to start a new series of canvases and found that the light-and-dark patterns within the painting worked wonderfully as jumping-off points. The new canvases eventually became the black-and-white works that are currently in the Oblique Horizons exhibit at the Schlesinger Arts Center. ”
Oblique Horizons is on display through June 10, 2018 in the Fisher gallery . The gallery is open Monday through Friday 10-4PM and evenings and weekends during public performances in the wall. Chee-Keong Kung will be at the gallery Sunday May 20th, 2018 from 3-5PM. To find out more about Chee-Keong Kung, Please visit his About The Artist page.