Exhibition at Congressional Cemetery Examines Dogs as Gatekeepers
Renowned South African artist James Delaney created and donated a series of six lithographs, sold in editions of 20, for the historic Congressional Cemetery. Simply titled “Congressional Cemetery,” each of the six lithographs in the series juxtaposes a dog with cemetery elements such as gravestones.
Delaney’s first visit to Congressional Cemetery immediately inspired him to create work that reflected what he saw – a bustling necropolis filled with life, canine life specifically, amid Victorian-era gravestones and tombs that resemble monuments and temples from ancient Greece and Rome.
The dogs in his series also represent a more profound metaphor for loyalty, both as humankind’s most trusted companion and as the loyalty families often show to their departed loved ones by creating majestic markers that remember a life.
Dogs also represent the guards of the underworld, the gatekeepers between this world and the next. In each of the six lithographs, Delaney touches on this theme with subtle differences. In “Grandness of Rome,” Delaney depicts a puppy merrily strolling down a grassy patch as large plinths emerge from gravestones resembling grand monuments. In “Library of Alexandria,” the puppy has aged some and stands still, tail wagging. In the background, Delaney has collaged 18 symbols taken from gravestone at the cemetery, each representing a variety of ideas, faiths and philosophies that references the fabled library of Alexandria and the knowledge it stored. The dog ages in “Lines of Pedigree,” standing regally and proudly, like one of the cemetery’s many gilded gravestones.
“Crossing the River Styx” departs from the other lithographs in that it features a map of the cemetery in the background rather than a gravestone or tomb. Here the dog stands guard, with a friendly stance that somewhat contradicts the title of the work, which references the river Styx. According to the ancient Greeks, the Styx separated the world of the living from the world of the dead, and the three-headed dog Cerberus kept the dead from crossing the river back into the world of the living. Perhaps Delaney has a more modern interpretation of death and the underworld as reflected in the dog’s rather docile and amicable stance, as it sits between the cemetery and the Anacostia River.
The tombs and gravestones fade into the background in “Opulence and Apocalypse” as the canine subject shows its back to the viewer, tail upright, watching for what is to come. Delaney states that the dog sees the inevitable coming – death.
Last, in “Three Worlds,” Delaney quotes from the ancients, who believed in three worlds: one below, where the dead are buried, the world of the living and the spirit world where the dog seems to lie.
The lithographs are on view at the Congressional Cemetery through April. All proceeds from the sales of the lithographs will benefit the maintenance of the historic property.
Gallery Neptune & Brown
Gallery Neptune & Brown presents a series of paintings in dialogue between a teacher, Lois Dodd, and her student, Colleen Cox. Both artists employ “deep observation” as a technique to realize their work, which consists of traditional subject matter such as landscape, nude and still-life. Dodd helped found the Tanager Gallery, one of the legendary 10th Street galleries located on the lower East Side of New York City, which were artist-led, member-run galleries in the 1950s and 1960s and offered an alternative to the more traditional and conservative galleries of Madison Avenue. The Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art have Dodd’s works in their collections.
Dodd taught a generation of American painters at Brooklyn College, 1971-92, including Colleen Cox. Influenced by Dodd, Cox also cites Manet’s still-lifes, Marandi’s 1940s paintings and her studies with Lennart Anderson as influences. Cox paints from direct observation, using northern light as her guide to create works that, like Dodd’s, are both elegant and familiar.
Katherine Blakeslee focuses her attention on observing the place where sky meets land or sea, a place we know as the horizon, an imaginary line connecting and separating two worlds. In her latest watercolors, Blakeslee continues to evolve her landscapes through a series of observations centered on the horizon. In “Acacia,” the cool-colored hills in the background add curvature above, while the yellow plane below scribbles a horizon line. In contrast, the horizon in “Spring Rain” lies somewhere between the mountain in the background and the edge of the green hill in the foreground, leaving the viewer to draw an imaginary line across the two. In “Thaw,” the abstract landscape formed by clouds and possibly fog renders the horizon line completely invisible and unseen as the artist depicts what might be mountains in the background, the sea in the foreground or perhaps a valley. “Thaw” beautifully depicts that rare but magical moment when sky and land unify.
Heather Theresa Clark’s background in community planning and green development has produced transformative outcomes using art, architecture and what she calls public interventions to address our present-day environmental crisis. Clark has converted mills into low-income housing, installed solar panels, repurposed a dilapidated building into an outdoor community theater and, as an activist, directed Play-In for Climate Action, which leads families at an annual protest at the US Capitol to address climate change.
This sampling of accomplishments underscores her work as an artist. Clark employs sculptural installations to educate the public about our imperiled environment, notably our dependence on fossil fuels and our powerlessness as individuals against the global economy’s reliance on extraction industries. “Along a Line,” which Clark presents at Hamiltonian Gallery this month, places traditional notions of success in opposition to our current environmental crisis, pitting domestic or local forces, represented by the home, against global forces, represented by the fossil fuel economy. Using material such as military parachutes, marble laminate, beeswax and rawhide, Clark created an installation consisting of a kinetic sculpture and a tightrope running the entire length of the work. The line created by the tightrope represents both entropy, our powerlessness against fossil fuels, and hope, represented by nature and the possibility of alternate modes of living.
Hemphill Fine Arts
Hemphill Fine Arts presents a series of prints and art books by artist Julie Wolfe. Titled “Landview Effect,” the series reads like a collection of promotional materials advertising recognizable travel destinations. However, while recognizable at first glance, the landscapes appear dystopic and otherworldly. Wolfe comments on humanity’s increased state of disconnection from the natural world as it continues the unabated use of technology. The artist will discuss her work and printmaking process on April 21 at Hemphill Fine Arts gallery at 1 p.m. Countering Wolfe’s theme of man’s removal from the natural world, her process is very much connected to nature as she seeks to use sustainable materials in her printmaking process that do not adversely impact the environment.
Touchstone Spotlight Series Guest Artist Robin Harris, in “Feast of Fancy,” explores what food means within various contexts beyond the basic need for sustenance. A graphic designer by trade, Harris employs the clean-lined, sharp and representational forms of her previous career as she paints food and drink in various forms. Using acrylics on canvas, the artist is particularly fond of painting splashing liquids to show movement.
Shelly Lowenstein examines the human beta cell, whose primary function is to store and release insulin. She offers colorful works that depict the life-giving cell both representationally and abstractly. In people suffering from Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, the body attacks and destroys the beta cell, making it impossible to regulate glucose or sugar levels. Inspired by her own daughter’s struggle with the disease, Lowenstein consulted with research scientists and produced “(as far as we know),” a series of bold and colorful works in various two-dimensional media. The vibrancy of the work is “intentionally colorful,” according to the artist and reflects a “steeped in optimism that we can restore normal beta cell function to all in the foreseeable future.” All proceeds from the sale of these works will benefit the JDRF, the world’s largest funder of research to cure, prevent and treat Type 1 diabetes.
Karen Waltermire, in her series “The Ladies,” explores the ways in which women perceive their environment and themselves, focusing on the connection between the two. The artist seeks to preserve motion in a still format, in this case oil on canvas, in an effort to preserve the likeness of the moment and of the woman or women she depicts.
Exhibitions on View
Charles Krause Reporting Fine Art
New Location: Dacha Loft Building
1602 Seventh St. NW, Second Floor
202-638-3612 | www.charleskrausereporting.com
Hours: Weekends: 1 to 6 p.m.
Exhibition schedule TBD
Gallery Neptune & Brown
1530 14th St. NW
202-986-1200 | www.neptunefineart.com
Hours: Wed. to Sat.: noon to 7 p.m.
April 21-May 25
Lois Dodd & Colleen Cox, “Two Painters: A Visual Dialogue”
2118 Eighth St. NW
202-232-0203 | www.foundrygallery.org
Hours: Wed. to Sun.: 1 to 7 p.m.
Through April 29
Katherine Blakeslee, “New Work”
1353 U St. NW
202-332-1116 | www.hamiltoniangallery.com
Hours: Tues. to Sat.: noon to 6 p.m.
Through May 12
Heather Theresa Clark, “Along a Line”
Artist talk: Wed., April 25, at 7 p.m.
Hemphill Fine Arts
1515 14th St. NW
202-234-5601 | www.hemphillfinearts.com
Hours: Tues. to Sat.: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Print viewing and artist talk: April 21 at 11 a.m.
Julie Wolfe, “Landview Effect”
Long View Gallery
1234 Ninth St. NW, Washington DC 20001
202-232-4788 | www.longviewgallerydc.com
Hours: Wed. to Sat.: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
April 19-May 20
Eve Stockton and Takefumi Hori, “Heavy Metal”
Opening: Thurs., April 19, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
901 New York Ave. NW
202-347-2787 | www.touchstonegallery.com
Hours: Wed. to Fri.: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. | Weekends: noon-5 p.m.
Through April 29
Robin Harris, “Feast of Fancy”
Shelly Lowenstein, “(as far as we know)”
Karen Waltermire, “The Ladies”
Phil Hutinet is the publisher of East City Art, dedicated to DC’s visual arts. For more information visit www.eastcityart.com.