TRACKING THE GROWTH OF TWO
By Lenny Campello
Some artists, such as Picasso, are able to produce extraordinary
pieces of art even as children. Their skill and technical ability
blossoms without the need of schools or practice. Others, like
Van Gogh, struggle and fail, but never give up, until their will
and skill meld together to deliver accomplished works of art.
The Van Gogh Museum should be a required tour of every artist
who has struggled to achieve the correct twist to a human hand,
or the right cerulean for an evening sky. The museum's diverse
Van Gogh collection includes many pieces from the period when
the luckless Dutchman was teaching himself how to draw and paint.
There are paintings and drawings which are sometimes awful in
design and technique, but nonetheless important, as the visitor
can trace Van Gogh's growth as a painter. In the end, we stare
in awe at the power and creativity of his mature work.
There are two artists
on exhibition in different Alexandria galleries this month whose
work I have seen grow, not from the infantile stages of the early
van Gogh, but grow nonetheless. I have watched their pieces pop
in an out of group shows or even solo shows, and seen the inexorable
growth of skill, vision and technique.
At the Art League, Val Newton, a professor of art at Montgomery
College, selected the monthly juried show. From the usual field
of strong entries (she picked 104 pieces from 472 submitted),
she has picked a rare lackluster show for this excellent gallery.
In my opinion, I think she tried to over reach her academic views
upon the free spirited sort of artist who usually joins the Art
League, and her over selection of weak abstract work is best
exemplified by the Urquhart Award winner, a rather forgettable
mixed media entry reminiscent of a art school collage assignment.
There are nonetheless
some excellent pieces in the show (as there are always in an
Art League Group show) such as Jackie Saunders watercolor "Sweetness
& Youth," and J. Steele's brilliantly erotic "Veiled
in Black" photograph. But the best piece in the show (which
in all fairness also received a prize from the juror) is Barbara
Januszkiewicz's terrific painting "More Bike Series # 15."
This gutsy painter has slowly but effectively been pushing her
painting skills and imagery since I first saw her watercolors
in the early 90's. I always thought of her as a watercolor painter
(that's all I had seen), and then suddenly a couple of years
ago a series of exquisite oils began to pop up in group shows
all over Washington. With the "Bike Series," she has
almost crossed the border into the deft application of pure color,
in intimate sized canvasses, where bicycle wheels, seats, spokes
and colors all loosen up in a wonderful landscape of intelligent
brushstrokes and innovative composition - the growth in skill
and creativity has been dazzling, and this entry is a perfect
example of the skill and talent achieved by this hard-working
and highly effervescent artist!
At Gallery West, Nilo Santiago shows his latest acrylic paintings
in an exhibition aptly titled "Dining Out." This is
Santiago's eight solo show at Gallery West, and I have probably
seen most of them over the years, but it is in this exhibition
of urban landscapes from his travels in Europe (as well as several
local scenes), that the rubber has finally hit the proverbial
urban road for this artist.
There is a certain sense of light and movement and flow in
the painting of an urban landscape which past artists (such as
the Ash Can School painters) mastered, or contemporary masters
(such as New Yorker David FeBland) can deliver onto a canvas.
Santiago's paintings include scenes from Germany, Spain, Texas,
New York as well as DC and Alexandria, and while they lack the
fervor and intensity of a FeBland painting of New York, they
nonetheless capture a slice of time and color with talent and
skill which this hard-working artist has taught himself through
the application of theory with hands-on experience. In summary,
this exhibition marks the turning point for Santiago's painting
Elsewhere Karen Keating has some superb photographs at the
Factory Photoworks Gallery. I specially liked "Childhood"
and "Fallen Angels" which capture a sense of time and
atmospheric pressure that give the silver gelatin images weight
Finally, and through
August 13, the Target Gallery will have an exhibition of Tanya
Davis' brilliant watercolors. This artist is without a doubt
one of the most technically gifted watercolorists I have ever
seen. Her mastery over specific genres of this diverse medium
is absolutely mind numbing and I look forward to seeing her new
work at this show. A reception (free and open to the public)
for the artist will be held at the gallery on Thursday, July
20 from 6:30 - 8:30 pm.