Monday, August 18, 2014

Calling all artists! Art Material Market 8/23

Do you have any gently used art materials, supplies, tools or ephemera you'd like to sell?

The Torpedo Factory Artists' Association is holding the 2nd Annual Art Material Market on August, 23. Visual artists from all media are encourage to participate. All spaces must be reserved in advance and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservation deadline is Wednesday, August 20 at 5 pm.

Artists: Reserve your vendor space to sell while they last!

There will be more common items like easels, fabric, brushes and paints, but there will also be more unique finds, too. There is no admission fee for the public.

The market will also feature on-site offering demonstrations and workshops, a book-swap table, and a special Art League exhibition featuring legacy artwork.

The Art Material Market is open to the public from 10AM - 3PM on Saturday, August 23.

Friday, June 27, 2014

From folk art to wearable works: shows by Torpedo Factory members in June and July

At the Torpedo Factory, we're delighted to host so many styles, techniques, and media under one roof. This summer, throughout the region, our artists are busy showing the public the full range of their talents. Whether you're intrigued by folk art, photography, painting, or wearable decor, the odds are good that an exhibition in Maryland or Virginia is bound to catch your eye.
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Fiber artists are vital to the Torpedo Factory community, and the members of Fiberworks never disappoint.  Through July 21, 2014, visit them here in studio 14 and be delighted by "Body Decors," a show that does what fiber artists tend to do best: blur the lines between the wearable and the ingenious.

You'll see wild felted hats and various neck pieces made of everything from vintage fabrics to knitted metal wire, with others incorporating old dominoes and repurposed jazz eight-track cartridges—as well as pins, bracelets, cuffs, and belts. With its emphasis on wearable art, "Body Decors" is a fun reminder that every day, each of us has the potential to make a statement and push the objects we wear well beyond the realm of functionality.  
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Ann Noel, "Studio View," 20" x 24"
If you live or do business near Leesburg, Virginia, check out "Seasonal Moments," an exhibition of paintings by Ann Noel at the Loudoun County Government Center. Through July 8, 2014, Noel's paintings will give county employees and visitors to the center reason to pause and reflect, perhaps bringing a lovely new dimension to their day.

"I use color to create drama, tension, and a sense of space or narrative," the artist explains. "My goal is to have the viewer stop and think about the moment, the setting, the movement, the happening."

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Jo Ann Tooley, "Two Flowers"
Formerly a popular amusement park, Glen Echo Park in Maryland is now a beloved local sanctuary for the arts. Through July 6, 2014, two Torpedo Factory photographers—Sandy LeBrun-Evans of Multiple Exposures Gallery and Jo Ann Tooley—will show their work at Glen Echo's Popcorn Gallery in "Environments: Built and Unbuilt," a show that highlights what happens when four local artists are tasked with taking "environmental pictures," guided by whatever that expression might mean to them.

Sandy LeBrun-Evans,
"Good Morning, Yellowstone"
From morning mist over the Potomac to the beauty of Yellowstone National Park, the images in this show offer unique impressions of natural and man-made objects and settings. Displayed at varying sizes, from striking large-scale landscapes to small, delicate nature studies, "Environments" includes an array of framed prints, note cards, and even books printed on unexpected media. Whether you're at Glen Echo for an art class, dance lessons, or children's camps, stop by the Popcorn Gallery—and see the outside world anew.

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Sissy Cutchen, "Pies for Sale"
Art brings people together—and with "Everybody's Cookies," her current exhibition at the Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth. Sissy Cutchen reminds us that food also gives us openings for children and adults alike to discuss their experiences and relate to one another.

Featuring a wonderful array of Cutchen's folk-art-inspired creations, "Everybody's Cookies" was inspired by the artist's twelve moves as the wife of a Naval aviator and the experiences she had with food in each new location. Everywhere she went, children asked Cutchen why she cooked certain kinds of food—and a story was born.

Sissy Cutchen, "Fin Fish"
Thanks to the museum's education department, kids have been learning all about folk art while also enjoying many of the artist's favorite subjects: flowers, fish, food, fowl, and furniture. Open through July 12, 2014, "Everybody's Cookies" is sure to bring a smile to children's faces. 

"Kids love my artwork because it breaks the rules for art," Cutchen explains. "I paint on windows and tables and chairs. When you open a drawer on a chest, there are fried eggs in it."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"A way of making us whole": the fiber art of Erika Cleveland

"Gaia and Ernst"
For 40 years, the Torpedo Factory has been a haven for fiber artists—and this spring, we were pleased to welcome Erika Cleveland, whose intriguing work intertwines an uncommon technique, spiritual subject matter, and larger concerns with healing in every sense of the term.

Cleveland is a practitioner of needle felting, a medium that's relatively new to the larger art world: An artist starts with a bundle of wool fibers, jabbing them repeatedly by hand with a special barbed needle until the fibers entangle and cohere to create dense, shapeable forms. Cleveland uses this technique, believed to have been pioneered in the 1980s, to create what she calls transformative healing dolls—a concept that resulted from her experiments with myriad means of expression.

"My first medium was acrylic painting," the artist explains. "I pained landscapes and figures, sometimes dreamlike and imaginative. Then I made prints: monotypes, dry-point, woodcuts, and some silkscreen—but with the doll-making, I feel I have found my true medium."

Combining human qualities with aspects of gods and goddesses from mystic traditions of various faiths, Cleveland's dolls represent what she calls "the dilemma that humans face as spiritual beings living in physical bodies." Cleveland is fascinated by change and transformation, and she creates dolls to offer visual and sensual pleasure as well as moments of surprise and joy, all of which are healthy for heart and soul alike.

"I believe that dolls can be healing on many levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual," she says. "There is something about the way the doll reflects us back to ourselves that serves as a mirror of who we are. I don’t mean this in a magical sense, but more as a way of making us whole."

Now that she’s been at the Torpedo Factory for several weeks, Cleveland is impressed by the unexpected ways visitors react to her work.

"I am always gratified to discover how quickly they open up into deep conversations triggered by what they see," she says. "People tell me about their own experiences as artists and creators, or about their personal lives. One woman from Texas who was moved by my work told me about an encounter she had with a dove that came into her garden and stayed during a particularly challenging time in her life. Someone else saw my 'Herman trying to hold it together' doll and said it would be perfect for a friend whose name is Herman and has a lot on his plate. One woman from another country who didn't speak any English saw one of my dolls and just burst into laughter and couldn’t stop! From hand gestures and facial expressions, I was able to get that she thought one of the dolls who holds her shed skin in front of her was throwing something on the ground. I didn’t mind; it’s fun to spark a reaction."

Talisman doll "Rhea"
Cleveland gladly takes commissions to make dolls that address the future owner’s specific need for hope and inspiration during times of challenge or change, but she insists that the very act of creation can be healthy and restorative, too.

“I’m interested not just in creating these dolls myself, but also in teaching others to make their own,” she says. “It’s meaningful to have a doll made for you, but there is something in making the doll for yourself that can go much deeper.”

Cleveland’s dolls are a natural outgrowth of her training as an art therapist, but the artist herself is at her happiest when ideas she dwells on, or the life events she’s trying to understand, grow beyond her own experiences to have broader, more universal appeal.

“Creating the doll is a way of connecting to the world of myth and metaphor,” she says. “I like to incorporate symbols from nature and from the mythologies of different cultures to link the personal to the universal. We all live in two worlds: We have our daily, human lives, with all their challenges and struggles and triumphs, but at the same time we all are connected to something deeper, something we can call God or Spirit or Nature. I want my dolls to remind people of that connection."

Cleveland is forever exploring new ways to augment her art. In addition to experimenting with dolls made out of paper, recycled materials, or the roots and branches of trees, she seeks inspiration in collage and drawing, and she’s currently learning appliqué, surface work, and quilting. New techniques enhance each doll with texture and character, and Cleveland knows that new life lessons abound in even the tiniest detail.

"We live in a world where things are fast, where things are done for us, manufactured for us, so that we really need reminders to quiet down and be still," she says. "There is always more to learn."

Meet Erika Cleveland at the Torpedo Factory throughout the summer! During the final week of June 2014, she'll be in studio 337; from August 8, 2014, through the end of the month, you’ll find her in studio 317. Learn more about her work at

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"A grand composition": "Frozen Music" by photographer Alan Sislen

A dramatic cityscape or unique building is often a sight to behold, but with his new solo show, Alan Sislen hopes to evoke another sense entirely. In "Frozen Music," which opens at the Torpedo Factory this week in Multiple Exposures Gallery, the photographer brings out the harmonies and tones of architecture, a music we can discern even as it stands silent before us.

"Some of the photographs mimic the ebb and flow of architecture as if it were a musical composition," Sislen says, "while others show the interplay of many architects’ creations and how they come together to form a grand composition."

Sislen, who took up clarinet and saxophone when he was nine years old and played in bands in high school and college, has long sensed a link between music and photography, but only recently did he begin to explore the relationship of architecture to both of these arts. The connection came naturally, but only after Sislen decided to look more closely at buildings rather than focus on natural landscapes, his usual subject.

"As I began printing photographs and placing them in groupings, I kept 'seeing' music in the photographs," he explains. "There was a rhythm, a repetition of tonalities and shapes, and even the sense of a musical staff and measures. I was intrigued, began doing some research, and found one reference after another to the relationship between these two art forms. That’s when I found the Goethe quote, 'Music is liquid architecture and architecture is frozen music.' I decided that what had started out as a project to do something different would become its own exhibit."

"Frozen Music" revolves around three series of photographs, with the first focusing on Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. "In some cases these are flowing, abstract, and sensual," Sislen says, "and, interestingly, show an architectural structure with the sole purpose of housing music within." A second group studies the geometry of buildings in Boston and New York City, with an emphasis on the repetition of lines, shape, tone, texture, and rhythm, while a third group makes the viewer conscious of context by looking skyward at buildings that soar into the clouds—a perspective that Sislen finds illuminating.

"What I began to see in the scenes I was photographing was not just the beauty of the individual structure, but how a group of buildings designed by very different architects often blended together to create an overall beauty beyond that of any one building," he says, glad to have captured that emotional and imaginative music in photography. "The symphony is far more grand than the individual notes on the score." 

See "Frozen Music" at the Torpedo Factory at Multiple Exposures Gallery, studio 312, from June 24 through August 3, 2014, with an opening reception on Sunday, June 29, 2014, from 2 to 4 p.m. Explore more of Alan Sislen’s work at his website,

Monday, June 16, 2014

"The surprise of something new": The Torpedo Factory 40th anniversary mural by Rachel Kerwin

Congratulations to Rachel Kerwin! On Thursday night, amid cake, celebration, and kind remarks by Alexandria Mayor William D. "Bill" Euille, the Torpedo Factory officially unveiled the mural Kerwin created near the waterfront entrance to commemorate our 40th anniversary. Reflecting familiar scenes in and around the building, the mural has been taking shape for months, with each new sporadic burst of color catching the eyes of curious visitors.

When Kerwin began back in March, she knew she was in for an even more intense version of the Torpedo Factory’s typical "working in public" experience, but her interactions with passersby only made the process more enjoyable—and enlightening.

photo by Guido Krüger
"From chats to photo ops to offers to help, it made me aware of how eager our visitors are to get involved with what’s going on in our building," she says. "In a lot of ways, art provides an opportunity for connection outside the ordinary. The surprise of something new has this great ability to draw people in."

Kerwin specifically designed the mural to reflect the creativity of the Torpedo Factory and the many ways our artists connect with visitors, but the process of actually painting it made her think even more deeply about what our artists do—and what visitors learn from them.

"For many who come here, the Torpedo Factory experience is really unique, and it becomes a source not only of inspiration, but also education," she says. "Often, the seclusion of art practice to the studio leaves the larger public unaware of the time or skill it takes to create a piece, and that gap can lead to underestimating the value of art in general. Seeing me paint this mural by hand and by myself prompted so many to comment on the amount of work and further engage with how it was done and the ideas behind it."

Of course, the Torpedo Factory attracts artists of every level of skill and experience, so Kerwin was amused to find that occasionally, she chatted with someone who was quick to understand that creative projects can also be labors of love.

"While nearly every person who spoke to me commented on the amount of work I had ahead of me, an older Art League student was the only one who looked over the mural and said: 'Some people have all the fun!'"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ceramic art redefined: "DMV Dirt" with Lori Katz

Frequent Torpedo Factory visitors have long understood the artistic potential of clay, but at a new exhibition in downtown D.C., Torpedo Factory artist Lori Katz joins three other area artists—Laurel Lukaszewski, Novie Trump, and Jodi Walsh—in emphasizing just how expressive such humble material can be.

"DMV Dirt," opening this week at Long View Gallery, may have a self-effacing title, but visitors are sure to be impressed by the emotional depth of the work. For Katz, who's made a wide range of innovative dinnerware and teapots over the years, the show is an exciting opportunity to emphasize a different side of ceramic art, one that brings the aesthetic side of pottery to the fore.

work by all four "DMV Dirt" artists, Long View Gallery
"This is only the second opportunity I've had to show my wall work exclusive of my functional work," she says. "It allows me to show a very basic material in a way that explores the expressive quality of clay rather than in its most familiar forms: as a mug, plate, or bowl. Not that there's anything wrong with that! It’s just taking clay into a different realm and thinking of it compositionally, experiencing the end product as one might a painting."

For Katz, the opportunity to promote the fine-art potential of clay is a delight in itself, but she's also honored to be partnering with other talented artists in a gallery that can present large and unusual works as they’re truly meant to be seen.

"I'm thrilled to be exhibiting with Laurel, Novie, and Jodi, and Long View is a fantastic space, spare and big," she says. "I can’t wait to hang the work."

See "DMV Dirt" at Long View Gallery at 1234 Ninth Street, NW, in Washington, D.C., from June 12 through July 13, 2014, and meet the artists at the opening reception on Thursday, June 12, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. See more of Lori Katz's work at the Torpedo Factory in studio 8 or on her website,

Sunday, June 8, 2014

“They Never Update the Lists”: photographer Michael Borek at the Embassy of the Czech Republic

"I try to appreciate with my camera things that are seemingly obvious yet multilayered, absurd, and surreal," says Michael Borek, who was certainly the right photographer for the Embassy of the Czech Republic to approach for an exhibition about Franz Kafka. As it turns out, though, Borek was certain that his participation would require travel to Prague—until he realized the show he hadn't yet shot already existed.

"I began going through the years of photographs I took in the past," he says. "In the course of editing those photographs, it dawned on me that I didn't need to go to Prague to take any more pictures. I had more than enough material for this show. Apparently, I have some Kafka in my DNA, at least as I view him."

The resulting show, "They Never Update the Lists," opens at the Embassy of the Czech Republic on Thursday, June 12, 2014. (To attend, please RSVP by Tuesday, June 10.) Inspired by and dedicated to Kafka on the 90th anniversary of his death, Borek explores themes Kafka would have appreciated, such as alienation and absurdity, in images that repay scrutiny and invite endless interpretations.

And what about that enigmatic title? Borek says that while living in Prague in the 1980s, he helped a Swedish journalist write a book about the city. To research a chapter about Kafka, they went to the insurance company where the famous author had worked—and Borek decided to have a little fun.

"I asked the watchman on duty where Dr. Franz Kafka's office was," Borek explains. "These days, such people are described as receptionists, but the title 'watchman' befits the spirit of Kafka much better. The watchman checked one list and then another. He asked me to repeat the name, and checked his lists again. Finally, he told me in exasperation, 'You'll need to go upstairs and ask them where he sits. I can't put up with this place much longer. They never update the lists!' It’s a story that I think Kafka would have appreciated." 

"They Never Update the Lists" opens on Thursday, June 12, 2014, with a reception at 6 p.m. (to attend, please RSVP by Tuesday, June 10), and runs through mid-July at the Embassy of the Czech Republic, 3900 Spring of Freedom Street, NW, in Washington, D.C. See more of Michael Borek’s photography at the Torpedo Factory at Multiple Exposures Gallery in studio 312 and at his website,