Monday, April 21, 2014

From chandeliers to exotic creatures: spring news from Torpedo Factory artists

From tulips to cherry blossoms, an eye-popping array of color is finally abloom here along the Potomac! Spring is a time for inspiration and renewal—and naturally, our artists are as busy as ever.
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Known for her evocative Sea Core Bubble Tubes, Alison Sigethy recently exhibited her work at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York—an experience that led to a terrific new opportunity.

On May 1, 2014, she'll show her work at the annual Top Designs & Sounds event, a benefit for the world-famous Nantucket Music Festival. Featuring "an assortment of the most forward-thinking, elegant creations for home interiors," the event

"I feel very strongly that each of my sculptures, and every component in them, be unique," Sigethy says. "So naturally, I'm thrilled to be included in an event where there is such an emphasis on custom work."

Gina De Franco, the organizer for the event, praised Sigethy's work for being "balanced and symmetrical while still being fluid," adding: "You simply can't take your eyes off them."
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Congrats to Kathy DeZarn Beynette, whose new book When I Am Not Myself debuted this month! Featuring Beynette's latest menagerie of weird, wonderful creatures, the book pairs sketches and paintings with gentle, playful tales that show children how we're all connected, no matter how different we may seem.

Adults are just as drawn to Beynette's work, too—and through April 27, 2014, you can see more of her strange and delightful paintings in "Paintings by Kathy Beynette" at gallery plan b in Washington, D.C.

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Jackie Ehle, "Road Trip"
If you've visited the second floor of the Torpedo Factory—or participated in Arts Safari in the past couple of years—you've surely met Jackie Ehle, who builds wild and whimsical animals out of recycled objects and other bits and pieces. But if you haven't seen her lately, that's because she and her family recently moved to New Orleans.

Ehle says she's hoping to open a gallery by next year; keep an eye on her website for updates! In the meantime, her work will appear in several shows, including "Like a Tom Waits Song," an exhibition at the Arc Gallery in San Francisco that features art inspired by the music of the legendary singer.

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You'll find music-inspired art closer to home, too. Through April 27, 2014, the Scope Gallery here at the Torpedo Factory is hosting "Get Into the Groove," in which members of the Kiln Club show off pottery that gives tangible form to popular music—from "Autumn Leaves" by Nat King Cole expressed through elegant vases and platters to golden salt-and-pepper shakers reminding you that "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Backed by their in-studio soundtrack, the potters in this show are calling it "musical motivations with mud"—a reminder that fine art can be serious fun.

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Our artists also have international reach. If you happen to be in Prague next month, take time to see "Wide Asleep/Half Awake," a show by Torpedo Factory photographer Michael Borek. Presented by the U.S. Embassy, the solo exhibition will be held at the Europa House Gallery from May 6 through May 30, 2014.

Praising his work, the Washington Post observed that Borek's dreamlike photographs "hang in an eternal twilight." Explore them for yourself—and see how these evocative images balance the unsettling and the poignant.
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Painter Sheep Jones is known for maintaining a "nook" in studio 7 where she collaborates with other Torpedo Factory artists or displays her work with theirs in unique combinations.

Lately, she's been painting a "Shed and Chandelier" series, so this month she invited two of her colleagues, sculptor Chris Erney and jewelry maker Dejan Jovanovic, to join her.

Stop by Jones's studio to say hello—and see what happens when artists who work in three different media take the same iconography out for a spin.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"New ways of seeing and showing": Rachel Kerwin's Torpedo Factory mural

photo by Guido Kr├╝ger
To celebrate the Torpedo Factory's tenth anniversary in May 1984, several artists decorated the spiral staircase that runs from the first floor to the second. Combining personal reflections with intriguing allusions to the building's past, the resulting works nicely camouflage a massive furnace chimney, but they also serve as a snapshot of our history—and this year, we'll mark our 40th anniversary with another work of public art that will pay tribute to our community for years to come.

If you've entered the Torpedo Factory from the waterfront recently, you may have spotted artist Rachel Kerwin hard at work on a new mural. Look closely at her painting-in-progress and you'll recognize familiar scenes based on the waterfront and the Torpedo Factory interior, rendered in a style that deliberately reinforces our artists' long-standing commitment to creativity, outreach, and education.

"My plan was to use a commonplace way of learning art, the paint-by-number, to mimic what happens in the Factory every day," Kerwin says. "Both children and adults come here to learn the basics of art making, while artists use that framework and the resources of the building to explore new ways of seeing and showing."

Kerwin estimates she needs another month, so there's plenty of time to peek into the waterfront entryway and watch as this mural come alive, one section at a time.

"As the visitor moves around the space, I want to have areas where this intricate line drawing will be filled in with sporadic color," Kerwin says, "but I also want places where the color breaks away and becomes more dynamic and abstract. What better way to capture the varied experiences of this place?"

If you don't see Rachel Kerwin working on the mural at the Torpedo Factory's waterfront entrance, look for her in studio 203, and explore more of her work at her website, her Facebook page, and her Etsy store.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Focus on Fiber": Second Thursday at the Torpedo Factory

Candace Edgerley and Tamryn McDermott
As you stroll along King Street or daydream by the Potomac in the early evening, keep in mind that on the second Thursday of every month, the Torpedo Factory is open late. We're here to chat, share our work, and answer your questions—and we invite you, in turn, to learn more about a medium or discipline our artists have mastered.

On Thursday, April 10, 2014, from 6 to 9 p.m., join us for "Focus on Fiber," a Second Thursday celebration of artwork that intermingles function and beauty in wonderfully tangible ways. Amid music and refreshments, you'll meet artists who will demonstrate wool-spinning, weaving, and painting silk—as well as others who've decided to work and socialize well into the evening.

Our artists will be working in the main hall on the first floor as well as in their studios. Just look for balloons outside the studios of participating artists, including: 

Annemarie Feld, airmail purse
Ann Citron (studio 329) will show off her wonderful fiber sculptures. 

Ann DiPlacido (studio 320), known for her free-form tapestry, will demonstrate large-scale weaving in the studio she shares with Jennifer Athanas, who transforms recycled and vintage items into new and unique art.

Sylvia DeMar, an instructor at the Art League School (studio 21), will demonstrate spinning wool.

Lubna Zahid of the Potomac Fiber Arts Gallery (studio 18) will demonstrate silk painting.

Anna Yakubovskaya (studio 302) will share her elegant hand-painted silk garments and accessories.

The ever-inventive Lisa Schumaier (studio 16) will show visitors how to manipulate fiber in creative and surprising ways.

Ann Citron, "Best Foot Forward" (detail)
At Fiberworks in studio 14, the work of Annemarie Feld, is featured this month in "Pushing the Envelope," an exhibition of handmade, mail-inspired purses.

Along the indoor balcony of the first floor, Candace Edgerley and her daughter Tamryn McDermott will hang a banner that's destined for the 11th annual Art al Vent exhibition in Gata de Gorgos, Spain. Zita Simutis will also have some of her hand-printed fabrics floating from the balconies.

Second Thursday is free, fun, and open to all! Stop by on your way to dinner or plan a full evening of artistic exploration—and come away amazed by the sheer range of what fiber artists can accomplish.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Messages present and future: "Pushing the Envelope" by Annemarie Feld

The professionals at Fiberworks are experts at creating wearable art, but with her latest solo show, Annemarie Feld reminds us that artists who make functional items also go through as deeply personal a creative process as any sculptor or painter.

On display in studio 14 through early May, "Pushing the Envelope" features Feld's striking "envelope purses," with colors and designs clearly inspired by letters, cards, and mail. At the same time, these remarkable purses are testaments to Feld's own experiences—and represent vital memories in the artist's life.

"When I arrived in this country 39 years ago, all my belongings fit into one suitcase," Feld says. "Letters were my connection to friends and family in Europe. I always felt excitement when an envelope arrived, and I remember the feeling of anticipation and joy from opening it. These fond memories were the inspiration for the design of these envelope purses."

Feld adds that her envelope purses contain a surprise: Each one includes a message on the inside flap.

"You will add your contents to the purse," she explains, "and it will become your own personal envelope."

Is it difficult to sell such personal works? Feld understands why someone might ask the question, but she's content with channeling inspiration and craftsmanship into garments and purses that make Fiberworks visitors smile.

"Basically, I like beautiful, unusual things, but I do not have to own them," she says. "I'm extremely lucky: I'm able to come up with ideas and then create tangible art for others to wear and enjoy."

See "Pushing the Envelope" at the Torpedo Factory in Fiberworks, studio 14, from April 2, 2014, through May 5, 2014, and explore more of Annemarie Feld's work at

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"breathe": Karen Hubacher and the Alchemical Vessel Exhibition and Benefit

Art is a source of discovery and self-expression, but frequently it serves as a means of healing as well. This month, for the second year in a row, the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery in Washington, D.C., will host Alchemical Vessels, a selection of 125 works chosen by 20 curators who encourage "a community dialogue on healing and transformation through the arts." Each artist is asked to transform and personalize a simple ceramic bowl, with all proceeds from a benefit at the end of the exhibition going to support programs at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts for people who are living with and recovering from cancer.

This year, Torpedo Factory artist Karen Hubacher answered the call and created breathe, a bowl made of beeswax, tree resin, and oil. Hubacher's work beautifully suits the subject of the show, but it's also a deeply unique creation that reflects the thoughtfulness with which the artist approached her subject.

"In Chinese alchemy, the five elements—wood, earth, water, fire, and metal—are concerned with process and change," Hubacher explains. "My bowl is a vessel of transformation—a metaphor for the effects of my morning yoga practice. Wood is my brush; beeswax and tree resin are earth; the flame of my torch is fire; silver paint and my tools are metal; and the shape of the bowl receives water."

Hubacher selected white wax to represent "purity, wholeness, and completeness," with the rough, matte exterior contrasting with the smooth, polished interior to evoke complementary yin-yang forces and the balance of the material and immaterial worlds.

"When the wax is cool, I hold my metal tool and move my hand with the rhythm of my breath," she says. "I imagine chi flowing like a quiet river through me, energizing the yin and yang. I rub silver paint into the inscribed lines for its powers of cleansing and releasing mental, physical, and emotional issues."

When the public sees breathe among many other vessels in the weeks ahead, they'll surely respond to its simple gracefulness, but Hubacher smiles as she reveals that it's also a visual representation of one of her own favorite healing activities.

"This vessel holds the memory of this morning's yoga session," she says, "evoking sacred space, protected time, quiet energy, and a calm state of mind."

See Alchemical Vessels from April 4 through May 16, 2014, at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, 1632 U Street NW, in Washington, D.C. The opening reception will be held on Friday, April 4, 2014, from 7 to 9 p.m., and the special benefit will take place on Friday, May 2, 2014, from 7 to 9 p.m. See more of Karen Hubacher's art at

Monday, March 31, 2014

Whimsical imagery, serious art: "Earth Blankets" by Rosemary Luckett

Rosemary Luckett, "Wheelbarrow Ark"
When Rosemary Luckett was learning needlework and drawing pictures on envelopes as a child in her Idaho farmhouse, she couldn't have imagined where her interest in art would take her—but "Earth Blankets," her new solo exhibition at Touchstone Gallery in downtown D.C., represents the wonderful visions that materialize when an artist pursues her interests, hones her skills, and embraces true versatility.

In addition to being an associate member of the Torpedo Factory and former Fiberworks gallery member, Luckett is also a painter, but in recent years she's immersed herself in creating paper collages and three-dimensional sculptures made from scrap. Combining photo collage and cloth, the work in "Earth Blankets" represents a clever intermingling of genres and techniques—and a sharp eye for bits and pieces the rest of us tend to overlook.

"These artworks were initially inspired by my observation of the constant build-up of trash along the side of the road and plastic bags snagged on trees and fences—not decomposing, but forming a cumulative blanket upon the land," Luckett says. "Finally, one day I parked near my home and started photographing trash thrown from vehicles."

Rosemary Luckett, "Industrial Blanket II"
Luckett ended up taking more than a hundred photos. When she printed them out and arrayed them on her floor, she saw her concern for the environment vividly reflected before her.

"Bordered in white, they looked like blocks of a quilt—a photo blanket reflecting the discarded plastic blankets that are becoming more pronounced each year," she says. "Plastics don't decompose like leaves or paper products but continue to build up, layer by layer. Some wash down into streams, eventually forming a huge vortex of garbage in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, or wash up onto the world's beaches in astounding numbers."

Luckett let several of the photographs stand on their own, while others she combined into digital collages that tell enigmatic stories—and invite interpretation.

"I pair industrial blankets, plastic toys, and harvested trees with animal and plant arks," the artist explains. "They were prompted, in part, by Arthur Tress's Fish Tank Sonata photo series and Donovan Hohn’s bestselling Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea."

This new show includes four large cloth works, two of them consisting of pockets holding photographic prints and two others with photos printed on them that could easily be used on sofas or beds. Luckett's sense of humor is readily apparent throughout "Earth Blankets," but sometimes she strikes an ominous tone as well: One work, Tree Cover, includes poems printed over leaves, recalling the Cumaean Sibyl from Vergil's Aeneid, who prophesized by writing on oak leaves.

Newcomers to Luckett's work and longtime fans alike will enjoy the inventiveness of "Earth Blankets." The works in this show combine the functional with the ornamental, humorous imagery with serious implications, and one of Luckett's oldest techniques, quilting, with her new forays into photo collage—the culmination of a lifetime of creativity.

"My art skills," she concludes, "have come full circle."

See Rosemary Luckett's "Earth Blankets" from April 4 through April 27, 2014, at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Avenue NW, near several Metro stations in downtown D.C.  Come to the opening reception on Friday, April 4 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and the closing party on Friday, April 25, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Check out more of Luckett's work at her website, Second River Studio, and look for her courses in painting, collage, and sculpture at the Art League School.

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Fooling Around with Clay": Jamie Fine at Morrison House

In recent years, locals have praised "Morrison House Presents," a free discussion series that spotlights artists, authors, historians, and other cultural figures who have keen insights to share with Alexandrians. The monthly salon, held at the elegant Morrison House Hotel on Alfred Street, is always engaging and fun—and on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, Torpedo Factory sculptor Jamie Fine will reshape the event in ways well suited to the occasion.

"After all, it's April Fool's Day," Fine says as she prepares for "Fooling Around with Clay," which offers her an opportunity to reflect on and discuss sculptural techniques with artists, art lovers, and the curious public.

Enamored of clay since her high school days, Fine studied with renowned modernist sculptor Ruth Duckworth at the University of Chicago, and she has since gone on to create vessels, sculpture, and large installations, often on themes that echo aspects of the natural world.

Although Fine's work is as intricate as the natural structures and forms that inspire it, her style also embodies a sense of lightness and beauty that makes it well suited for a day devoted to serious fun.

"I'll share my unique hand-building techniques," the artist says, "and perhaps the audience will 'fool' around with clay, too."

Come to "Fooling Around with Clay" at the Morrison House Hotel at 116 South Alfred Street in Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday, April 1, 2014, from 6 to 8. p.m. For a list of all Morrison House lectures, held on the first Tuesday of every month, check out the Torpedo Factory website.