Hidden messages, dual meanings, sublimation of energies, intentional accidents – the works of art hanging in the McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) are infused with enigmatic power.
The MPA kicked off its new season last week with an opening reception and gallery talk by curator Margo Ann Crutchfield, with over 70 art patrons in attendance. The galleries featured the works of three artists: Seth Rosenberg, Carolyn Case and Georgia Nassikas.
The focal point of the evening was the exhibit in the Emerson Gallery – “Seth Rosenberg: The Cleveland Years.” For over 20 years, the artist was central to the D.C. art scene, arranging shows and gatherings for other artists in his gallery and frame shop. In 2005, he moved to Cleveland and devoted all his energies to developing his own craft. The paintings displayed in the MPA represent the final four years of his life and work before he died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 57 in September 2009.
Each of Rosenberg’s collage-like paintings is replete with repeated patterns and cryptic messages that symbolize something personal to the artist. Scientific imagery, WPA-influenced constructs, Vietnam references, repeated images of frames, sepia tones – all these have meaning to Rosenberg. As Crutchfield said, “I see the work as a collision because there is so much going on. … It is anchored in a command of composition. … [The work comes from] an active mind, active imagination and active world.”
The Atrium Gallery is adorned with lively, colorful abstracts in the exhibit “Accidently On Purpose: Paintings by Carolyn Case.” The artist was a top finalist in MPA’s “Strictly Painting 8” in June. At first glance, the paintings appear to be haphazard displays of vibrant colored splotches, but on closer inspection, deliberate patterns emerge among the multiple layers of once-fluid paint. As Case said, “even within the realm of chance it is difficult to escape yourself.”
“Encaustic Paintings by Georgia Nassikas” hangs along the Ramp Gallery. Nassikas, a native to McLean, uses beeswax in her landscapes to create depth and atmosphere. The skies appear to be swirling with wind, perhaps a prognostic omen to a gathering storm. The waters afar appear calm, but on closer inspection seem alive with energy. The nexus of nature’s elements are embedded in the artist’s works.
Nassikas was born to a prominent Rhode Island family. John Chafee, her father, was a senator and governor; her brother, Lincoln, is a former senator and now governor to the family’s home state.
A couple of the art opening’s attendees shared their thoughts about the new exhibits:
Leslie Willard, McLean: “I appreciate the artistic mind. … I enjoyed the show. The space is fantastic for the size of the pieces…He [Rosenberg] was not painting to sell, but to create.”
Alice Starr, former MPA chairman and wife of Kenneth Starr, former federal judge, solicitor general of the U.S., Whitewater prosecutor and current president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, said it was “Extraordinary, interesting, fascinating and fast moving … dynamic. … We have lots of questions and have been texting his [Greenberg's] wife to find answers.”
What: Seth Rosenberg: The Cleveland Years
Accidently on Purpose: Paintings by Carolyn Case
Encaustic Paintings Georgia Nassikas
Where: McLean Project for the Arts, McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave.
When: Sept. 15 – Nov. 5, 2011. Additional information: www.mpaart.org