Jan 162014

“Leaves and Reflections” by Alan Simmons is a print I have had for a while and was one of my first purchases. Although my interest lies within the realm of traditional and historic processes, this inkjet print caught my eye and became more important to me than I might have guessed.

“Leaves and Reflections” by Alan Simmons

The color of orange moves through the middle of this vertical print, pushing my eyes through the area and setting the stage for everything else. Blue dollops of leaves are strewn about in an almost planned way, ensuring enough coverage throughout the print so that I can stop at any one of them and examine its form. These leaves are blue in color, which perfectly complements the orange. On either side of this mass the color of green keeps me from looking away and brings balance and harmony to the scene. The combination of saturation and peace allows me to fall into the print and stay there.

It’s more than just a great print; I have a special attachment to this piece of art. The first juried show in which I participated was in 2009 at VisArts in Rockville, MD. Looking at the work that accompanied my own I saw many that I liked, but “Leaves and Reflections” stood out. I felt that I had no choice but to purchase it so that I could enjoy it well after the show ended. The print has graced the top of the stairs in my house ever since.

About a year later I wandered through the Kentlands Mansion Art Gallery, looking at a photo exhibit within the two floors of the building. Downstairs one person offered pictures of birds while another displayed landscapes. As there were others in the rooms, the yawn I produced was internal only. I walked upstairs and looked at the prints there with little interest, then wandered down the hall to the remaining area yet to be examined. I am glad that I was not being filmed because my jaw probably dropped. Gracing the wall were strong abstracts of architectural objects that jumped out at me and finally made me glad that I had made the hour drive to see the show. It was almost no surprise to me when I realized that the artist of these creations was Alan Simmons.

A couple of years passed and I was given a show at Glenview Mansion Art Gallery along with two other photographers. One of those two was Alan Simmons. We moved from offering single prints together to having a show of our work together, and as this was someone whose work I appreciated, it became even more special.

May 272013

A recent acquisition to my personal collection is a wet plate photograph by Barry Schmetter. The wet plate collodion process was introduced in the 1850s. The resulting photographs are quite wonderful with great detail. There are a number of wonderful articles out there with more details on the process so I won’t rewrite them. Find some details here and here. Wet plate chemistry is complex and outside of the usual repertoire of the average darkroom.

The image is of three Vervet monkey skulls. He and I share a background in science, so I was quite excited to see the skulls. They bring me back to memories of my evolutionary biology class.  From technique to image content, I’m quite happy with the work.


I received the photograph unframed, and developed several designs including a black-on-black Louis the 14th frame, but in the end I had commitment issues. I called my longtime framer friend Mark at Design Frames in Falls Church, VA, and asked him to give it a shot. He has a tremendous deal where you leave the art, and he picks the design. I may have talked about this before. With anyone else, I could not leave it in their hands, but I know he’ll always develop something tremendous

Mark went above and beyond the call of duty here. There are several layers of mats and spacers, with the wet plate floating. He included leather below the work, suede on the top mat finished with a nice detailed gold frame and museum glass! The frame gives the work a sense of age!

The work resides on a wall with a framed electron micrograph from a retired Georgetown University scientist, and an etching of a dead pigeon from Henrik Sundqvist. I think the 3 images play well together with themes of life and science. More on those works later.



 Posted by at 11:59 pm
Dec 272012

This watercolor is by Michael Winger.  He is at the cornerstone in my personal artistic development.  Michael is part of my art family.  He’s the student of Sy Gresser, who was my father’s best friend and a mentor to him.  Without Sy, there’s a good possibility I might not have been an artist.  I thank him for my love of sculpture.  When I was a kid, around 3 or 4 he gave me a hammer, a chisel, and a block of stone and said, “Go to town.”  That’s shaped my view of art ever since.

I met Michael at the start of my “professional” art career.  I call it professional because on the day we met, I also Met Tracy Causey who was responsible for my first real gallery art show. I thank them all, and think about that moment on a regular basis.  I owe a lot of my concept of art and development to this family of great artists who are all centered around Sy.

Michael Winger

Before I get too far away from this work of art, lets bring it back to Michael.  He’s a tremendous artist – a stone sculptor, a painter, and a craftsman with found objects.  In the first year of the artdc gallery project, Michael created an installation called, “I Cure Myself.”  The title is derived from his own personal experiences.

As I’ve become aware of other artists’ creative development, I find it extremely exciting to watch them work with materials out of their normal range.  I know Michael as a sculptor.  Early in 2012 I asked him to bring some work to display at my frame shop. I thought he would bring his stone work, but he brought 3 of the most amazing watercolors I’ve never shown there.  I fell in love.

The lines excite me.  The intersection of light blue and black where the black bleeds into the paper which makes me want to stare into the work for hours.  I like the signature at the top.  Yes, with a date.  As a framer, I’ve stood with this work thinking of re-framing it for days.  But in the end I appreciate the gallery-style frame that Michael picked for it.  I need to look at the work, not the frame.

When the show came to an end we agreed to trade for one.  I still owe him a work of art in return.  I look forward to the day that I can reciprocate.  I have this work hanging in my music studio, and every time I’m there it adds a layer of intrigue and positive energy that makes me want to stay around the work.  That’s what success as an artist is – the ability that their work has to create an emotional response within you.

The piece moves beyond my relationship with the artist.  It’s more than a symbol of our friendship.  The work stands on it’s own, and looks fabulous hung next to “Jet Ski Accident,” see below.

Forgive my snapshot.  One day I’ll un-frame it to get a clear shot without glass.

 Posted by at 9:55 pm
Feb 062012

In 2010, we held our first show inviting UMD undergrad interns to act as our guest curators. The show was tight, and well attended. We bought our first undergrad work for the artdc collection at that show. A year later, we recently closed our second UMD undergrad show for 2011.

It was an excellent event, an opportunity for students to network with more seasoned artists, and experience their work in a gallery off campus. The energy in the air reminded me of my first New York solo show, at Tracy Causey’s gallery. I was so excited to be in NY, I slept under my art in lieu of a hotel. Maybe this energy is part of my attraction to doing undergrad shows. We’re offering the public an opportunity to view the work of new artists selected by a first time curator. Again I’m stuck with the limited number of explicatives to describe the event, so tremendous fits.

As in 2010, we decided to expand artdc’s collection by adding another work from our UMD series.

We purchased Melanie Fischer’s “Jetski Accident.” It’s full of energy, and I can visualize the title in the piece.  I see the red and black representing blood and oil, blue for water It’s exploding energy with motion in the paint and scratches in the surface. The art stands on its own, but in such an abstract work, it’s nice to cheat with a little insight into the artist’s mind by reading the title. I liked that for a young artist, she’s using quality materials like museum wrapped stretcher bars supported with cross bars in the back. Little details matter.

With a title like “Jetski Accident,” I do want to know more about its history, and the thought behind Melanie’s process. There’s history in a title like that.

Recently, I produced some work that pushed my limits in the abstract world. To develop titles, I had to dig deep into why I was creating my images, the process and thoughts behind them. I can’t wait to find out how Melanie’s work develops, and what it means to her.

 Posted by at 11:13 pm
Jan 262012

For a show in December 2011, I selected work for the Target Gallery’s Petri Dish exhibit.  Petri Dish was a national, all-media, small works exhibition that has the primary focus of artist experimentation. The work in the exhibition fit within a standard petri dish.  The concept was great.  Historically, I worked at Georgetown University in drug development and molecular biology.  It was an exciting time, and I often thought about how I “should have” combined science and art; however the idea lain dormant.  I had the opportunity to bring this combination to life through networking with Mary Cook.

Mary Cook is the director of Target Gallery and the microwave project. She has seen some of my work through artdc’s Web presence, pop-up galleries, and a show that I juried for the Torpedo Factory’s Art League.  This is another instance of an art family.  While the DC area has a large active art scene, there are many connections bringing people together.  Outside of the Target Gallery, I think I first became aware of her work when I went to the G40 summit to view Peter Gordon’s work with the Microwave Project.  See more about Peter’s work below.

Mary invited me to select works for Target Gallery’s December 2011 show.  It was a great project.  She is very organized, which made my job significantly easier.  My attention was on the work, not the effort to acquire, organize, and manage submissions. She used Dropbox to create a depository of images to roll through.  This allowed me to look at the work as an entire group and make comments about work that moved me.  My selections were blind; there were no artist names attached to the images. There was such a wide range of work, which allowed me to push the connection beyond the sterile environment of the room and size limitations.

The layout of the show was extremely clean.  Mary mounted over 50 small white shelves to present the work.  It required viewers to walk in the room and look down at each piece. This was a great way to let the works lie on their own, and move your focus at an individual pace.

Before the close of the show, I moved through the gallery and found the 3 works by Daniel Miller.  I remember looking at his photos during selection.  At the time the light from these works of art excited me, but I knew I had to experience them face-to-face to connect.  They are kinetic.  LED bulbs blinking, creating movement.  I was impressed that he created his own custom controllers to time the activity of the lights.  If you flip the work over, you can see the semi-conductors and the work he did to manufacture a custom circuit.  I love kinetic art.  You may have seen the show that Grayson Heck and I produced at the artdc Gallery.  At a young age I used to tinker with electronics, so the fact that Daniel created his own microcontrollers sans breadboard attracted me further to “Under The Ice.”  I really enjoy Daniel’s work, and I told the gallery assistant I wanted to buy “Under The Ice, 2011.”

(Image courtesy of www.danmillerart.com )

I was excited to see that this show was mentioned in The Washington Post, and that this work is in the article.  That’s wonderful for a little provenance–icing on the cake!

 Posted by at 7:58 pm
Jan 212012

In September of 2011, the artdc Gallery hosted its 12” x 12” show.  This was our 3rd annual small works exhibition.  Our goal was to show a large number of works to a wide audience.  We decided upon a small works show to aid in keeping the cost per work small, hoping that more people from a local arts festival would buy. This show is an open call exhibit with very few restrictions.  It’s all-inclusive, which has been a great opportunity for us to develop relationships with new artists, and reaffirm connections with existing relationships.

I have bought a few things for the gallery from our 12” x 12” exhibits.  The work is affordable, and it creates access to work that I might not have found since there is a large group of over 100 works.

In the process of adding to the gallery’s collection, I decided to buy one of Lisa Rosenstein’s works for my self.  The work stood on it’s own, and she’s a representative of our activity.  I thought it would be important to have her work in my collection.

I enjoy her material use.  She plays with texture and layering that creates dimension with in her works.  I love the layers between the canvas, threads, and strings.  I can trace the details with my eyes for hours.  These two small works had wonderful presentation with a metal frame adding to the structure that she’s created.

I picked the one that spoke to me the most.  It’s titled Restrained Freedom and based on the juxtaposition of the “head” being restrained while the “body” is breaking free.  It has the theme of life, you can see there are 18 vertical dots, signifying Life in the Jewish religion (18 = Chai = Life).  The work is composed of acrylic, acrylic mediums, dimensional paint, archival paper, thread, and handmade net on canvas board.

I told her that I needed to purchase it for my personal collection, and she refused to let me buy it.  She gave it to me as a gift instead!  I’m so touched.  She is such a motivating force that makes me want to get out there and make more art.

 Posted by at 12:54 pm
Nov 252011

In September I selected a show with work from several local artists that represented a range from hyperrealist portraits and pop art to abstracted metal sculpture. The show consisted of works by Patrick Kirwin, Jack Labadie, Michael Winger, Sy Gresser and Grayson Heck.

Our reception was well received and garnered positive compliments. After the close, I made arrangements to buy “Sleep,” a cast aluminum work by Grayson Heck. I connected with the sculpture. While its titled “Sleep,” there’s more to it than just relaxation.

The connection relates to my association with the artist. I see this as a self-portrait. There is a contrast between the surface texture, the expression, and the abstraction created by the lack of eyes and teeth.

In 2003, I conducted an experiment on film using changes in composition and depth of field focused on a ceramic mask. I tracked the development of emotion shooting a range of works focused on the same subject.

In one image in particular, I flipped the lens backward with a close-up filter. I decreased the depth of field to focus on the lips only. The eyes appeared like empty, fuzzy black circles vs. another image focused sharply on the eyes. With the former, there was an eerie vacant sense to the subject’s presence; he wasn’t there contrasting with the other image that appeared to track you with his eyes.

I love seeing a connection between artists, especially when my work is involved. Grayson and I had no conversations about the subject of his work before it was completed. His creativity is independent of mine, but there is a connection of thought. His work stands on its own because of the hollow format with empty eye sockets. You could look at that as our departure into another world while we sleep, or a spiritual departure in death.

I find it extremely interesting to learn of an artist’s intent behind a work in comparison with my reaction to the work. I look forward to his response to this article.

 Posted by at 5:55 pm
Oct 062011

In February of 2011, I purchased a work from Camden Place for my personal collection.  The piece is titled, “Sam knows how to party.”  The subject is Sam Scharf.  Both the Sam and Camden are artists in Washington, DC area. I’ve worked with them in a number of area art events.  I first saw Camden’s work in our Sudden Space show, a pop-up gallery event that took place in Arlington, VA.  Sam and Megan Muller curated the event, artdc.org, organized the show.

At Sudden Space, I was immediately excited by Camden’s technique.  He creates wood reliefs using either red oak or plywood with veneers.  He coats the block of wood with black ink and then reveals the image with a chisel, as if he were going to use it for prints.  That said, his blocks are never used for prints.  His works are one of kind with depth and intensity.

His marks are extremely shallow and delicate.  They are created with a very careful and visible measure of intent.  The process is a wonderful transformation of the people and situations that he observes.  To me, his work is more than the moment captured, but the transformation of emotion of the subject.

I selected this piece out of his collection with appreciation for it’s particular use of contrast with great control of the shadows.   The way the marks worked with this particular slab of oak, manipulating the grain, and revealing the image with respect for the subject, Sam.  The shadow’s over his face captures his energy. This will be an important piece for it’s quality as a work of art which stands on it’s own, and the subject who’s sure to gain fame and acclaim in the art scene at-large.

With out going further, I say view this work, and draw your own conclusions.  But, make the decision to buy Camden Place’s work now, while you still can.

 Posted by at 8:33 pm
Jun 052011

The artdc Gallery has represented Grayson Heck in several exhibitions since April of 2010.  His positive energy as an artist and guest curator has had a bright impact on our experience in our space.

Grayson works in a wide variety of media from painting to sculpture and beyond.  I find strength in his ability to transform metal from raw material, giving it life and form representing an idea.  He doesn’t just bend metal; he creates emotions and reactions.  Since his work in “Don’t Feed the Art,” (DFTA) I’ve been impressed, and I knew we’d eventually purchase some of his work.  His sculptures maintain electric energy, even without the wall plugs of the kinetic works in the DFTA show.

In January of 2011 we put together a show titled “structure, energy,” exhibiting the works of Peter Gordon, Grayson Heck, and Lisa Rosenstein.  Over the years, they have all produced a solid base of work, so we were excited to display their creations.

Grayson included six works ranging from found object-based instruments and stationary sculptures.  An artdc patron purchased one group of sculptures simply titled “spikes.”  The spikes are tall triangular based works.

(Structure, energy spike and kinetic instrument installation shots by Tom Cardarella).

See the kinetic instrument sculptures:

After circling the show for several days, I decided it was time, and I dropped Grayson an e-mail to let him know that we’d purchase his “knots” for the gallery collection.

The knots are sand cast iron made from a foam burn out.  To create texture, Grayson coated the foam with a faux ceramic surface. Grayson writes, “The knots represent our frustrations and anxieties that build up inside of us. As we try to repress and control these emotions/thoughts, our ‘insides’ get tangled, contorted and tied together.”

See a knot close up here:

 Posted by at 10:22 pm
May 252011

In November of 2010, I dropped some photographs by the Studio Gallery in DC for photo week.  I fell in love with the art by Brian Kirk.  His work ranges from steel sculpture to prints created with rust.  I like the metallic content.  In my mind, they harmonize with the rusted paint can work by Steven Dobbin who is represented by friends of ours at Causey Contemporary.  While Steven created prints from rusted paint cans, Kirk is using metal tools to develop impressions with rust for a period of 6 weeks or more.  I know they are both concerned with the effects of time and nature.   The end results of Kirk’s and Dobbin’s work are very different, but to me, there’s a relationship with similar thoughts.  I’m sure they developed their ideas independently, but there is excitement to see connections in creative material use.

While I was at the gallery, Adah, the director, gave me a tour of the space.  After viewing Kirk’s work, she pointed to a portfolio that contained more of his rust prints.  I bought one for my personal collection.  I like buying unframed work since it allows me to play with the presentation.  After all, the walls in my house are not white like the gallery, so I enjoy adding to the décor, and using the frame to make the work pop.

I stopped by my framer’s shop. Mark Klostermeyer is a master framer with a great eye.  We decided to step out of my normal range and begin a new addiction with cloth-covered mats.  As a photographer, I’ve presented a number of works in a very simple manner.  This work deserved more.  Mark suggested a mat with a fake suede finish.  He mounted the work for me, and I completed the work using Acropolis by Larson Juhl (Mark’s suggestion) which has a dark terra cotta finish.  The snapshot below of the finished work doesn’t quite show the details.  There are some amazing subtleties between the rust, suede, and frame hues of brown. In the future, I’ll start to photograph these works before adding the glazing so you can see the work sans reflections.   For this work, I chose plexi with UV protection to keep the work safe while reducing the weight on the wall.  View the completed work here:

 Posted by at 5:27 pm