Encaustic, a mixture of pigment and beeswax, is an ancient medium that’s in vogue with a surprisingly large number of Washington painters. “Wax Works,” at Alexandria’s Athenaeum, groups the art of six local women who use the substance, although the show includes little encaustic painting. The small, starkly beautiful pieces in Jeanne Garant’s series “Second Chance” fix scraps of rusted metal in fields of wax. Mary Early applies beeswax to balsa wood forms, endowing simple shapes with complex textures. Julie Dzikiewicz uses encaustic as the background for collages of fabric, photographs, buttons and miniature dresses, designed to evoke the history of the women’s suffrage movement.
All the artists build forms above — or seemingly below — the surface. Sondra N. Arkin layers wax and hand-tinted shellac, sometimes using a blowtorch to burn patterns into the piece before adding more veils of shellac; the effect suggests primal shapes glimpsed through water or mist. Ellyn Weiss’s paintings incorporate torn canvas and three-dimensional blossoms of wax and fabric. Joanne Kent constructs curls of untinted wax atop squares with pencil-drawn grids, or circles with slots at the center. The artist notes that these works are fragile, susceptible to either breaking or melting. But it’s the juxtaposition of geometric formats and lacy, organic wax that makes them so interesting.
Sondra N. Arkin and Joan Belmar are both represented in “Call Collect,” a show of more than 100 local artists (a few of them also gallery proprietors or museum curators). This Hamiltonian Gallery exhibition consists of small pieces that can be mounted on a wall, but that doesn’t limit it to prints, drawings and photographs. Although there’s only one video — displayed on a petite MP3 player — sculptural work abounds and is often playful. Akemi Maegawa’s “Rice Ball” is a ceramic white mound with a black insert (seaweed? a pickled plum?). Tom Ashcraft has constructed a tiny fabric ship from blue flocking, while Margaret Boozer’s “Small Ravine” is a bit of geology, made from gray and white stoneware and placed in a box. Most of the works were sold at the opening event, a benefit for the exhibition space. But a few are still available, and the overall array provides a broad (if not systematic) overview of area artists.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
on view through Nov. 25 at Charles Krause/Reporting Fine Art, 1300 13th St. NW; 202-638-3612; www.charleskrausereporting.com.
The Gulag Collection
on view through Nov. 9 at the Atrium Gallery, Mason Hall, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr., Fairfax; 703-993-4375; soa.gmu.edu/gallery/masonhallGallery.html.
on view through Nov. 11 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria; 703-548-0035; www.nvfaa.org. The six artists will discuss their work at the gallery at 3 p.m. Sunday.
on view through Nov. 9 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW, Suite 101; 202-332-1116; hamiltoniangallery.com.