Stray bits of metal — a nail, some wire, fragments of mesh — dot Lesley Clarke’s mixed-media paintings. They may remind viewers that Scotland, the Northern Virginia artist’s birthplace, was crucial to the Industrial Revolution. But “Scotland: Boundless, Beautiful and Home,” at Studio Gallery, depicts forces that are older than locomotives and steam engines. Clarke’s abstractions conjure geological strata, and emphasize metallic and aqueous tones. Although most of the pictures are not named for specific places, a few invoke such notable sites as rivers (“The Clyde Coming In”) or mountains (“Carn Mor Dearg”).
Clarke uses acrylic pigments, sometimes highly diluted to create a watercolor-like effect. (This suits her frequent use of paper as a medium.) Almost all the paintings are vertical, suggesting the orientation of the Highlands, and carefully arranged. Darker forms toward the center draw in the eye and hold the compositions together. The painter’s approach may be instinctive, but the results never seem random.
Scotland: Boundless, Beautiful and Home
On view through June 30 at Foundry Gallery, 1314 18th St. NW; 202-463-0203; www.foundrygallery.org
As a photographer, Bob Tetro takes a somewhat different approach to nature than Clarke. Yet both prefer close-up views and mineral hues, and Tetro, as the title of his Art League Gallery show reveals, doesn’t consider himself a representational artist. “Yellowstone Abstracted” focuses tightly, forgoing the grand vistas of the first U.S. national park in favor of crusty, scrubby specifics.
If these aren’t postcard views, that doesn’t mean they’re not striking. Crisp and immersive, the large-format pictures highlight oxide and calcite colors and textures, contrasted by stray glimmers of aqua and pale green. The images were made by the D.C. native in 2011, some 40 years after his first visit to the park, and probably reflect an evolution in his vision. Yet they also seem ageless, documenting the commonplace materials that will endure even after the park’s more dramatic features have eroded or collapsed.
On view through July 1 at the Art League Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria; 703-683-1780; www.theartleague.org