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An Earthly Crown For St. Peter's

By Jessica Dawson
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, February 17, 2005; Page C05

• Though there's an expansive exhibition of Vatican-owned etchings and models accompanying "Creating St. Peter's: Architectural Treasures of the Vatican," I'd have been just as happy staying put in the exhibition's first room. There, an impressive Michelangelo-commissioned model for St. Peter's dome preens under a dramatic spotlight in a darkened gallery. Wow. Remarkably preserved since its manufacture around 1560, the 1:15 scale model of Michelangelo's vision for the Catholic flagship stands more than 16 feet tall. A semicircular cutaway, the work allows us to peer inside the drum and also walk around its perimeter where tiny statuary stand guard. More voluptuous than the dome that would eventually cap the church's crossing, this model was but one of a string of designs for the complex. The second-floor galleries hold more than 150 objects, included among them architectural etchings, a scale model of the basilica complex today and a 16th-century compass as scary-looking as a vise.

"Creating St. Peter's: Architectural Treasures of the Vatican" at the Museums at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, 3900 Harewood Rd. NE, near Catholic University, Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m., 202-635-5400, to May 31.

The wooden model for the dome of St. Peter's Basilica dates to 1560. (Pope John Paul Ii Cultural Center)

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Through the Looking Glass

• Physicists use the word "sonoluminescence" to describe the curious phenomenon of sound waves generating bursts of light inside submicroscopic bubbles. Colin Treado loves this kind of stuff -- his father is a particle physicist, after all -- and has based his current suite of paintings on the notion. As with all of his work in recent years, references to worlds visible and microscopic surface in his best pictures. Treado conjures the subatomic by applying oil on impermeable patterned Mylar to nifty effect: Squares of paint, each incised with squiggles and loops like bacteria magnified, float above a black-and-white ground -- the look is nearly three-dimensional. Treado's paintings done directly on panel (the artist favors an aluminum composite material often used for signs), of which there are just a few, lack such compelling push and pull.

Colin Treado at District Fine Arts, 1726 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Tuesday-Saturday

11 a.m.-5 p.m., 202-328-9100, to Feb. 26.

Glenn Gould: Genius at Work

Don Hunstein's photos of Glenn Gould are on view at the Canadian Embassy. (Embassy Of Canada)
• Pianist Glenn Gould's rendition of Bach's "Goldberg" Variations launched the young Canadian's career. Likewise, photographer Don Hunstein has staked a good part of his career on Glenn Gould. Hired by Columbia in 1956, Hunstein started shooting Gould the next year and spent more than two decades chronicling the performer, who died in 1982. Now Hunstein holds the biggest cache of Gould pictures ever taken. Selections from the 1950s to the '80s are on view, some behind-the-scenes studio shots, others album covers. Most are standard fare. The show's opener, though, is sweet: The scene is CBS's cavernous 30th Street studio in New York, April 1957. The folks at Steinway had parked four glistening pianos shoulder-to-shoulder for Gould to test drive. Hunstein shot Gould from behind as if he were a delighted Goldilocks tickling the ivories until the notes sounded just right.

"The Hunstein Variations: A Photographic Record of Glenn Gould by Don Hunstein" at the Canadian Embassy, 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., 202-682-1740, to March 18.

The No-Nonsense District

Ellen Verdon Winkler's "Georgia Avenue": A down-to-earth view of the mean streets. (Washington Printmakers Gallery)
• Area painter and printmaker Ellen Verdon Winkler exhibits intimately sized drawings, prints and paintings of urban views and landscapes. Winkler prefers her city's workaday, inelegant moments: She's the first artist I've encountered to enshrine Ward Place, that concrete lump near New Hampshire and M Streets NW, in painting and monotype. Her prints of Metro riders seem a catalogue of the incarcerated; the same subject in oil has a breezier feel, done up in thick, confident brush strokes of the kind longtime D.C. painter Jack Boul favors. Though Winkler prefers eyeing her city from sidewalk level, dirt and all, some airy landscapes are also on view.

Ellen Verdon Winkler at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1732 Connecticut Ave. NW, Tuesday-Thursday noon-

6 p.m., Friday noon-9 p.m., Saturday-Sunday noon-5 p.m., 202-332-7757, to Feb. 27.

Calling on Art's Patron Saints

• Wanna hurt somebody? Or make them fall in love with you? Africa's Kongo people entreat power figures to do their bidding. These forbidding wooden statues riddled with nails, draped in leather and strung up with all manner of beads, shells and arrows are the basis for artist Greg Metcalf's quirky tribute to the gods of Western art, literature and pop culture. He's made two roomfuls of wooden statuary, each in a likeness of somebody famous. There's a charming little Joseph Cornell figure, clutching a tiny box, of course. And there's a pudgy likeness of Jackson Pollock, cigarette and oil can in hand. Clever works all, they leave us to wonder whether Metcalf is conjuring demons or exorcising them. Also on view are local artist collective Decatur Blue founding member Champ Taylor's paintings on panel made during his travels to Venice. The images call to mind Richard Diebenkorn's "Ocean Park" abstractions and Japanese prints, but they hardly give Titian a run for his money.

"In Dialogue With the Elders: Sculpture by Greg Metcalf, Paintings by Champneys Taylor" at the Salve Regina Gallery, Catholic University, 620 Michigan Ave. NE, Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 202-319-5282, to March 2.

Seiji Fujishiro, Japan's Paper Cutup

"The Cosmos Flowers Are Singing," one of Seiji Fujishiro's whimsical creations. (Japan Information And Culture Center)
• Eighty-year-old artist Seiji Fujishiro rocks the Japan Information and Culture Center galleries with a groovy exhibition of high-caliber kitsch. "Symphony of Light and Shadow" -- the show is hardly as serious as its title -- finds the much-loved elder statesman of Japanese art cutting cutesy figures and elaborate, doily-dainty backgrounds out of paper colored in rainbow-bright hues. Each panel is backlit by light boxes in the darkened gallery. The net effect crosses stained glass with televised cartoons. Fujishiro has been making these kage-e, or paper-cut pictures, since the 1940s; his wide-eyed mermaids, mischievous kitties and elves shod in go-go boots set precedents for much of the ecstatic, helium-filled Japanese art we see today. Like his countrywoman the wacky, dot-loving artist Yayoi Kusama, Fujishiro flanks several pieces with mirrors or pools of water that multiply reflections ad infinitum. Drop your newspaper and go. Now.

Seiji Fujishiro at the Japan Information and Culture Center, Lafayette Centre III, 1155 21st St. NW, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-

5 p.m., 202-238-6949, to March 9.

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