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Cynthia Connolly's Down-Home Photo Album

By Jessica Dawson
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page C05

Connolly's multi-panel "Uniontown Store, Uniontown, Perry Co., Ala., 6-30-03," part of her photographic look at rural Alabama. (Transformer Gallery)
• Longtime District photographer and hard-core music doyenne Cynthia Connolly headed to Alabama's hinterlands in 2002 for a year at Auburn University's acclaimed Rural Studio. There she joined artists and architecture students devising creative housing solutions for the area's destitute. Connolly not only built a vegetable stand but also took roll after roll of pictures. Her color and black-and-white images of low-slung buildings, quirky signage and local folks suggest that poetry lurks where strip malls don't. Multi-panel panoramas hanging on the gallery's west wall are both funny and smart. The gallery's opposite wall supports shelves where picture frames stand three or four deep. Black-framed 4-by-6 prints can be picked up and held like little sculptures. Such informality lends just the right touch of intimacy, as if the locals and their kids were our own friends and family.

"Cynthia Connolly Photgs." at Transformer, 1404 P St. NW, Wednesday-Saturday 1-7 p.m., 202-483-1102, to May 7.

From Elizabeth Catlett, Faces Etched in Sorrow

"Black Girl," one of 29 Catlett prints on display. (Arts Club Of Washington)
• Think Elizabeth Catlett and you think iconic sculpture -- blocky bronze or wood renderings of heavy-hearted women. The native Washingtonian and Howard University graduate brings the same pathos to her prints on view in the Arts Club's first-floor galleries. Works on paper collected by an area couple, the Rev. Douglas E. Moore and Doris Hughes-Moore, are supplemented by prints from the artist's own collection. These 29 lithographs, linocuts and serigraphs survey six decades of artmaking -- from narrative works inspired by Catlett's grandmother's tales of slavery to portraits of black heroes. As ever, the artist's aim is mythmaking. The graphic nature of the linocut technique, with its high contrast and minimal detail, serves that agenda best. At their most transformative, her figures become archetypes of survival.

"Elizabeth Catlett: Prints 1946-Present" at the Arts Club of Washington, 2017 I St. NW, Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., 202-331-7282, to April 30.

William Christenberry, New Drawing on Old

William Christenberry's "Pear Tree with Storm Cloud." (Hemphill Fine Arts)
• A haunting view to a whitewashed church -- it's a two-foot-tall encaustic-encrusted sculpture rising dramatically from a patch of soil -- opens William Christenberry's meatiest show in recent years. Though the smartly hung exhibition aims at showcasing the artist's recent works on paper, its sprinkling of vintage photographs and the evocative church sculpture look great, too. One long wall hosts five large-scale drawings in which colored acrylic washes are drawn over with white or dark-colored inks. The drawings were inspired by trees hung with hollowed-out gourds or ripe with pears. Some are rendered more abstractly than others; a few have cruciform-shaped profiles. Christenberry puts his ink down quickly and with dynamism, so there's a lightness to the final product. Hemphill's third room is the show's real gem: There, photographs and small-scale works on paper alternate across the wall, showing both to their advantage.

William Christenberry at Hemphill Fine Arts, 1515 14th St. NW, Tuesday- Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 202-234-5601, to May 14.

For Thirsty Goblins, Wee Goblets

"Sculptured Wine Glass Series: Bluebell" by Jay Musler, at Maurine Littleton Gallery. (Maurine Littleton Gallery)
• Artist Jay Musler's latest suite of glass sculptures takes its influence from Joseph Cornell and Tinker Bell. Or so it seems. Musler sculpts glass and paints it in a palette reminiscent of storybook swamps or a nice day at the seaside. His is a decidedly twee sensibility -- the whimsical sculptures are a tad too big for a doll house but just as delicate. At Maurine Littleton Gallery, he's showing wine goblets appropriate for a fairy's cocktail party. The whimsical objects have vines wrapped around their stems with curious objects dangling from them. Musler also shows a group of boxed works like the kind Cornell fashioned; Musler's are encased in heavy black frames that hold tiny glass objects that could be sea anemones or kelp.

Jay Musler at Maurine Littleton Gallery, 1667 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 202-333-9307, to May 6.

Caution: Wit Paints -- Wiley at Mateyka

William T. Wiley sets "Painters Block," to a cube. (Marsha Mateyka Gallery)
• Everybody's favorite lefty curmudgeon, artist William T. Wiley, puns on themes plucked from recent headlines: among them "create an ism" and the "nog a ration." His paintings, constructions and prints prove that, at heart, he's a peacenik -- though he sometimes plays the other side for laughs. He paints and draws on canvases that mix cartoon-type scrawls with fields of abstract painting, as if trying to balance specifics with generalizations. The conversational tone of Wiley's written words evoke a crusty raconteur preaching to anybody who'll listen. He's got the art world's ear, at least.

William T. Wiley at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW, Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., 202-328-0088, to May 14.

Barbara Probst: Meet the Swingers

Barbara Probst's "Exposure # 32: NYC, 249 W. 34th Street, 01.02.05, 5:04 p.m.," on view at G Fine Art. (G Fine Art)
• A fashion shoot? A crime scene? Viewed from different perspectives, the same event takes on very different connotations in Barbara Probst's photographic series on view at G Fine Art. Each work is made of multiple images of the very same scene, all shot simultaneously. What each angle reveals -- and obscures -- reminds us just how untrustworthy the camera can be. Part of a larger art world infatuation with translating film to still photography, her work owes much to experimental films from the 1960s. Just like some of those groovy moving pictures, she favors beautiful young people in fab outfits -- extras from Antonioni's stylish "Blow-Up" (1966) come to mind. Yet such self-conscious styling distracts from the underlying chill of the uncanny.

"Barbara Probst: Exposures" at G Fine Art, 1515 14th St. NW, Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 202-462-1601, to April 30.

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