Everyone knows about the great artist-dynasties, like the Calders and the Wyeths.
But is creativity hereditary?
A new show at the Washington Women's Arts Center, 1921 Q St. NW, called "The Creative Line," not only raises that question, but seems to answer it with a resounding yes!
In fact, by their reckoning, everything from painting on porcelain to embroidering on christening gowns is apt to be hereditary, sparking future generations of painters, print-makers, photographers and object makers. This show is a charmer, and is likely to get visitors thinking hard about their own creative lines.
On view are the creative efforts of 21 family artist-clusters, none in the Calder-Wyeth category, but all revealingly centered on a current artist-member of WWAC, and surrounded by creative output from forebears and descendants.
Elucidating and often moving statements accompanying each family grouping, all reflecting a new awareness and respect for the independence of the generational chain.
Leaving the question of genes aside, the show makes crystal clear the impact that exposure to creative efforts can have. A sympathetic milieu obviously does nurture more creatively. Talent helps, but that is another matter. Creativity is a basic urge; talent a special gift. With or without such a gift - be it for playing the piano or drawing a piano - creative outlets can clearly enhance lives, and as illustrated here, for considerably more than one generation.
Emphasis is not so much on the individual exhibited here as upon the idea of an intergenerational camaraderie in art. But some talents cannot go unnoticed, particularly among the elder generation. In fact, viewers may well wonder what the anchestors might have accomplished if they'd had the advantage of the present-day pass.
For example, in or around 1898, Margaret Whitfield Hammond painted roses with great energy and authority upon the back of a pie tin. Obviously a painter of considerable talent, she made only 15 works in her life.
"I assumed she painted these over a period of several years," says her equally talented artist-granddaughter Margaret Stevenson in her accompanying statement. "Later I found out she'd done them all during the one year she went away to school. The last time I saw her we finally talked about her art; she said it was the happiest year of her life."
After taking up painting late in life, Anna Dabrowska of Warsaw is here represented by a magical "Imaginary Bouquet," suggesting a haunting ancestral source for the color photograph of flowers by her daughter, Krystyna Edmonston.
Similarly, Anastasia Serementis' engraving of a coat makes startling reference to an 1898 drawing by a great granduncle.
Lillian Schiff's gift for bold design and color, seen in her handsome 'Landscape' neddlepoint, made at age 75, surely has been shared with her daughter and granddaughter, Elaine and Betsey Glassman. Edith I. Thompson Martin lovingly traces her creative source to her father, who designed and built the family home and church, shown here in photographs beside her own painting.
This show was selected from dozens of entries by Josephine Withers, art history professor at the University of Maryland. She had done a fine job, as have those who dreamed up the show, installed it and published the inspiring little catalogue.
The whole effort, in fact, is marked by the same growing assurance and quality evident in the whole range of WWAC activities. Now over 500 members strong, WWAC also has a newly expanded, highly informative news-letter, 25 workshops coming up, and an increasingly effective Slide Registry of Women Artists, which puts artists and jobs togethrer.
Expansion has come with the help of staff provided by CETA and still-to-be-matched grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Eugene Meyer Foundation, and others. The Edith C. Blum Memorial Lecture Series on "Women in Art, Then. Now and Someday" will feature sculptors Lila Katzen and Sue Fuller and poet Ntozake Shange in future programs.
"The Creative Line" continues through Nov. 19, and is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
One happy fact of life in the art world is the longevity of so many artists, with Miro, Chagall, Henry Moore, Georgia O'Keeffe among the most illustrious living examples. Oskar Kokoschka, for heaven's sake, turns out to be alive and well and living in Switzerland at the age of 92. He will have a show at the Phillips next year.
The subject comes up this week because so many artists born before the turn of the century happen to be having shows in Washington at the moment. The much beloved teacher Sarah Baker, who was born in 1899, is showing some charming early watercolors and drawings from her sketchbooks at Bader Gallery, 2124 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Celebrated Mexican painter is having a somewhat belated (and also very dated and derivative) retrospective at Pyramid, 2121 P St. NW.
Werner Drewes, born in 1899, is showing vigorous new etchings from the '70s. at Harlem, 2121 P st. NW, along with abstract paintings. Both reflect Bauhaus skills and esthetics, with an up-to-date freshness of color and from which lapses only occasionally among modernist curves "Enforced Separation" and "Counterthrust" reaffirm his unquestionable painterly powers thru Nov. 11.
Meanwhile, new artists continue to proliferate, and Yvonne Carter, upstairs at Fendrick, 3059 M St. NW, is showing folded, bent and colleged paper pieces which also incorporate the wisps of watercolor gesture seen in her last show.
Oddly, Carter's sculptural abilities turn out to be more authoritative here than her painting, which seems almost tentative in comparison.
Most successful are the pieces wherein the painting and folding relate in some meaningful way, but one is left with the thought that Carter may have sculptural abilities that should be explored. Closes today.