Up the stairs three flights, past crumbling plaster, shaky banisters and junk in the corners, Linda Swick inhabits three rooms filled by fantasy.
There a man-size sculpted fish holds a fin-ful of playing cards and reclines in a beach chair on the small, sunny balcony. The Cad Shark.
Rows and rows of dark, rich coffee beans cover the table in the center of the living room. The Coffee Table.
"I'm very literal about my work," Swick explains.
Between yesterday and Sunday afternoon, she and 26 other Washington artists will have opened their studios to the public at various times. They are participating in Open Studio, a project organized by Susan Strauss at the Washington Project for the Arts. It's the second of two consecutive weekends. Last week, artists downtown opened their doors; this weekend those in the Columbia Road/Mt. Pleasant area are participating. Maps and a complete list of the artists are available at the Washington Project for the Arts, 1227 G. St. NW.
Far from the white-walled austerity of galleries, visitors will enter a world full of energy, of works-in-progress and of artists willing to explain what they do and why and how. Each has a different story to tell. It's a world rarely seen by the public.
"I'm a little worried about it," Swick says, smiling, "because I'm really opening myself up. This isn't just my studio, this is my home, this is all of me."
She doesn't have to worry -- her sculpture is a delight. Since she moved to Washington two years ago from northern Florida, her fantasies have taken all kinds of form. Most of them cover the walls and fill the living room, bedroom and kitchen of her apartment.
Some portraits of other artists:
"A lot of the people have a difficult time with my material," says Leslie Kuter, who lives and works in a clutered apartment on Columbia Road, where she has been for 5 1/2 of the eight years she has lived in Washington. The walls are covered with lifesize and large-than-life cutout forms of people, drawn from life and art history.
Kuter's "material" is fiber hooked onto burlap the way a rug is hooked. "I think about it as though it were painting, but it's the shape that me. I wasn't interested in filling in the rectangles of a canvas. Most interest me. I wasn't interested in filling in the rectangles of a canvas.. Most people think painting -- oil or rlinen canvas, is the most prestigious kind of art. They are a little unsure of what to think about this.
"I've gotten used to people making dumb comments. I think I learned at an early age not to expect people to always know the right thing to say."
In her work, a baseball catcher crouches in a tight knot of energy in front of a sedate Thomas Eakins woman and an Egyptian sculpture out of the Metropolian Museum's collection. In another piece, a figure of Kuster as a child stands next to a portrait of her grandfather. The works are personal and public at the same time.
"There's no moral lesson in the work," she says. "I want to shock the viewer a little into seeing something he wouldn't necessarily see."
"I wanted a place where artists could work, not just printmakers," says Percy Martin, an etcher and lithographer. The small basement of his house in Mt. Pleasant has served as a print-making workshop for nearly eight years.
About a dozen of the other artists are members of Martin's W.D. Workshop. Each pays $140 a year for unlimited access to the work space.
"I wanted a support group for artists," says Martin."There are so many of us here tha when someone has a technical question one of us is bound to be able to answer it. This is not a place to show art. This is a place to make art."
On Saturdays, the workshop members tend to gather in the studio. There are occasional formal critique sessions, and frequent informal commentaries.
"For me what is important is the variety of images,' says Monique Binswanger, another workshop member. "It makes your mind richer in a certain way."
"I decided a year-and-a-half ago that I wanted to find a way to make a living doing what I liked doing best," says Steven Roberts, a silk-screen printmaker and wood sculptor who lives and works in a small basement apartment right across the street from the W.D. Workshop.
His bright prints with thin black outlines around each color and form hang on the wall, while large pieces of carbed wood -- in shapes that take their cues from nature -- stand around the apartment. His "cash flow," he says, is still not what he needs, but he is getting closer and closer to making it.
At 25, he wouldn't mind hurrying things along a bit.
"I plan on making art my own way, which means making beautiful things. I plan on being some place tomorrow, next year. I have dreams," says Roberts, "big dreams."