Still-life painter Stephen Tanis of Wilmington, Del., wraps tables -- and occasionally a chair -- in cloth and then paints them head-on as still lifes. Working in oil, he is more the traditional "painterly" painter, taken with the purely sensuous pleasure of exploring color and texture in light. It is something that he -- and a lot of other people -- do well, though Tanis continually challenges and stretches his skills with increasingly complex textural compositions. In two paintings he also includes nude female figures, but they are lifeless and easily upstaged by the surrounding passages dealing with draped fabric.
Tanis succeeds best when he is able to infuse a sense of presence into his still lifes, and that actually happens in two of the paintings in this suite -- one entitled "Draped Table" and another called "Pomegranates" -- in which he drapes a conical, hanging lampshade with filmy white cloth, focusing the light downward onto the fruit. He manages to evoke, in this painting, an almost human presence, a sense that the pomegranates have come alive. In fact they have come alive as paintings, exuding the kind of magic that is often lacking elsewhere in the show. In "Kuniyoshi & Chair," he takes the easier course pursued by John Stewart, letting the subject -- rather than the painting quality -- create the mystery. His show continues at Haslem, 2121 P St. NW. The show is open 11 to 6 through Saturday.