"The first step is seeing just what you are," says feminist artist Judy Chicago. "I hope this disturbs men, because they've beenlooking in a false mirror for too long." Referring to the agonized visages of the people in her new works, she says: "This is what they really look like."

The forthright Chicago has never been shy about controversial statements, especially through her art. Her most famous works include "The Dinner Party," an enormous table set for important women through history, and "The Birth Project," a graphic representation of birth and its role in the life of women. Both have been collaborative efforts because of their large scopes, involving many helpers under Chicago's direction.

Her new show, "Powerplay," at Wallace Wentworth Gallery in Dupont Circle until September, is a one-woman effort that depicts men as unattractive victims of society's "powermania." In mediums ranging from tapestry to cast paper, men wreak destruction with guns and their own hands, all the while feeling despair, the toll these acts take on their own humanity.

"I call them sympathetic," says the usually confrontational Chicago. "Bearing the burden of power is a painful and disturbing thing." This cruel-to-be-kind attitude does show in the works, done in soft, round lines and bright colors.

Chicago is happy to be showing her work in the nexus of power -- Washington, D.C. "I could not have picked a better place to show how power destroys," she says with a smile.

News on the Hill

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy last week reintroduced the Visual Artists Rights Act, which he first sponsored last fall. The complicated bill addresses three major concerns of artists: copyright notice, moral rights and resale royalties. First, it would provide full copyright protection to all works of fine art. Second, it would protect the art after it has been created, giving the artist the "moral" right to prevent alteration or even destruction by future owners. Last, it would allow artists, who generally don't get whopping prices on original sales, to share in the wealth as their work later increases in value. "The creative arts are an expression of the character of the nation," says Kennedy. "This legislation will be a test of the value we as a nation place on the arts."

De'tente

"There was a real feeling of good will in the air," says Fritzi Cohen, president of the Washington, D.C.-Moscow Capitals Citizens' Exchange, which raised close to $20,000 from its Bolshoi Ballet send-off last week. The group bought a block of 500 seats for the Bolshoi's last Washington performance and raised money by selling the tickets and throwing a preperformance dinner party and a goodbye cast party after the show. The Bolshoi's energetic performance of "Raymonda" brought the crowd to its feet for many standing ovations, and enthusiastic Americans were thrilled when most of the cast showed up at the party later. Despite the language barrier, many tried to talk to the dancers, who seemed shy and exhausted. The troupe leader gave the organization a pair of ballet slippers as a token of thanks, declaring, "It's gatherings like this that bring our countries together."

Byron Peck's Metro Murals

Local artist Byron Peck, who's done a number of exciting murals throughout Washington, will now have a wider venue when posters he has designed for Metro go up all over the system. Touting the family tourist pass, which allows four people unlimited use of Metrorail and Metrobus for a day for $5, Peck has quirkily captured groups on their way to Washington spots, from the routine -- the Capitol -- to the more in-the-know -- the Uptown movie theater.

This Week

For the final week of its summer youth employment program, Arts D.C. will show off its summer bounty of dance, drama, comedy revues, music and theater at the Post Office Pavilion on today, tomorrow and Thursday starting at noon. Included in the program are Everyman Street Theatre and the Lettumplay Summer Youth Jazz Ensemble today; the D.C. Youth Ensemble's musical revue and the the Blues Alley Cats tomorrow; and the African Heritage Dancers and Drummers on Thursday. Call 727-3412 for more information ... "Fiber Expressions: The Contemporary Quilt" is now at the Textile Museum through the end of September. The 50 quilts range from abstract geometric designs to bold pictorial images ... The outdoor pick of the week is the Navy Commodores at the Armed Forces Jazz Festival at 1 p.m. next Sunday at Wolf Trap. It's free. Call 433-2525 for information.