When artist Richard Chartier was growing up in Springfield, his mother said he listened to the refrigerator as if it were an instrument. "The sounds that we don't necessarily pay attention to are very interesting to me," he says.
Now 28, Chartier has found a creative outlet in sound art, something he describes as "painting with sound." Most nights he can be found sitting in front of his computer, generating bleeps, clicks and other noises that constitute his brand of minimalist, ambient music. "I still like the sound of the refrigerator. It's got that calming, white-noise kind of sound," he says.
Chartier is one of several local sound artists whose work can be heard on what he dubs the "sound magazine" Audiophfile, a new sonic art project based on the Web. Nomads, a Washington-based arts organization, created the bimonthly Audiophfile to give local and international audio artists an exhibition arena. A loosely knit collective of artists and administrators, Nomads has been around for nearly two years and exists entirely on the Web at www.nomadnet.org. Until now its primary offering has been the e-zine Massage, which features highbrow art essays and reviews.
The recent introduction of Flash 4.0 technology, a program that streams sound and video over computers, made it possible for Nomads organizers to launch Audiophfile. Flash 4.0 can be downloaded for free at www.macromedia.com. Headphones are recommended for the best listening results.
Steven Bradley's sound art band, SFS, will give its first live performance at Audiophfile's launch party tonight at the Goethe-Institut. Bradley, a Nomads board member, plays a personal computer, Sean P. Monagan works on a laptop, and Felix Mercado covers two keyboards. "All three of us have had musical training but we're not interested in melody," says Bradley, 47, a professor of visual arts at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (his band-mates are current or former students). Instead, SFS, derived from the artists' first initials, tapes everyday sounds, amplifies them and then patches them together. One of the tracks includes the voices of boys playing in a pool spliced with the sound of a hand-held eggbeater in a steel bowl. "I'm interested in contrasting sounds," says Bradley.
Chartier and Bradley think their sound work complements their painting. "Although they are not always related, both kind of inspire the other," says Chartier, who did an installation of sound and visual art earlier this year for the Washington Project for the Arts' "Fuzzy" show. Although sound art is not as well known here as it is elsewhere in the country or in Europe and Japan, "I'm sure there are people out there who might dig it," Chartier says. "It might turn people on to something new and different, which is exactly what D.C. needs."
The launch party tonight from 6 to 9 at the Goethe-Institut, 814 Seventh St. NW, is free and open to the public.
The flamingos are back, in all their pink plastic glory. With the help of rock climber Roger Birch, Mariah Josephy recently hung her flamingo flock in her huge front-yard beech tree in Northwest Washington. Josephy calls the installation, her fifth, "Into the Blue."
To the initial chagrin of her neighbors, Josephy started decorating her property with the birds about 10 years ago after a visit to Trinidad and Tobago. During that trip, she spent a sunset watching thousands of scarlet ibises return to their roosting trees and turn the branches a brilliant red. "The image of that just stuck in my mind," she says.
Back in Washington, Josephy decided to create her own rookery, the name of her first installation. Every so often she switches the display. At one point the birds marched across the lawn ("Thin Red Line"), then they seemed to disappear ("Underground"), and she even put them in a cage ("Caged"). But Josephy, a sculptor, thinks this will be the final encore. The flock, once 52 strong, is now down to 45 and the flamingos are getting brittle. She plans to leave the birds, which are tied together with special kite string, there until they fall.
Through the years the neighbors in her cul-de-sac have come around to her decorations, says Josephy. "They've sort of adopted them," she says. "One even said to me, 'There's a tree in the way and I can't see them.' "
Pyramid Atlantic's sixth Book Arts Fair takes place this weekend at the Corcoran Gallery. More than 300 exhibitors from South America and the United States, including a handful from this area, will take over three floors to show and sell their handmade papers and books. A juried exhibit of book art will be on display in the museum's Hemicycle Gallery. The biannual fair also features a lecture series and demonstrations. The fair takes place Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daily admission is $4 or $10 for all three days. For information call 301-459-7154 . . . A free closing party (complete with deejay) for the WPA/Corcoran's "Options 99" show will be held from 8 to 10 tonight at projectspace, 625 E St. NW. For information call 202-639-1828 . . . Today at noon, American-based Pakistani artist Shahzia Sikander will give a talk about her new exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The free talk takes place in the museum's Ring Auditorium.