Government doesn't enthrall Jewel Gross Brenneman, and politics really isn't her thing.
But the Elkridge sculptor managed to capture Bill, Hillary and what she calls "the rogues from Capitol Hill" in her 1997 clay bust, "Head IX," which is on display at the Montpelier Cultural Arts Center.
The sculpture is a bust of President Clinton with the faces of his family and most of Washington's political players etched on it.
"It's not a political statement at all," Brenneman explained at a recent luncheon for artists whose works are displayed in the exhibit, "Up From the Earth: Clay in Sculpture."
"I just liked the form: [Clinton's] baggy eyes and squishy face," she said.
Brenneman used newspaper photographs as models for the piece, on which Paula Jones (pre-nose job), Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and her predecessor, Warren Christopher, all make appearances. But since the sculpture was completed before the Monica Lewinsky story broke, the infamous intern is not depicted.
Other sculptures in the exhibit are blaringly political, as indicated by their titles. In Millicent Young's "Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Your Nightmare Will End," the Charlottesville-based artist laments the violence and turmoil in those places.
"I use a lot of text, with people telling their stories, which makes it a more personal voice," said Young, who teaches part time at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. "I'm trying to show a place where these survivors are transforming their own paradigm."
Arlington sculptor Andrea Uravitch got the inspiration for "Sleepers" from the Woody Allen movie of the same name, in which the president dies and all that's left of him is his nose. The piece features dozens of clay noses mounted on a board. They are various shapes and sizes: Some have flared nostrils; others are bumpy.
"For me, [noses] are the essence of people," Uravitch said. "The sculpture is about different kinds of people put together."
Other contributors fashioned forms that mimic natural landscapes. Nic Galloro's childhood on the Florida shores informs his clay sculptures. The semicircles with toothlike spikes on their inner rims resemble seashells. Towson University professor Tom Supensky's sculptures combine natural and man-made subjects; one depicts birds perched atop a camera. Alexandria-based Susan Cohen's ceramic slab paintings portray simple forms inspired by outdoor scenery.
"Up From the Earth: Clay in Sculpture" is on view through Aug. 24 at the Montpelier Cultural Arts Center's Main Gallery, 12826 Laurel-Bowie Rd., Laurel. Admission is free. For more information, call 301-953-1993.
CAPTION: Jewel Gross Brenneman's "Head IX" is a bust of President Clinton.