Moods, relationships, community, friendships. What do they look like? How do you capture them on paper? How does one put a face on feelings and inanimate objects?
Artist Avis Fleming believes she accomplishes just that with her figure drawings. In her collection of drawings, "Sunday Series: African American Images," Fleming illustrates emotion and attitude and takes the traditional portrait to new heights. The 21-drawing series is the feature exhibition at the Alexandria Black History Resource Center.
Using gestural drawing techniques, Fleming bends lines and manipulates curls to depict her subjects in everyday moments. While her models pose in a studio, on paper, Fleming places them in a setting that suits the mood of the pose.
"Sunday Stroll," for example, shows models Bill Hutton, Marye Elizabeth Carter and her daughter, Camille, looking beyond the frame into a colorful brush of a tropical park. Beneath their feet lies a grayish trail, sprinkled with stones.
The series is a culmination of three years of work by Fleming, who lives near Middleburg, Va., and has worked for several years with black models in the figure drawing class she teaches at the Art League School at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria.
"Sunday Series" is a tribute to the friendship Fleming shares with the models featured in her works. In the years that Hutton, Carter and Georgia Mickens have posed for Fleming's class, the group has established a comfort so close that each regards the others as family.
"These three models help me get across a sense of freedom," Fleming said.
"All three have extremely expressive faces."
Each of the models has a deep interest in art. Hutton, 64, a Fort Washington resident, is a retired IBM project manager and restores old houses. Mickens, 76, who lives in Natick, Mass., is a trained sculptor. Carter, 45, who lives in Alexandria, works as an assistant facility manager at George Washington Recreational Center in Fairfax but dances in her free time.
Audrey Davis, curator at the Alexandria Black History Resource Center, decided to exhibit Fleming's work after receiving a recommendation from another artist. When Fleming came to share her series with Davis, she was immediately taken.
"I was so compelled by the story she told of her relationship with the models," Davis said. "The drawings feel so alive."
"The Sunday Series: African American Images by Avis Fleming" is on display through March at the Alexandria Black History Resource Center, 638 N. Alfred St., with an entrance on Wythe Street. The museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.