The sensory landscape of Landover Dental Associates -- the medicinal smell, the high-pitched whine of the drill, the staff members in scrubs and rubber gloves -- leaves something to be desired. An art show by two local men who usually display their work in more traditional art spaces may just be that something.
Since last month, approximately 30 pieces by Hyattsville artists Hampton Olfus Jr. and Donald McCray have decorated the walls of the large dental office, which sits between Marshalls and RadioShack in Largo Town Center. The exhibition, called "Parallel Lines," pairs Olfus's bright, Caribbean-inspired paintings and McCray's black and white photography and etchings.
Olfus organized the show for the office, where he has been a patient for 30 years. The former curator of the ArtSpin Gallery in Hyattsville branched out on his own after it closed last year, opting to leave the Hyattsville Community Artists Alliance, which ran the gallery, at the same time.
"It was time to move on and do different things. I figured it would be easier for me to do it alone than with a group. . . . You always have to compromise within a group, and I'm at the stage where I don't want to do that," said Olfus, who also works as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.
His last major solo show was in February at a resort in Negril, Jamaica, which he has visited annually since 1981. The country's influence is apparent in his work -- vibrant scenes depicting Caribbean landscapes in rich earth tones, sand in the foreground and mountains in the distance. Olfus's colorful work contrasts with that of McCray, whose black and white images run the gamut from portraiture to ocean waves.
The pair met as teenagers in Glenarden and belonged to the area's active community of artists and musicians during the 1960s and '70s. Although work by both has appeared in group shows in the past, this is their first joint exhibition.
Olfus doesn't see exhibiting his art in a dentist's office as an indignity. He said he enjoys the freedom he is granted within the space. After "Parallel Lines" closes, he will continue to curate shows there.
"I'm looking just to do other things," Olfus said. He is interested in and inspired by working with artists in other media, he said. Olfus said he hopes his shows, particularly their opening receptions, reflect this interest: "I want you to see it visually, but also for you to involve your ears, your nose, your taste buds, your heart."
And no, he's not talking about the sound of Muzak or the taste of fluoride. With each upcoming exhibition, Olfus plans to stage a festive celebration, similar to the one he organized last month to launch "Parallel Lines," incorporating live music, spoken word and dance.
"Every time we do a show I want something different, so audiences can always be excited about something," the artist said. "The people I'm working with now are like-minded. It's good to change up and reinvent yourself and find people on the same page."
"Parallel Lines" runs through Aug. 27 at Landover Dental Associates, 932 Largo Center Dr., Largo. There is no charge to enter the office, which is open weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 301-322-8900.