Greenery can be a spiritual pick-me-up in the days of bleak midwinter. So it’s worth knowing that, through Jan. 30, the Embassy of Argentina is hosting “Interpretation of Trees,” an exhibit of arboreal-themed work by Buenos Aires-born artist Felisa Federman. The mixed-media-enhanced paintings are displayed in the embassy’s ballroom-style Oval Room.
When she was invited to supply work for the exhibit, Federman decided to explore the physical landscape of Argentina, eventually narrowing her focus to the country’s trees. In general, her aesthetic tends toward abstraction. “I don’t like to do realistic art, because I think that the person that observes [should have to] to work a little bit,” she said in a telephone interview shortly before the exhibit’s opening. Abstraction forces a viewer to become a participant in an art work, so that the viewing process “is not just passive,” she said.
But this particular project seemed to call for more naturalistic treatment. So in evoking the ombu tree, which thrives on the pampas, Federman drew attention to the plant’s famed shade-creating properties; she gave the image a perspective that slants up at the spreading canopy of boughs, and she depicted animals idling in the shade, at ground-level.
Also included in the exhibit are portraits of cactuses, silk floss trees and autumnal lenga trees whose leaves create a firmament of orange and yellow. A couple of the images are significantly stylized. In particular, a piece titled “Anahi’s Legend” presents a red-tinged field seeded with multiple renderings of a woman’s face. The work alludes to a story about an indigenous woman burned to death by the conquistadors. From the ashes of that execution, it is said, a red-flowered ceibo tree bloomed.
While the artworks in “Interpretation of Trees” look flat from a distance, they are for the most part subtly textured, often with bits of fibrous material, such as netting or twine. Federman, who lives in Maryland, has long been drawn to working with fiber: Her fine-arts training in Buenos Aires included studies in weaving and hand-made paper and fiber construction. She says she thinks that her affinity for such craft may be connected to her childhood memories of seeing her mother knit and embroider.
It doesn’t come wrapped in a bow, but for a musical professional, the city of Vienna “is a gift.” So says soprano Sera Gösch, who was raised in Istanbul, but lives in the Austrian town that was home to Mozart, Beethoven and other musical luminaries.
“I love to be here,” the singer exclaimed happily in a Skype interview from her home. In Vienna, she pointed out, “You go into the street and everywhere is history! You feel the music!”
If Vienna is a gift, this is the time of year when Gösch gets to do some re-gifting: She is one of the artists performing in “Salute to Vienna,” the New Year’s-themed concert, at Strathmore on Jan. 4. Gösch previously sang in an edition of “Salute to Vienna” in Canada in early 2014.
An homage to a Viennese tradition, the “Salute to Vienna” series has been popping figurative champagne corks across North America for two decades. On the lineup with Gösch at the upcoming Strathmore performance will be Hungarian conductor András Deák, Austrian tenor Michael Heim, the Ukrainian dance troupe the Kiev-Aniko Ballet, and more.
The program — which includes operetta numbers, polkas and immortal Strauss dance tunes in three-quarter time — “makes you happy and joyful,” says Gösch, 32. “After the concert, you can waltz on the street.”
Watching New Year’s concerts on television was a regular tradition for Gösch’s family when she was growing up in Istanbul. She went on to pursue music in more systematic fashion, studying at Vienna’s Konservatorium Wien University. In recent years, she has sung the role of Constanze in Mozart’s “Die Entführung aus dem Serail,” performing in various European metropolises, as well as on tour in Asia. Her other credits include solos in Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” in Bonn, Germany, and “St. John Passion” in Rome.
In “Salute to Vienna,” she’ll embrace operetta, including material from Franz Lehár’s “Giuditta” and from Emmerich Kálmán’s “Die Csárdásfürstin.” She’s particularly fond of the Kálmán solo she sings, channeling “Die Csárdásfürstin’s” cabaret-star heroine. “She is a sparkly character, and there are many high notes, and that’s fun to sing,” Gösch says. “Also, the orchestral part is very richly written. It’s beautiful music.”
The “Salute to Vienna” tour will take Gösch away from her beloved Vienna for a while, but there are compensations. The soprano is making her U.S. debut on this tour, but, while performing for international arts lovers in Vienna, she has learned that American audiences are particularly demonstrative.
“They show their feelings” and have a “really open heart,” Gösch says. For a performer, “this is a really, really wonderful thing.”
Wren is a freelance writer.
Interpretation of Trees, paintings by Felisa Federman. Through Jan. 30 at the Oval Room of the Embassy of Argentina, 1600 New Hampshire Ave. NW. Exhibit on view Monday through Friday, 3 to 5 p.m. Visit www.embassyofargentina.us and select the “Culture” tab.
Salute to Vienna. Jan. 4 at 3:00 pm at the Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda. Visit www.strathmore.org or call (301) 581-5100.