From Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” to the Marvel Universe, bodily transformation has been portrayed as something extraordinary. Yet it’s an inevitable part of what local artist Deborah Schindler calls “The Wheel of Life,” which she depicts in a black-and-white linocut of youth and age in rotation. Even perspectives spin with the years, as Schindler demonstrates with her other contribution to “Metamorphosis,” a 13-artist show at the Washington Printmakers Gallery. Made more than two decades before the mmore recent print, “Roda da Vida” (“Wheel of Life” in Portuguese) is similar in format but simpler in composition.
While Schindler takes a philosophical view of physical change, other participants highlight the metamorphic quality of their artistic methods. Mostly grouped in sets of two or three, the selected works illustrate how a photograph, painting or drawing can transfigure into a print, or how different versions of the same image can conjure disparate moods. The subjects tend to be simpler than the techniques: Rosemary Cooley and Nina Muys offer floral still-life monoprints that began as, respectively, a charcoal drawing and a watercolor, while Keith Palmer exhibits a dog portrait as both original photo and subsequent linocut.
Palmer is one of several artists who includes the matrix that produced the print. Most theatrically, Ron Meick divides two drypoints — one red, one blue — with a perpendicular barrier that happens to be the inscribed acrylic sheet used to print them. The use of a plastic blockade between the pictures is apt, since the mirrored images, seemingly abstract, in fact depict the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Photographers Elizabeth Sullivan and Clara Young Kim double a single scene in alternate ways. Sullivan presents the view through a rain-smeared window in both color and black-and-white versions; Kim combines two shots of a lotus garden into a multiple exposure that achieves an otherworldly feel. The photo that Leslie Rose modified into three screen prints is also on display, but her handsome, subtly hued prints, “Variations on a Pine Branch,” don’t look much like their source. Reduced to faint crosshatching, the tree’s needles come to resemble the scratches of an engraver’s tool. The likeness may be accidental, but it suggests a deep affinity between subject and technique.
Metamorphosis Through May 2 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
Worrell and Blakeslee
Pink is not always an insipid color. Elicited by sunlight at dusk or dawn, and juxtaposed with more emphatic hues, shades of pink can beguile and tantalize. That’s what they do in the landscape-inspired paintings of Justin T. Worrell and Katherine Blakeslee, which use very different modes to represent very different types of skies.
In the Art League’s “Breath on Glass,” Worrell uses oils to depict evenings where the air appears simultaneously weightless and heavy. The skies may be predominantly gray or blue, but are tinted by various sources of natural illumination. The moon and its reflection echo each other in several of the pictures, and phantom sunlight radiates from behind clouds, leaking rose and orange. The paintings appear almost photographic from a distance, but close inspection reveals they’re rendered with assured spontaneity.
The Virginia artist is a student of tonalism, the 19th-century American movement whose biggest names are George Inness and James McNeil Whistler; he took the show’s title from Whistler’s advice on how to apply paint. Unlike Whistler, Worrell avoids urban scenes, but the exact setting isn’t significant. “I do not paint landscapes,” notes the painter’s statement. Rather than freeze a particular moment, Worrell seeks to capture the exaltation such an instant can spark.
Since Blakeslee works primarily in watercolor, she naturally makes pictures that appear more delicate than Worrell’s. Her “Connections,” at Foundry Gallery, is titled after the horizon line that separates some of her compositions between robust blue seas and skies of white and light azure, mottled with the palest pink. Whether the hour is early or late, the sun hangs close to the break between Earth and the heavens.
The Maryland native varies the view with close-ups of water and plants, some of which approach abstraction. Most of the smaller pictures are punctuated with metallic-gold blots, which effectively contrast the aqueous pigment. Scattered across “Sea Bed,” the gold looks like both sand and treasure.
Justin T. Worrell: Breath on Glass Through May 2 at the Art League, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.
Katherine Blakeslee: Connections Through May 2 at Foundry Gallery, 2118 Eighth St. NW.
In her second show at Mehari Sequar Gallery, Jamilla Okubo continues to employ the thematic and visual motifs of the first: fashion design, African folklore and silhouetted figures whose flatness is offset by dynamic, dancerly poses. But the D.C. artist’s “I Do Not Come to You as a Myth, I Come to You as a Reality” introduces a new element by featuring collage-paintings modeled on canvases by Artemisia Gentileschi.
The 17th-century Italian Baroque painter is not simply a rare example of a female artist from the period; she also highlighted women, mostly biblical heroines, in her pictures. Okubo appropriates such Artemisia scenarios as “Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy” and “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” replacing their central characters with Black women in cutouts of dresses with African-inspired patterns. These constitute one sort of female archetype in Okubo’s art; the other variety is a Bantu woman, her body adorned with blue crescent moons, her hair knotted in hornlike twists and her feet clad in tiger-stripe boots.
The artist, who is of Kenyan and Trinidadian heritage, does not emulate Artemisia’s romantic-realistic style. Her large paintings use bold, unmixed colors and make no attempt to simulate depth. Visually, they’re characterized by size, simplicity and energy. Okubo’s pictures aspire to be as elemental as the stars, suns and moons that appear in nearly all of them.
Jamilla Okubo: I Do Not Come to You as a Myth, I Come to You as a Reality Though May 6 at Mehari Sequar Gallery, 1402 H St. NE.