To convey the quality of something that’s missing is a formidable technical challenge for a visual artist. Doing so can also function as a metaphor, as Sam Husseini demonstrates in “Invisibly Present/Visibly Absent,” his Gallery Al Quds show. A Jordan-born Marylander of Palestinian heritage, the artist applies paint to natural materials that disappear, whether largely or entirely, in the finished work.

The most imperceptible of Husseini’s ingredients is snow. He sticks it to a canvas and then covers it with layers of sprayed paint. When the snow melts, it leaves dried ponds and rivulets amid the textured, multihued pigment. Since Husseini often employs earthy and metallic shades, the craggy finished paintings sometimes suggest topographical renderings of the artist’s sandy ancestral region. He titled one “Cradle” after noticing that two prominent fissures resembled the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Traces of other natural elements, among them flowers and even remains of dead birds, persist in some of the paintings, although not always identifiably. One picture is made entirely of the natural tints left behind by decayed leaves; others incorporate grass or spider webs. Husseini also paints on found objects, including a car radiator and window screens. The latter were partly inspired by the much more conventional pictures found on old Baltimore rowhouses.

Husseini, who also works in journalism, is not the sort of artist who stays mum about his interests and references. Each of his works comes with an explanation, which can be quite involved. In addition to musing on dispossessed Palestinians and the relationship between the United States and the Arab world, the painter invokes the Tao Te Ching’s teachings about the universe’s natural order. He has named one canvas “Accelerate,” for an R.E.M. song, and another, the uncharacteristically pretty “Gain-of-Function,” for the term used by biological research labs for making a pathogen more lethal. Husseini “sought to co-mission Nature as a collaborator,” explains his statement, but his paintings depict a world where humanity and the world are profoundly out of balance.

Sam Husseini: Invisibly Present/Visibly Absent Through Oct. 31 at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al Quds, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW. Open by appointment.


The signature image of Washington Printmakers Gallery’s “ReEntry” may surprise those who know the gallery as a venue for only, well, printmakers. A redhead’s hair swirls in bright blue water in Sandra Chen Weinstein’s photograph, whose vibrancy suits the show’s title and theme. These days, photography is as welcome at the gallery as etching or screen printing, and is well represented in this diverse, appealing selection of work by WPG members.

Among the more traditional offerings are Nina Muys’s monoprint of three clustered flowers, blazing red and blue, and Cynthia Back’s black-and-white woodcut of a rustic creek, which uses a welter of simple lines to convey the complex effects of light on water. Rosemary Cooley elegantly layers wood grains and leaves or water drops in lacy monoprints that are nearly abstract yet rooted in natural forms. Amy Guadagnoli does something similar, yet to a very different visual effect, in striking woodblocks whose simple, bright-colored patterns are overlaid with bold black strokes that evoke winds or waves. In the same spirit but even freer is a vivid Carolyn Pomponio monoprint that layers green and black gestures with the brashness of an expressionist canvas.

Trees are a central subject, notably of several artists who take a digital rather than organic approach. Matina Marki Tillman combines drawing and computer collage in a print that, aptly, shows a woman dissolving into a tree trunk. Helga Thomson digitally cuts, pastes and melds photos of trees, juxtaposing recognizable solidity with details that appear more delicate and mysterious. Ron Meick divides a forest scene with strips of papery plastic, overlapped and backlighted to highlight the individual parts. As these ethereal yet photo-based images indicate, the line between hand- and computer-crafted printmaking has blurred into insignificance.

ReEntry Through Oct. 24 at Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

Agua Parada

Conceived originally as a summertime show and inspired by curator Paula Martinez’s Brazil childhood, “Agua Parada” takes its title from the Portuguese for “still water.” The theme isn’t explicit in most of the pieces in this Rhizome exhibition, but some of them do address environmental topics. That begins with Natty McAlpine’s terrarium layered with composting materials and topped with sprouting plants; this dirt-becomes-art (or vice versa) project sits on the porch of the Takoma bungalow that holds the alt-culture space (but probably not for much longer, since the building is in redevelopment’s path).

Inside, the rest of the work ranges widely in media and touches on other shared motifs, including global origins, political issues and record collecting. Rhizome is best known as a music venue, so it’s apt that “Agua Parada” includes two sound pieces: Kenyan-born SollikeSoul’s recording of overlapping vocal drones and Fabiola Ching’s prose poem about her youth in Cameroon, recited by her via video. Musically but mutely, Em Aull’s painting-collage of a New York-like street scene includes a fragment of the cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Their Satanic Majesties Request.”

Most of the painting and drawing is of the naive school, but Kat Lyons shows more finesse in her picture of an ant in a blazing forest, inspired by California’s wildfires. Also well-crafted, if less traditional in form, are entries by Natalie Ochoa, Emma Hendry and Tam-anh Nguyen. The pliant tube of Ochoa’s stuffed-fabric sculpture suggests a worm, but the gray color and embedded lamp reveals that it’s actually a cartoonishly soft rendering of a streetlight. Hendry’s sconces, made of mirrors wrapped in neon, glow either hot or very cold: red (shaped like hearts) or blue (caskets). Nguyen’s fence is a series of curving rods that suggest wrought iron but are actually wax candles. They’ll be lighted periodically, so by the end of the show the wall should have disintegrated just as surely as the shredded paper in that terrarium.

Agua Parada Through Oct. 17 at Rhizome, 6950 Maple St. NW. Open by appointment.