The show was juried by Nate Larson, who chairs the photography department at the Maryland Institute College of Art (and whose photo essay on Waterford, Va., is on display at Greater Reston Arts Center). His choices are diverse, including the nearly abstract, such as Rick Ruggles’s studies of light patterns cast on painted lines, and documentary series such as Benjamin C Tankersley’s portraits of AARP-age skateboarders and Dorcas Tang’s observations of a beauty pageant for women of Chinese descent in Costa Rica.
Several participants, including Michael Berry and Sarah Hood Salomon, render ghostly black-and-white forest scenes, although only Michael Borowski does so with LIDAR, a visual counterpart to SONAR. Kim Chevez used a drone not to photograph but to illuminate her eerie images of massive busts of U.S. presidents from a failed Virginia tourist attraction. Jon Malis uses technology to document technology, making close-ups of his own devices, while Catherine Day evokes the past by printing onto multiple layers of silk and antique fabric.
Other contributors put as little distance as possible between emotion and the viewer. Trish J. Gibson quietly photographs sites from a “personal history of abuse.” Mercedes Fernandez depicts a young man of color who nearly vanishes into whiteness, wrapped in an ivory hoodie. Most intimate is Nat Raum’s “Eventually I Will Learn to Stop Saying Sorry,” a sequence of confessional remarks and self-portraits. Rather than hang on the wall, these are bound into a handmade book whose cover provides a thin protective barrier from the revelations within.
Captured Light: Current Photographic Processes Through Dec. 21 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown.
There are photographs, the art form for which Marissa Long is known, in her “Borrowed From Dust” at the Arlington Arts Center, where she is a resident artist. But the show mostly seeks to apprehend lost moments and lingering memories by means of domestic objects. Plates, jewelry and a comb are among the things displayed, sometimes playfully. An arrangement of candles, for example, drips with wax even though the glimmering flames are electric lights.
The few photos are intentionally hard to read. A black-and-white picture of a flower arrangement has a black void at its center, and a stark UV portrait of a veiled women is printed on silver mylar that reflects the viewer’s image atop the photographic one. Such distancing tactics are echoed in the 3-D assemblages. One is inside a box that faces a tilted mirror, which offers just a partial, indirect view of the contents. Silk flowers inside a transparent box are painted with chrome pigment so that they, too, appear hard and shiny.
The most mysterious item is a segment of free-standing concrete wall with a narrow, meandering ledge. The crumpled cigarette on the ledge is not the only hint of human presence. Acrylic teeth stud the barrier’s top, and simulated fingers are embedded in the surface, as if a person is entombed within. Although most of the show suggests the difficulty of keeping memories, the wall might represent the struggle to escape them.
Marissa Long: Borrowed from Dust Through Dec. 22 at the Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
Abramson & Hirons
Landscape artists Cathy Abramson and Jean Hirons maintain studios at Artists & Makers in Rockville and are exhibiting at the arts center of Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus, which could hardly be more suburban. Yet most of the vignettes in Abramson’s “Dreams of the Underground” and all of the ones in Jean Hirons’s “Winter Light” are urban.
Abramson’s oil paintings “investigate the stories of the city,” her statement notes. Perhaps that should be “beneath the city.” The title picture observes a lavender-haired woman in Dupont Underground, and the other locations include underpasses and parking garages. Another form of submersion is the partial obscuring of a figure under glass. There are several views through glass, yielding images that appear to split across multiple planes. Abramson’s stories are fractured and distorted, and all the more intriguing for that.
Gazing at the Georgetown portion of the C&O Canal, Hirons finds drama in nature’s intimacy with the abutting industrial structures, as well as the way sunlight plays on the water. Hirons often works from black-and-white photos, whose scenes she colorizes as she renders them in creamy pastels. Some pictures contrast cool blue water with patches of hot orange light; others pit reflected images against areas of blank brightness. Hard edges contain liquid water but also fluid illumination, in pictures whose pigments are as soft as the phenomena they depict.
Cathy Abramson: Dreams of the Underground and Jean Hirons: Winter Light Through Dec. 23 at Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, Northern Virginia Community College, 4915 E. Campus Dr., Alexandria.
Patrick M. Craig
Some say the world will end in fire, and if it does, the congealed remains may resemble less artful versions of Patrick M. Craig’s sculptures. The artist melts plastic found objects so as to manipulate them into 3-D collages that fuse formal invention with social commentary. Modest in size, the wall-mounted pieces in “Relief” fit the corridor display space of Portico Gallery, which is just a few miles south of the University of Maryland, where Craig teaches.
There’s lots of gloppy orange in these assemblages, which pull hot hues off the toy-store shelf (or out of the recycling bin). While some of the transfigured items are unrecognizable, others retain the essence of their original character. One sculpture arrays a field of clear-topped push pins, and another plants a forest of half-deformed silver-colored forks. The largest piece ponders the primacy of the drugstore in American life by dotting a sea of semi-liquefied tubes and bottles with the logos of leading pharmacy chains. Craig’s creations connect the ancient artistic interest in mutability with the newfangled conundrum of disposability.
Patrick M. Craig: Relief Through Dec. 21 at Portico Gallery, 3807 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood.