Judy Jashinsky derives inspiration from the art of classical and Renaissance Europe, but she doesn’t simply celebrate the past. She questions it, from both a feminist and a New World perspective.
Jashinsky’s “I’ll Take You There,” presented by Civilian Art Projects at CAOS on F, surveys her career from 1980 to 2015. The works, many of which depict historical Italy and Spain, include a painting of Columbus and Queen Isabella at the mosque at Cordoba.
The explorer is headed, of course, for the Caribbean and encounters with its peoples. Both the region and its inhabitants are among Jashinsky’s recurring motifs, represented here by a painting of an indigenous man with four colors of corn. The picture’s backdrop is not a blue sea or a green forest, but a field of sheer gold, the color of the prize the Spaniards sought.
Such detours from traditional realism are characteristic. Jashinsky, for example, paints on wooden panels, as medieval artists did, but she emphasizes the grain and natural hues. The images are guided by the medium.
The show’s epic piece is a drawing, executed on multiple sheets of paper that fill an entire wall. The mixed-media picture depicts the crowd that turned out in 1599 to see the severed heads of Beatrice and Lucrezia Cenci, who became popular heroines after their execution for killing their abusive father. The scene was memorialized by many artists before Jashinsky, but never with her mix of the elevated and the irreverent.
Judy Jashinsky: I’ll Take You There On view through April 19 at CAOS on F, 923 F St. NW. 202-607-3804. civilianartprojects.com.
“Cranes in Motion” looks at endangered Sandhill and whooping cranes from various angles and via assorted media. The VisArts at Rockville show even includes a crane that looks back.
Cathy Cook’s photographs and videos are based partly on research in Nebraska, the only state along the birds’s central flyway that bans their hunting. (The Maryland artist also spent time in Wisconsin and at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel.) A video shows a conclave where dozens of the long-necked, spindly legged birds flock at a wetland hangout. In an extreme-close-up photo, an orange avian eye stares from a red face.
In a nifty CGI piece, a crane skeleton comes to life, and even takes flight. Even more fanciful is “Mimicking Whooper,” designed with gaming software. People who walk into range of this video will encounter an animated crane that flies down to greet them. The slightly cartoonish bird then imitates — as much as its physiology allows — the viewer’s movements. This is not an accurate representation of crane behavior, of course, but the birds are known for being sociable with their own kind. Cook’s simulation makes gallery-goers into honorary cranes, at least for a few flutters.
Cathy Cook: Cranes in Motion On view through April 24 at Kaplan Gallery, VisArts at Rockville, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville. 301-315-8200. visartscenter.org.
Veteran local printmaker Lila Oliver Asher has a classic style, which suits her often-classical subjects. Her show at Iona Senior Services, where she’s artist in residence, includes scenes from Greek myths and the Old Testament. These are rendered in blocks of somber color and with clean lines, often reversed into black and occasionally accented by red: for fire, say, or an Edenic apple. Other favored subjects include lovers, children and the arts.
Born in 1921, Asher taught at local colleges (mostly Howard University) from 1947 to 1991. Her areas of expertise include drawing and watercolor, both of which are included in this selection. But she remains best known for her linoleum-cut prints, a form whose technical limitations don’t fetter her at all. The memorable images in this show range from everyday scenes to gently erotic reveries to moments of great literary drama.
Asher knows how to frame a composition for maximum impact, and she sometimes twists conventions. “Airport Mother and Child,” for example, turns a traditionally serene subject into a frantic one. Most often, though, she makes a virtue of directness. Her art’s power comes not from the unexpected, but from presenting familiar themes with exceptional craft and grace.
Lila Oliver Asher On view through April 27 at Iona Senior Services, 4125 Albemarle St. NW. 202-895-9407. iona.org.
In Jessica Kallista’s self-styled “biomythography,” Northern Virginia is a realm of tract homes, voluminous 1950s-style skirts and the costumed ax-wielder known as the Bunnyman, who supposedly haunts a bridge in Clifton. But where does all the marine life come in?
The Fairfax artist’s cheeky collages feature fish and mermaids, as well as the occasional octopus, including a red one posed with what seems to be a depiction of the artist herself. (The juxtaposition suggests the famed image of Patty Heart with the SLA logo, or maybe that 1975 Jefferson Starship album.) Aqua is one of the principal colors, although rather than the sea it could represent bygone interior-design tastes. In the largest piece, a Jetsons-style short-hop flying saucer hovers over what might be Burke or Annandale. Perhaps the most dated thing about the suburbs is how futuristic they were once thought to be.
Jessica Kallista: Dear Suburbia On view through April 24 at Fisher Art Gallery, Northern Virginia Community College, 4915 E. Campus Dr., Alexandria. 703-323-3000. nvcc.edu.
The view can be mostly land or primarily sky, or an distillation of either, in Georgia Nassikas’s paintings. The McLean artist’s Athenaeum show features simple compositions, often little more than two areas of color separated by a hint of a rock fence or a row of trees. Yet the ground is densely heathered, and the sky richly streaked. The lush textures are created with brushwork, sometimes supplemented by scratches, and with pigment mixed with wax from Nassikas’s own beehives.
The selection includes a few paintings in which the geometric forms turn explicit, and fields and air become clearly defined rectangles. The most immersive canvases, however, retain a sense of landscape. Such pictures as “Still Looking Over” shift from abstraction to realism as the loosely painted foreground leads toward a more solid sense of place.
Georgia Nassikas On view through April 24 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria. 703-548-0035. nvfaa.org.