Nikki Painter, “Home,” 2013, Mixed media, model wood, collage on foam core; on view at the Greater Reston Arts Center. (Courtesy Nikki Painter/Greater Reston Arts Center )

There are many ways to draw a line, so long as it needn’t be thin, flat or straight. In “LineWorks: Drawing Redefined,” lines bend, overlap and even curve in midair. There is very little traditional drawing in the Greater Reston Arts Center show, which includes sculpture and video.

Foon Sham does contribute works on paper — pencil drawings that incorporate small pieces of wood. But these are overshadowed by the local sculptor’s large curved piece that combines rings cut from trees and arranged by relative width. It’s graceful yet craggy, in the manner of a tree. Richmond’s Nikki Painter constructs crypto-architectural models, often using fluorescent paint. Her “Eclipse” is mostly black-and-white, with the loud colors intriguingly concealed under or inside white forms.

Ohio artist Sarah Weinstock films things in motion, using high-contrast imagery to obscure the identity of the seemingly dancing objects. Her two video pieces could be animated pencil or crayon drawings, full of jiggling dots and dashes. But they actually show smoke, ash and embers, all prancing in midair. Local artist Lee Gainer also begins with photographic images, reducing them to line drawings, intricately overlaid on solid-color backdrops, to illustrate how memory is layered in the brain.

That makes Gainer’s work a natural pairing with that of Sarah Irvin, a Virginia MFA candidate whose art is inspired by her grandfather’s fading memory. Irvin writes words on nonabsorbent synthetic paper and then smears the text with a squeegee. The pieces, each named for a single forgotten word, are a poignant expression of loss. But they’re also beautiful simply as form and texture. With their vertical format and contrasting opaque and translucent tones, they suggest Asian calligraphy that’s without or — more optimistically — beyond language.

LineWorks On view through Jan. 3 at Greater Reston Arts Center, 12001 Market St., Reston. 703-471-9242.

Foon Sham, “Yew #2,” 2009, yew wood, pencil on paper, 16.5” x 23.375”; on view at the Greater Reston Arts Center. (Courtesy Foon Sham/Greater Reston Arts Center)
Preserving Our Heritage

There are no renderings of kiwis or genetically modified soybeans in “Preserving Our Heritage: Native and Heirloom Plants,” whose theme is stated in its title. But what’s most remarkable about this show at the Athenaeum is the painstaking craft of the contributors, who are all members of the Botanical Arts Society of the National Capital Region. Large gestures are pointedly absent from these artworks, which are mostly, but not exclusively, watercolors. Each tiny flick of the brush is equally important.

Admittedly, the eye is drawn toward pieces that add an unexpected detail or counterpoint: Carol Tudor Beach’s yellow pond lily, set off by a spotted brown toad; Margaret McPherson Farr’s passionflower, complemented by a butterfly, or her composition of three different blooms. But Esther Carpi’s red beet, Mary Paige Hickey’s Christmas fern and Lee Boulay D’Zmura’s radish are no less precisely rendered. And if there’s one thing that encapsulates the subtlety of these pictures, it’s the yellow of Bonnie S. Driggers’s wood poppy — soft and pale, yet as memorable as any shriek of red or black.

Preserving Our Heritage: Native and Heirloom Plants On view through Jan. 4 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria. 703-548-0035.

Michelle Peterson-Albandoz

Repurposing pieces of abandoned structures from her Chicago neighborhood, Michelle Peterson-Albandoz constructs works in which wooden strips substitute for brush strokes. Her “New Work” contains less painted wood than her previous Long View Gallery shows, although pieces such as “Weave” are punctuated by red strips and segments.

The artist’s style is very orderly, if not always Euclidian: Two of these constructions arrange wooden pieces in a series of gyres, suggesting a sea full of whirlpools. More often, though, the slats are aligned straightly, recalling hard-edged 1960s minimalism; one all-black piece is titled “Stella,” after Frank Stella’s pinstriped “Black Paintings.” But where the minimalists’ work was clean and methodical, Peterson-Albandoz’s use of found wood makes her pieces ragged and irregular. That adds a needed tension to work that can sometimes appear merely decorative.

Michelle Peterson-Albandoz: New Work On view through Jan. 4 at Long View Gallery, 1234 Ninth St. NW. 202-232-4788.

And We Have Countries

The title of the exhibition, “And We Have Countries,” at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds, is taken from a poem by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. “Imagination opens to its source and becomes reality’s terrain, the only true place,” he wrote. Not all of the 44 participating artists, however, turned inward. Among the several works that depict walls and borders are Phoebe Farris’s crisp photographs of sky behind chain-link fences and John Halaka’s eloquent image of a face superimposed on a landscape, a piece that’s mounted on a nest of barbed wire. Nida Khalil’s mosaic landscape is dwarfed by its weathered, green-painted frame, which also suggests barriers.

As might be expected in a show keyed to a poem, some of the artworks, all 6 inches by 8 inches, include text that’s mostly, but not only, in Arabic. Sarra Hennigan presents Darwish’s words in Hebrew, stained with coffee and olive oil. Yet not all of the artists make direct references to the poet or his land. Andrew Courtney’s piece, a ceramic child’s face inside a box, evokes the idea of home by being made entirely of materials he found on his property in Upstate New York.

The show offers affordable pieces ($300 or less), and some of the pieces have been sold as gifts and are now represented only by a photo. That’s not altogether satisfying but is understandable.

And We Have Countries On view through Jan. 6 at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery Al-Quds, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-1958.


Another affordable-art show that’s missing a few purchased pieces, Target Gallery’s “5x5(x5)” specified even smaller dimensions. The five-inch-square format is suitable to the black-and-white photos of Floydetta McAfee, who does vivid portraits, and Jo Ann Tooley, who gently depicts old, battered wood structures. There’s a mix of old and new in Jodi Patterson’s portraits of what appear to be a Civil War-era man and woman, rendered in the shadows cast by lines painted in white on clear vinyl.

Among the sculptural pieces are Seunghwui Koo’s assemblages of tiny pig figurines, as well as two that combine old and new: Susan Silva’s is suggestive of old box cameras and includes bits of those devices, and Steve Wanna has taken advantage of the “(x5)” part of the show’s formula with a white cube that combines an audio speaker and plaster rosettes like those that flank door frames in older houses. It’s a cabinet of architectural tradition, miniaturized for today’s 5x5 (or smaller) world.

5x5(x5) On view through Jan. 18 at Target Gallery, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria. 703-838-4565, Ext. 4.