The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the galleries: At U-Md. space, “UN/Sustainable” contemplates the environment

George Lorio. "Sea Rise," 2016 in The Stamp Gallery. (George Lorio/The Stamp Gallery)

Anyone looking into the University of Maryland’s Stamp Gallery while strolling past will immediately know where she or he, symbolically, is: walking on waters that may well inundate humanity. On the other side of the venue’s glass wall, George Lorio has placed a shard of white roof, jutting from the floor and buffeted by black-painted lozenges whose scalloped tops suggest waves. The piece, titled “Sea Rise,” uses just a few pieces of beautifully crafted wood to exemplify the environmentally themed show’s title: “UN/Sustainable.”

Water levels both surge and recede in the five artists’ work. Katie Kehoe is showing video from her ongoing project to visit low-lying coastal areas, outfitted with the proper gear to surf the imminent waves. But she also offers two photographs of wooden docks that jut into dried-out lakes, the forlorn structures now purposeless.

Samantha DiRosa’s video seascape gazes across the Pacific from California to the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. At first, the vista seems peacefully detached from the catastrophe 5,069 miles away. But those aren’t ordinary clouds in the distance: The artist has created composite footage of hydrogen explosions at the power-generating facility, and the silent blasts become more conspicuous as the video progresses.

Zelda Zinn’s “Perpetual Plastic” is a series of photos of single plastic bags, each arranged as if it were a botanical sample. One bag sports images of strawberries, a fruit as perishable as plastic is eternal.

There are also flowers in Susanne Slavick’s drawings on photographs, which contrast intricate Persian-manuscript-style illustrations with stark pictures of burned-out Iraq War wreckage. Even when not in combat, the U.S. military is an environmental hazard, the artist writes in a note on her work, since it is “the single largest domestic consumer of petroleum.”

In addition to highly finished wood, Lorio works with bark in such constructions as his elegy to wildfire-devastated Paradise, Calif. His memorial is a wall-mounted pillar of hand-like forms, painted black as if charred. Lorio’s other floor piece is a tic-tac-toe game, similar in execution to “Sea Rise.” This game is a serious one, because it’s the artist’s conception of the scramble to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. While such trips are not always motivated by environmental issues, “UN/Sustainable” anticipates a world where desperate exoduses become only more likely.

UN/Sustainable Through July 12 at Stamp Gallery, Adele H. Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland, College Park.

Spiritual Wanderlust

If nature is a sort of temple, the white-sand dunes photographed by Megan Dunbar are a particularly austere edifice. Dunbar’s pictures are one example of “Spiritual Wanderlust,” the title of the show now at Latela Curatorial. All eight contributors are photographers or videographers, but their modes range from realism to symbolism to abstraction.

Human and landscape nearly merge in Marisa S. White’s photos of nude women, one wearing a twig crown that obscures her face. An unclad man bows before a large white circle on one of Andres Mario de Varona’s black-and-white pictures, which hint at religious ritual. So do Kelvin Burzon’s assemblages, which place photos and Bible text inside elaborate wooden frames. Most alarming are Ashley Moog Bowlsbey’s photos of women, sacrificial victims of some sort, swathed in what appear to be stained bandages.

Harder to place in a spiritual context are Melissa Jessell’s lovely pastel abstractions; Victoria Ridgway’s collages of old snapshots; and Sue Wrbican’s video of a sculpture in motion before a glistening backdrop.

Gallery notes reveal the subjects of the show’s most enigmatic images, those made by Jessell and Bowlsbey. Jessell’s were shot through a broken prism that yielded softly fractured light. Bowlsbey’s portray not modern-day mummies but women wrapped in cosmetic-removal pads smeared with makeup. If those explanations lessen the mystery, they don’t entirely banish the pictures’ haunting effect.

Spiritual Wanderlust Through July 13 at Latela Curatorial, 716 Monroe St. NE, No. 27.

Prism VII

For the seventh summer, Cheryl D. Edwards has turned her Brookland studio into a gallery for a show in her series “Prism.” This year’s subtitle is “Beginnings.” The five artists, who include Edwards, treat the theme in ways that range from personal to environmental.

Photographer and photo-collagist Gregory Staley flags moments in his family’s history, incorporating pictures of his maternal relatives from a century ago. Jase Clark’s prints achieve metaphorical and literal depth, in part by overlapping images on layers of clear plastic. Elsabe Johnson Dixon enlarges simple forms inspired by beehives, here wall-mounted or suspended from the ceiling, to highlight natural phenomena and humans’ oft-ignored place amid them.

Painter Brooke Marcy expresses similar concerns in self-portraits that meld her face (or a single eye, in one case) with those of various animals. The ink-stained expanses of Edwards’s work also suggest nature, perhaps at the cosmic or microscopic level. In fact, her shaped canvases depict what she terms “Spiritual Memories” that seep from one generation to the next. Flowing through these pretty pictures, Edwards explains, is the trauma of African slavery in the Americas.

Prism VII: Beginnings Through July 15 at C.D. Edwards Studio, 716 Monroe St. NE, No. 9.

Laurel Hausler

“Dogtown,” the namesake of Laurel Hausler’s show at Morton Fine Art, is a real place: an abandoned Massachusetts town that literally went to the dogs. But it’s also a state of mind, one that has much in common with the outlook of the Arlington artist’s previous exhibition, “Ghost Stories.”

Like the earlier pictures, these feature spectral presences, mixed-media contrasts and compositions dominated by darkness. So the most surprising of the newer works is “Midnight in Dogtown,” in which a sketchy rendering of a human figure is framed by upside-down black drips and dwarfed by fields of bright orange and red.

The selection includes a few small pieces that employ found objects and encaustic, a mix of wax and pigment. More common, though, are expressionist drawing-paintings that combine pencil marks with oil and gouache. These appear vehement, yet rough in places. It’s as if Hausler leaves openings in case any spirit might seek to enter.

Laurel Hausler: Dogtown Through Wednesday at Morton Fine Art, 52 O St. NW, No. 302.