The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In the galleries: Circles of life at annual benefit for people living with cancer

Melissa Burley’s multi-orbital construction, which she created for “Alchemical Vessels,” on view through May 4 at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery. (Tom Wolff/Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery/Melissa Burley)
Placeholder while article actions load

Over its six-year run, Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery’s “Alchemical Vessels” has switched its chosen vessel from bowl to box and, now, to a circular wooden panel. The premise remains the same, as does the alchemy. More than 100 artists transform, personalize or even conceal a simple object. The project is a fundraiser for the Smith Center, which assists people affected by cancer.

As usual, many of the artists adapted customary motifs and techniques, exploring a new format for familiar ideas. Wooden circles are covered with paint, ink, found objects and more to yield pieces as direct as Jackie Hoysted’s candylike orange and white lozenge, or as baroque as Melissa Burley’s multi-orbital construction.

Julia Bloom painted her circle black, as the backdrop for a scaffolding of blue-painted sticks. Michael Russell turned his panel sideways, as part of a coffee-table-like structure. Several contributors squared circles in various ways. A half-dozen artists covered panels with fabric, thread, buttons, embroidery and the like.

Some attacked their panel with knives or saws. Mike Walton cut his into circular strips that rise and fall in a Frisbee-like oscillation. Emily Fussner streamlined a circle into an art deco emblem. Terence Nicholson carved the outline of an urn and surrounded it with Chinese characters for elemental forces such as fire and water.

Neither mysticism nor minimalism is required, but the format does suit pieces such as Carrie Stubbs’s lovely “Eclipse,” whose two adjacent circles are slightly yet profoundly different. It’s a hymn to archetypes and eternity, as well as alchemy.

Alchemical Vessels 2018 Through May 4 at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U St. NW. 202-483-8600.

That's Why I'm Here

Even on the highway, travelers are presented with make-believe scenery. These incongruous fictions are the subjects of witty photographs by Kim Llerena, one of the five artists in “That’s Why I’m Here,” at Marymount University’s Cody Gallery. Llerena focuses on pastoral lakes, trees and mountains — as pictured in paintings and photos on walls, a truck and even a vending machine.

The road-tripping show takes its title from Jordan Rathus’s semi-fictional video, which visits tourist attractions such as elaborate topiary and a Nordic lake heated by geothermal energy. Where the video globe-hops across geographically unconnected locales, Cynthia Connolly’s elegant handmade book depicts one journey across the United States in 26 accordion-folded pages. “East West: Trucks Driving, 1999” was actually photographed in 1993, as the artist navigated from Los Angeles to Washington.

Although the images in “East West’s” photomontage are high contrast, they’re not as distilled as the roadside vista in Kyle Bauer’s “Knee High by the Fourth of July.” The sculptor uses blond wood to represent identical stalks of corn, planted in neat rows in rectangular fields. He writes that he hoped to evoke the “slow-motion lucid state” of staring out the window on long car trips through farm country. But the piece also illustrates another way that humans inscribe artificial patterns on the natural landscape.

That’s Why I’m Here Through May 5 at Cody Gallery, Marymount University Ballston Center, 1000 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington.

Rogers, VanAmeyden

& Owen

Call them totems, fetishes or talismans — the objects on display in Montgomery College’s Silver Spring arts building contain the power of nature and memory. Pam Rogers’s “Fierce and Fragile” consists of more than 40 small drawings and 3-D constructions, depicting or made of leaves, twigs and other bits of forest. The raw materials of Ginger Owen and Vicki VanAmeyden’s “Heritage Habitats” are old family photos, but they’re grouped to make literal the idea of family tree.

Owen and VanAmeyden collaborated on three large pieces, including “Roots,” a horizontal banner in which the faces of their ancestors are linked by branching tendrils or veins. The photo-transferred faces are reversed to make them appear spectral and distant, partly lost to the past. “Grove” consists of 26 hanging panels that also feature vintage photos. Most of these vertical curtains touch the ground but are not anchored like trees. Moving through the fluttering fabric suggests an encounter with ghosts as much as a walk in the genealogical woods.

Rogers works on a smaller scale, yet with fecund results. Her drawings incorporate everything from soil and plant pigments to gold leaf; the parts are often tied together with string, although one is fused with what seems to be melted plastic. The artist calls her style “botanic magic realism,” and it combines traditional nature illustration with intuitive use of found objects. Unlike Owen and VanAmeyden, Rogers doesn’t directly portray a human presence, but mankind’s quest to understand and transform nature is essential to her work.

Pam Rogers: Fierce and Fragile; Ginger Owen and Vicki VanAmeyden: Heritage Habitats Through May 4 at Open Gallery and King Street Gallery, Montgomery College, 930 King St., Silver Spring. 240-567-5821.

Barbara Liotta and Perla Krauze

In 2016, the Mexican Cultural Institute presented a project that traced the 1821 border between the United States and a Mexico that then extended much farther north than it does today. The venue’s current show also ponders the border, but in a more poetic mode. Indeed, “A Dark and Scandalous Rockfall” takes its title from a line written by Mexican poet Pedro Serrano.

The site-specific pieces are collaborations between Mexico’s Perla Krauze and the District’s Barbara Liotta. The latter is known for arranging small shards of rock that dangle — heavy and light at the same time — on white cords. In these installations, the stone fragments often hang above Krauze’s layouts of slate blocks, stacked against walls to resemble miniaturize bulwarks or mountain ranges.

Also included are graphite rubbings of stone veins and rifts, as well as striking arrays in which areas of blue set off the mostly gray color scheme. But the central idea is to juxtapose Krauze’s grounded constructions with Liotta’s airy fragments, which might represent stars or snowflakes. The gallery’s note calls the collaboration “a healing gesture, recognizing our shared history.” A hard rockfall could be a soft rain.

A Dark and Scandalous Rockfall: Barbara Liotta and Perla Krauze Through May 5 at the Mexican Cultural Institute, 2829 16th St. NW. 202-728-1628.