The artists of “Nature in the Walkable City” may not all have architectural training, but the District Architecture Center show does emphasize precise rendering. Whether depicting flowers or buildings, animals or statues, the 14 participants favor crisp accuracy over looser or more subjective modes. The closest thing to an abstraction here is Kappy Porsch’s realistic close-up, executed in watercolor and color pencil, of a sycamore tree’s patterned bark.
Most of these paintings and drawings focus on specifics, in form if not necessarily locale. Eva-Maria Ruhl’s pigeon and S.M. Wilson’s heirloom tomatoes needn’t be indigenous varieties. The cascade of fan-shaped ginkgo leaves in Roberta Matthews Bernstein’s “Shade for Dinosaurs” riffs on that tree’s 250-million-year-old lineage, not on its frequent use on D.C. streets.
The selection, however, is not short on local color. Two artists picture Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and Ruhl offers multiple views of Rock Creek Park. More architecturally, Donald Beekman Myer meticulously illustrates the streamlined art-deco facade of the General Services Administration’s West Heating Plant.
Myer is well represented among the show’s most fanciful pieces, in which natural objects mutate into stone or brick. His “Asparagus Maximus” erects a massive spear inside the outline of the Washington Monument. And inspired by a corncob-derived capital on a column designed by Benjamin Latrobe for the U.S. Capitol two centuries ago, Myer conceived capitals based on dandelions and runner beans.
In a series of drawing-paintings, Ellen Tuttle demonstrates how to turn a faithful portrayal of an owl into a stylized, decorative motif.
The direction of the transformation is less clear in Debbie Bankert’s “Awaken the Lion” series, whose animals are part tawny fur, part stone or concrete. The title suggests that the lions, escaping from architectural imprisonment, are about to be reborn free.
Nature in the Walkable City On view through Oct. 3 at the District Architecture Center, 421 Seventh St. NW. 202-347-9403. www.aiadac.com/sigal-gallery/current-exhibition.
Ginkgo leaves also appear in one of Susan Feller’s mixed-media collages in “Shifting Terrain,” an exhibition at the BlackRock Center for the Arts that pairs her work with that of Janet Wheeler. The two local artists share a subdued palette and a lyrical outlook on loss, decay and possible renewal. Where Wheeler’s “Nests” include feathers and broken eggs, Feller’s “Rusted Intentions” swirl wax over jagged circles and brownish-red fields produced by oxidation. Feller’s “Construct” series is more colorful, but earth and metal tones characterize most of this work.
Feller’s surfaces are mottled, sometimes stained with coffee rather than rust, and thickly worked. Wheeler often places found or purchased 3-D objects — the eggs and feathers are reportedly artificial — in Louise Nevelson-like boxes. Her “Totems” are mostly hanging wall pieces, although one of them is a free-standing grove of six bamboo stalks. Wheeler builds things, but she’s no architect. Rather than borrow natural forms for decorative elements, she convenes them for shamanistic power. In her art, nature is not a distant model but an ever-present force.
Shifting Terrain: Mixed Media and Assemblage by Susan Feller and Janet Wheeler On view through Sept. 12 at the BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown. 301-528-2260. www.blackrockcenter.org/galleries/current-exhibits .
“Ejecta,” the current show at Flashpoint Gallery, is credited to artist Anthony Cervino, and Shannon Egan is identified as the curator. But Cervino and Egan are married, and some of the pieces are as much about her as him. “Folie a deux,” for example, combines a desk from Cervino’s father with a desk from Egan’s mother. Both parents are now absent from their children’s lives, and the desks are wedged together so that they support each other.
If that’s poignant, other works are intentionally off-putting. A figurine and adjacent text tell the story of a cartoonish mouse who’s in a pose that can’t be described in polite company. Mickey would be mortified.
“Ejecta” refers to objects expelled from such violent events as meteor impacts and volcano eruptions. But the six wooden cases dubbed “The Ejecta” are filled with manufactured objects, not natural ones. Some of them are odd, yet far from explosive. “At Once Was I” is a collage of plastic model-plane parts in a pool of congealed gray paint. It’s half abandoned hobby, half Pop Art combine.
Not all of the artworks involve found objects. The show’s highlight is “Archimorph (Duplex),” a hanging wooden birdhouse with a second abode upside-down below the top one. It’s intriguingly bewildering to gravity-bound creatures but might seem entirely reasonable to ones that can fly.
Ejecta: Anthony Cervino On view through Sept. 12 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW. 202-315-1305. www.culturaldc.org/visual-arts/flashpoint-gallery.
Some things are guaranteed at Watergate Gallery’s annual show of paintings from Haiti’s Rainbow Gallery: vivid colors, bustling market scenes and primitivist jungle tableaux with animals that are native to Africa, not the Caribbean. This year’s selection also features many playful experiments in form. There are extremely narrow paintings, such as Blanc’s exuberant vertical slice of, yup, a busy market.
Equally entertaining is the way Chery Smith’s “Le Sirens” continues onto its frame, as if the picture just can’t be contained.
There are some lush landscapes, notably Jean Adrien Seide’s mountain-and-seascape in which sky, water and land are all in vivid blues, and Abot Bonhomme’s jungle scene, prodigiously green but punctuated by red flowers and parrots. Realism and fabulism combine in two intricate canvases by Kens Cassagnol, who depicts seedpods or fruit hanging amid foliage. From a distance the pictures appear naturalistic, but a closer look reveals that within each bud is a tiny landscape. It’s a bit of visual gamesmanship, but also a way of representing tropical fecundity.
After closing at Watergate Gallery, this show will move to Tenleytown’s Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church for a six-week run.
Colors of Haiti On view through Sept. 24 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-4488. www.watergategalleryframedesign.com. Sept. 27-Nov. 9 at Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, 3401 Nebraska Ave. NW. 202-363-4900. www.nationalchurch.org.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.