Artist and activist Monica Jahan Bose was born in Britain, lives in Washington and has recently staged or planned performances in Miami, Paris and Athens. But no spot is more fitting for her climate-themed work than Katakhali, her mother’s ancestral village in Bangladesh, which is among the countries most at risk from rising sea levels. “Weather the Storm,” Bose’s Civilian Art Projects show, includes the contributions of women who live in Katakhali, near the swelling Bay of Bengal.
In the middle of the gallery hang handmade saris, previously used in performances and decorated with a woodblock-printing method that Bose learned in Katakhali. On one wall are prints the artist made with woodcut and other techniques; on the other are her impressionistic paintings of her performances. These are documented by two videos of her waterfront rituals, one of which occurred along the Anacostia and involved homeless women from Calvary Women’s Services.
Much of the visual imagery involves water, fish or fabric. Bose draws from the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Prize-winning Bengali author whose lyrics were adapted for the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh. (Bose gives a Tagore song a feminist tweak, changing “boatman” to “woman.”) The suspended saris include comments written by the artist’s female collaborators, including Bangladeshi women who didn’t learn to read and write until they became adults.
The paintings, all horizontal, feature blue seas and swirling pink saris. They’re rendered in a loose, drippy style, perhaps in an attempt to convey the vigor of the events they depict. The prints, mostly vertical, are tidier and more assured. Although such elegantly composed pictures as “Bay of Bengal (Shad Fish)” could be visions of nature in balance, “Rising” and “Surge 2” are more foreboding, and more reminiscent of textile design. The contrast between traditional handicraft and urgent communique is striking, but then it’s everywhere in this multilayered show.
Monica Jahan Bose: Weather the Storm Through April 21 at Civilian Art Projects, 4718 14th St. NW. 202-607-3804. civilianartprojects.com.
Northerners’ fascination with humid climes gets bent in “Queer Tropics,” an eight-artist survey that includes painting, photography, video and multiple varieties of collage. Transplanted to Transformer from New Orleans’s Pelican Bomb Gallery X, the show isn’t quite a selection of dispatches from the global South. The contributors work in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City, although some can trace their roots to warmer locales.
The allure of warm breezes and lush foliage might be called erotic. So it’s, well, natural for Adrienne Elise Tarver’s cut-together greenery to meld foliage and female bodies, and for Pacifico Silano to assemble gay-male porn images that include potted plants.
Kerry Downey conflates mapmaking with breast-removal surgery in a graphite rubbing, “Territories I.” Carlos Motta's semi-fictionalized historical videos recount European explorers’ first shocked encounters with indigenous sexual practices in the region that would become known as Latin America.
Fabric is essential to much of the work. Victoria Martinez’s glittery banner incorporates objects found in the Mexican American Chicago neighborhood where she lives. Ash Arder’s sound piece evokes a failed 19th-century trial of machines designed to strip ramie fiber so it could used for textiles.
Madeline Gallucci’s curtains draw on vivid colors and patterns from clothing and hotel-room decor. Joiri Minaya’s wallpaper, which specifically recalls a banana-leaf pattern used at the Beverly Hills Hotel, frames a photo of the artist tightly and completely wrapped in a leaf-print cloth sack. The artist’s sinuous body appears to be both emerging from and returning to the jungle — or somebody’s idea of the jungle.
Queer Tropics Through April 21 at Transformer, 1404 P St. NW. 202-483-1102. transformerdc.org.
Regina Miele is a Washington artist who addresses a central issue of being a Washington artist: escalating property values. In a set of recent paintings, some of which are included in Honfleur Gallery’s “Through the Looking Glass, Urban Perspectives,” Miele evocatively depicts the sort of quickly vanishing local warehouse and industrial buildings that once held artists’ studios.
Much of this show, however, documents a building, identified as 65 Mott, that looks to be in Lower Manhattan. A large 3-D scale model of the four-story structure is flanked by paintings of the inhabitants and their cluttered environments: A nude reclines on a bed, a cat plays inside a paper bag and the artist herself stands in an apartment, surrounded by furniture, an easel and a saddle.
Some of these pictures, reportedly inspired by the Hitchcock movie “Rear Window,” gaze into the building from outside. The result is voyeuristic but playful. Miele’s sketches of the views from the trains that hurtle from D.C. to New York are impressionistic yet gritty. Her Mott Street paintings, however, usher naturalism into a dollhouse-like setting.
Regina Miele: Through the Looking Glass, Urban Perspectives Through April 21 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE. 202-365-8392. honfleurgallery.com.
A world traveler who maintains studios in New York and Arizona, David FeBland often portrays people on the move. “Accidental Couple,” the largest painting in his Susan Calloway Fine Arts show, is characteristic in style and mood, if not setting. It observes a man and a woman pushed against each other in a subway car, an image that gently combines humor and discomfort. So do pictures such as “Road Trip,” in which a woman in a traditional bridal gown sits next to a disabled RV, somewhere in big sky (and abundant cloud) country.
The latter painting is among many that document life on or near secondary highways. The selection includes a half-dozen smaller pictures of battered small-town buildings, neglected if not abandoned structures that FeBland calls “relics of empire.” Like the larger canvasses, these vignettes feature intriguing details that encourage a closer look. Such inspection also reveals that the artist’s brushwork is looser than it appears from a distance. FeBland carefully examines the scenes he memorializes, but he strikes a keen balance between specific detail and overall impression.
David FeBland Through April 21 at Susan Calloway Fine Arts, 1643 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-965-4601. callowayart.com.