Daniele Piasecki’s “Nature’s Right of Way – Planter of Sorts.” (Torpedo Factory Art Center)

A show titled “Habitats” could be homey, but that’s not the vibe of Target Gallery’s current group exhibition. Selected by D.C. artist Ellyn Weiss, a former environmental lawyer, the 22 artworks represent mankind in conflict with its environment.

Nature is winning in Daniele Piasecki’s photo of an abandoned car and James Maria’s watercolor of a derelict industrial site; both depict technological objects recolonized by vegetation. Yet humans continue to intrude, as illustrated by Michael Marks’s print of mountaintop-removal mining and Laura Ahola-Young’s drawing, incised into a sea-and-sky scene, of undersea oil-drilling gear. Both pictures are partly abstract yet precise in their implications.

The distinction between organic and mineral melts in several pieces. Delna Dastur’s mixed-media painting juxtaposes shapes that are straight and curved, realistic and fanciful. The honeycomb forms of Corinne Beardsley’s sculpture suggest a human body that’s almost entirely returned to Earth. Ceci Cole McInturff’s assemblages are made of such animal parts as fur, feathers and a horn, pillaged “in the service of beauty,” the artist’s statement notes.

Other contributors serve beauty by alchemizing trash. Christina Hunt Wood’s fringed metal construction is made entirely of beer and soda cans found along a road in her rural New York community. J.D. Scott’s “Plastiglomerate” is both abstract painting and relief sculpture, its cracked, mostly black strata made of paint, graphite, plastic bags and a bicycle tube. Think of it as a core sample of the contemporary world.

Habitats Through Sept. 22 at Target Gallery, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.

Cole & Dickson

Installed at the BlackRock Center for the Arts just in time for hurricane season, Frank Cole’s collage-paintings present a vision of radiance and disaster. Most of the pictures in “Rebuilding the Sky” combine thickly textured acrylic pigment with other 3-D elements, including stones, wooden strips and metal rods. The results demonstrate Cole’s skills as a representational painter but are sufficiently improvisational to embody the randomness of a tropical tempest, its tumult intensified by global warming.

A Virginia-bred Marylander who used to live in Florida, Cole also makes small mixed-media works, largely drawn with pencil, of the outline of the Sunshine State. These bear such accusatory titles as “Liar” and “Fake the Aquifer,” while the paintings have their titles stamped right into the image. The violent reds and yellows of “Damaged Sunset” tell a story, and Cole wants everyone to comprehend the moral.

Also at BlackRock, Michelle Dickson is showing sculptures and drawings that meld human and wood. The sculptures, exhibited previously at local venues, begin with battered pieces of found wood. The Baltimore artist transforms these into haunting self-portraits by adding wax, plaster and paint that both complement and supplement the wooden shapes.

What’s new in this show are portraits on wooden panels, rendered in colored pencil augmented by paint and resin. The images of women other than the artist herself include carved areas that reveal the material’s grain and texture. Rather than emerge from wood as the sculptures appear to do, the pictures seem to be retreating into it. Either way, Dickson suggests both fragmented consciousness and the unity of mankind and nature.

Frank Cole: Rebuilding the Sky ; Michelle Dickson: Neither Mine Nor Yours Through Sept. 14 at BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Dr., Germantown.


Doug Dupin’s “Baby With a Death Ray.” (Doug Dupin)

Sculpture Etc.

Entering the sunken plaza that’s home to Watergate Gallery, visitors will probably first encounter Jeremy Kunkel’s sculptural assemblage, which places artificial turf and blue-painted concrete birds on the blades of a found metal wheel. A few more of the birds are inside the gallery space, where they seem to have just wandered in. That’s fitting, since the venue’s “Sculpture Etc.” is a peripatetic show. It meanders in and out, up and down.

The “Etc.” refers to a small cohort of paintings, notably Tatiane Silva Hofstadler’s elegant landscape-like abstracts. But most of the work is sculptural, whether scaled to fit the gallery or so large that it must be outside. Among the latter are Sam Noto’s memorial-like “Those Who Wait,” which hangs segments of steel girder inside a cage, and Mike Shaffer’s “Monument to the Midday Sun,” a spire of wooden slats daubed hot yellow. Smaller but well-suited to the outdoors are two of Dalya Luttwak’s painted metal vines, which crawl on the parapet above the plaza. Follow them to the upper level to find Doug Dupin’s playful “Baby With a Death Ray,” in which a doll sits on a weapon-like assemblage, monitoring the skies for alien invaders.

Several artists render soft forms in hard materials. Constructed mostly of found-metal parts, Eric Celarier’s creatures evoke insects and crustaceans, while Jane Pettit’s sculptural mosaics include “Garden Sentinel,” a towering flower. Much smaller yet sky-scraping in spirit is J. Ford Huffman’s “Metropolis.” Its tightly grouped structures resemble buildings, their mostly white facades embellished with primary-color rectangles in the style of Mondrian. Combining painting, sculpture and architecture, Huffman’s diorama exemplifies “Etc.”

Sculpture Etc. Through Sept. 21 at the Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW.

Friends of Michael Platt

More than 30 artists, billed as friends of Michael Platt, contributed to “Just Do It,” a tribute to the beloved photo-collagist and art teacher who died suddenly in January. Some of the strongest entries in the Honfleur Gallery show are by Platt himself, or feature his benevolent visage.

In addition to a self-portrait, the selection includes three other depictions of Platt: Luis Peralta Del Valle’s painting on a graffiti-splashed orange traffic sign; Debra E. Tyler’s silhouetted photo with superimposed leaves; and Mark Walker’s white-on-black mixed-media piece. There’s also a collaboration in which Katherine Mann overlays a drawing on one of Platt’s photo-derived figures.

In recent years, Platt was known for earthy tableaux, often featuring Australian aboriginal women and printed on a fabric. This show has two examples of this work, plus expressive pieces by Anne Bouie, Lilian Burwell, Sheila Crider and Barbara Frank that echo Platt’s eclectic mode, if not his particular method. Platt taught artists how to put diverse things together, a lesson these friends learned well.

Just Do It: Friends of Michael Platt Through Sept. 28 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE.