February 25, 2013

More press for Small Stories exhibition at MPA

At McLean Project for the Arts, tales go spinning into a world of strange

Old World gone wild at McLean Project for the Arts
Cartoonish paintings by Gregory Ferrand, Nora Sturges and Matthew Mann drop us into an eerie plot.
(Courtesy Gregory Ferrand/ McLean Project for the Arts )- Gregory Ferrand’s “Solitaire, Family,” acrylic on canvas, on view at the exhibit “Small Stories” at McLean Project for the Arts.
By Mark Jenkins,

Feb 21, 2013 11:32 PM EST
The Washington Post Published: February 21

Storytelling was blackballed from visual art by the 20th-century avant-garde, but it’s been creeping back in. Although the old narratives haven’t returned, today’s artists are keen to recount lesser-known tales, or recombine familiar archetypes in unexpected ways. Both things happen in “Small Stories,” an intriguing show of precise, but not exactly realistic, paintings at McLean Project for the Arts.

Nora Sturges, Gregory Ferrand and Matthew Mann all use styles derived more from illustrations than Renaissance canvases. Their work is cartoonish but impeccably detailed, representational yet eccentric. Sturges’s little pictures are blankly surreal, depicting vacant landscapes in American suburbia as well as what appear to be Old World deserts. Rendered in muted earth or snow-country tones, the paintings often fix on institutional buildings and mass-produced objects, including parking garages and precast-concrete barriers. The eerie “Tank” focuses on what seems to be a large shipping container, but the formal way it’s positioned suggests a sort of temple. Perhaps that’s how future anthropologists will see such now-commonplace places and things.

Ferrand’s paintings, which include a series of portraits, conjure the look of old Hollywood. The women have neatly bobbed hair and the men wear suits and ties — even when they’re running toward an airplane in one of the show’s most dramatic works, the red-tinted “Explosion! If only they knew what they know now.” Whether dream, hallucination or disaster-movie frame, the scene teasingly reveals that Ferrand knows what time it is: The plane in the background is a vintage propeller-driven model, but the woman at the center of the composition is clutching both a small dog and a smartphone.

Although his style is not classical, Mann flaunts his familiarity with Old Masters. Many of his pictures emphasize the intricate folds of flowing drapery, whose depiction is a hallmark of traditional painting. He partially paints over prints of famous artworks, and he remakes Fragonard’s “The Reader” with the young woman’s face replaced by a blue grebe’s (among other alterations). Mann’s magnum opus here is “Passion of St. George,” whose image stretches across four canvases of different shapes and sizes. The saint doesn’t appear, but there is a “Dear George” letter from the princess: She has run off with the dragon. That’s not how the fable used to go, of course, but the puckish rewrite is one way “Small Stories” justifies telling tales.

Rosemary Luckett, whose “Altered Terrain” is displayed along the ramp leading to the arts center’s main gallery, also takes a playful approach, but with serious intent. The collaged drawings depict a world where technology threatens everything that lives — even those creatures who designed and built the SUVs, bulldozers and industrial derricks that are among the show’s motifs. Despite ominous imagery, the tone isn’t grim. The artist is partial to rubber ducks, and she builds a forest from tree-shaped air fresheners and shows a frog surrounded by microphones, ready to deliver the message of these works: What Luckett calls the “web of life” is dangerously frayed. After walking to the McLean Project for the Arts from the closest Metrobus stop, count the SUVs in the parking lot.


February 5, 2013

Press for Small Stories exhibition at MPA

by BRIAN TROMPETER, Staff WriterSun Gazette Newspapers
February 4, 2013

Rosemary Luckett’s personality and political views imbue her pen-and-ink drawings, and it doesn’t require a detective to determine where she stands on environmental degradation.

In “The Picnic’s Over,” the Manassas-area artist shows a nude man and woman with oversized bodies and small heads enjoying a snack of red strawberries falling from the sky. The couple sits on a bed of raised forks, with a cake plate between them topped by an automobile wheel. The couple’s blindfolds symbolize their unwitting and careless destruction of the natural world.
“We’re creating all these beautiful products like computers and washing machines and we purchase them in a blind way without thinking about the ramifications of doing these things,” Luckett said.
Luckett’s exhibit, “Altered Terrain,” lines the walls of the Ramp Gallery of the McLean Project for the Arts (MPA), located at the McLean Community Center. The exhibit is one of three that opened Jan. 17 and will run through March 2.
Luckett grew up on a farm in central Idaho, where she contemplated life while working in the fields, and later majored in biology at what is now the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kan. She now is president of Touchstone Gallery in Washington, D.C., and teaches “Collage: The Art of Transformation” and “Sculpture from Scrap” at the Art League School in Alexandria.
The artist began her “Altered Terrain” series five years ago in order to maintain a positive frame of mind.
“I had to do it,” Luckett said. “When I look around and see mass destruction and mass extinction of animals, it’s easy to get depressed.”
She chose to work in pen-and-ink to better render fine details and rarely adds more than one color to any of her works, saying this greatly increases the complexity of the drawings.
Many of her environmental artworks feature rubber ducks, which normally are associated with carefree childhood. Luckett contrasts this with the experience of real animals, such as ducks and frogs, which are being wiped out by pollution.
In “Coaled-Coaled Heart,” Luckett shows a man whose body is composed of bones, plus a ramshackle house and coal truck carrying a blackened human heart. The man’s head is topped with a coal-cutting machine, from which hang nooses.
Luckett also provides detailed environmental information in the side notes that accompany some of her works.
“They’re just wonderful drawings, tremendously creative,” said MPA exhibitions director Nancy Sausser. “She has an incredible imagination.”
MPA also is displaying interpretive works by three painters in “Small Stories,” an exhibit in its Emerson Gallery.
Many of artist Matthew Mann’s works feature lush green fields crisscrossed by rivers, with incongruous items such as fire in the foreground.

Mann renders his subjects – be they flowers, leaves, drapes or a bird’s nest – with almost trompe de l’oeil accuracy, while his juxtaposition of those elements against unusual backgrounds recalls Surrealism.

Mann’s “Rainbow of Blood” shows a scarlet rainbow arching over the artist’s familiar green fields, with a sandstone cliff in the foreground and two headless bodies and a chopped-off tree.
Gregory Ferrand’s paintings focus more on people, who frequently show a sense of uneasiness or foreboding.
In his “Honeymooning,” a stylishly dressed young couple anxiously read a map while perched high about a blue sea with white boats and green mountains in the background.
Ferrand’s series “Solitaire” features eight black-and-white paintings of men and women with coiffures that appear to date from the 1930s or ’40s. Below each portrait subject is an oval-shaped color scene with action ranging from a birthday party, dance and series of masks to a couple skinny-dipping.
The most dramatic of Ferrand’s paintings is “Explosion! If only they knew what they know now,” which shows a frightened young woman being led to an old DC-3 aircraft by a group of men in suits. Dark thunderclouds billow in the background, heightening the sense of urgency.
In contrast with Ferrand’s stylized human dramas are artist Nora Sturges’ smaller, darker paintings depicting simplified, people-free scenes.
The artist’s “Houses” shows a group of tiny dwellings on a desolate landscape, while her “Moon Bounce” places that colorful carnival attraction next to a dumpster in a dreary parking lot, the background taken up by a bland red-brick building accented with security cameras.
Finally, MPA’s Atrium Gallery is displaying “GOLDRUSHed,” a series of oil-and-gold-leaf abstract works by Thomas Xenakis.
While these glittering works are not as message-laden as the other paintings in MPA’s current exhibits, they feature pleasing color combinations, interesting compositions and elements that either protrude out from the canvas or delve more deeply into it.
The McLean Project for the Arts, located at 1234 Ingleside Ave. in McLean, is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (703) 790-1953 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (703) 790-1953 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit www.mpaart.org.