Urbanite Baltimore reviews Nora Howell's Latest Work

What is White?

Nora Howell's performance sculpture and video examines the meaning of whiteness.

Nora Howell moved to Baltimore in 2009 and lives in Sandtown in West Baltimore. After earning a bachelor’s in studio art from Wheaton College in Illinois, she attended the Maryland Institute College of Art to receive an MA and MFA in Community Arts. Citing the benefits of living in Baltimore, Howell says, “Baltimore has provided me opportunities to exhibit my work and introduced me to an exciting community of artists and a network of nonprofit organizations who use art in their programming and methodology to bring about social change. Most significantly, as one of the few white people living in Sandtown, I had to confront the implications of my whiteness, how it impacted and was perceived by my neighbors. Between learning from my neighbors and teaching in Baltimore city schools, I started making art examining what it meant to be white in the 21st century. My experiences dealing with race—in particular, whiteness—in Baltimore has convinced me of the need to generate conversation and social change around issues of racism.”

According to Howell, “My recent works are primarily performance-based sculpture and video examining ‘whiteness.’ Transitioning between communities where I am the racial majority and others where I am the numerical minority has convinced me of the necessity of talking about whiteness. My work utilizes fashion and cultural signifiers such as white bread, crackers, marshmallows, and Oreos as an entry point into a topic that is historically difficult to approach. The performative and interactive aspect of my work allows me to instigate dialogue, reflection, and action around whiteness. In tandem with my art making, I facilitate art-making workshops about racial identity. I am committed to using art as a catalyst for conversation and social change—a method of processing and articulating ideas. W.E.B. DuBois talks about people of color having a double consciousness; my hope for white people, is that we would have a consciousness.”

Ready Set DC reviews New Now 2011

Words and photos by Alexandra Wurlitzer. New noise [Now] from Hamiltonian gallery! Not to offer a spoiler of the 5 artist group show but highlights from the 2011 Hamiltonian Fellows exhibition in which Paul So, founder of the gallery, styled an evening of impassioned introductions displaying works:
Of the five new & distinguished fellows, Nora Howell, Sarah Knobel, Matthew Mann, Jenny Mullins, and Joshua Wade Smith show off every which way displaying abrasive and exfoliating (you’ll see) video examining racial identity, Talking Heads-esque video, scenes of cigarette parties, Technicolor shrines & “low-budget mysticism,” and choreographed pieces.

Hamiltonian Gallery is located between 13th & 14th on U for you to come and see all of the exciting prospects above + more.

Reviewed: “DC Emerging” at VisArts

With the hubbub surrounding the forthcoming (e)merge Art Fair in September, it seems that VisArts in Rockville is trying to capitalize on the hype with their latest exhibition, "DC Emerging: New Urban and Domestic Interpretations." Nestled in a rather small space, the exhibition features five of the area’s emerging artists who supposedly create works inspired by the metropolitan area. But many of the show's pieces could just as easily be inspired by any metropolitan area—whether D.C. or Des Moines. None of the artists or art works gravitate to issues that are singularly related to the D.C. area. In other words, don’t expect anything political.

The show's strength is derived from the works' relationships and how well they play together. Entering the gallery, the most noticeable piece is a sculpture of four cranes suspending rods of various materials above the ground. Knowing that the show features Jessica van Brakle—an artist who has somewhat staked her artistic identity on illustrating industrial cranes—might lead one to think she's moved beyond two-dimensional work. But the sculptures belong to Sean Lundgren, who frequently works with tile, ceramics, and other earthy materials. The suspended rods are made from wood, concrete, aluminum, and steel, and it takes plenty of support to suspend them above the floor. In a sense, Lundgren's piece is as much about gravity as it is a comment on surface, material, or construction.

Van Brakle’s work has evolved in the last year. Though she still incorporates cranes into her paintings, they no longer seem to be forced into design motifs and patterns. Instead they exist as barely perceptible elements within a Rorschach that emphasizes the negative spaces of foliage. Her abstractions play well with the works on paper by Mariah Anne Johnson, who references domesticity in her paintings of patterns and line drawings of stoves and telephones. These references fight to survive on the paper as the artist appears to also negate the forms with brush marks and splotches of paint—like a Rauschenberg, only without the self-reflecting narratives on homosexuality.

Facing Johnson’s work on a pedestal is a sculptural installation by Maggie Gourlay, in which pattern-painted sheets pour out of two faucets. The patterns respond well to the patterns in Johnson’s work, and the placement of the faucets—close to the floor—is an unexpected choice.

The gouache paintings by Mike Dowley are perhaps the weakest works in the exhibition. Seemingly borne of the Jacob Lawrence school of naïve mark-making, his pieces employ patterns—responding well to Johnson and Gourlay's pieces—but most of his paintings possess an element of landscape. Held up to the other artists' contributions, Dowley's would be best displayed on a refrigerator door.

Through Aug. 11 at VisArts, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville. Open Mon-Fri 10 a.m.5 p.m.

Breaking through: D.C. artists emerge in VisArts exhibit

Visual artists have been known to be dedicated to their models. Will Barnet regularly painted his family, and Anne Getty can’t seem to get past babies.Artist Jessica van Brakle, who lives in Olney, favors cranes. What started out as an element of her thesis at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C., turned into a fascination that led her to subscribe to crane magazines and even to go up in a few for an aerial view.

“I’m friends with crane operators now,” she says. “As much as I try to learn about them, they’re mysterious to me. They’re kind of majestic to me. They’re like the modern-day unicorn.”

Van Brakle’s latest work is part of “DC Emerging: New Urban and Domestic Interpretations” at VisArts in Rockville. Featuring five upcoming regional artists who work in an array of mediums, “Emerging” premiered last Sunday and will be on view through Aug. 11.

After becoming interested in the design of cranes, van Brakle says she used bright, often curving designs to interplay with the rigid structure of her muse.

“A lot of balancing of this industrial crane with botanical or domestic patterns, so that it was that balance of feminine and masculine [qualities],” she observes.

Currently a fellow at the Hamiltonian Gallery and a resident artist at the Arlington Arts Center, van Brakle has been studying 19th century landscapes and incorporating their outlines into her work. Many of the black-and-white pieces depict the large machines in the backdrop of a snowy vastness. Although her works still feature cranes whether abstract or clearly defined van Brakle also likes to paint pieces on some of the canvases that look like pixels, as she says they share a link with cranes.

“They’re like the building blocks of images as far as digitally [speaking], so I like how that relates to the idea of building,” she says.

While her art is evolving, van Brakle isn’t sure she ever will be finished building her crane repertoire.

“As much as I am into the cranes, I can’t imagine that they’re going anywhere anytime soon,” she says.

VisArts Gallery Director Brett John Johnson says the show’s purpose is to highlight up and coming area talent.

“DC Emerging kind of refers to the fact that they’re emerging in their careers,” he says. “But it also refers to the fact as to how they all work, where they kind of take the urban and domestic life that’s around them and build upon that to create their artwork.”

Van Brakle is not the only crane-centric work to be on display. Sculptures by Sean Lundgren, a Red Dirt Studio member in Mt. Rainier, offer his take on the behemoth machines.

“He’s definitely playing with similar structural type ideas, on almost a more literal way, which I think should lend an interesting counterpoint to some of the more conceptual work,” Johnson says.

As Lundgren overlaps with van Brakle in their affection for cranes, some of van Brakle’s ivy-like patterns in her earlier works are reminiscent of designs used by fellow “Emerging” artist Maggie Gourlay. Working out of her Kensington studio, Gourlay positions common sights such as wallpaper patterns and furniture in new ways.

“She kind of combines them into more a structural sculpture that is somewhat narrative…It kind of has this element of human quality to it in that there’s a human footprint to it,” Johnson says. “You know somebody’s been a part of it, but it’s still strange in the end.”

The paintings on paper of Washington, D.C., artist Mariah Anne Johnson is also exhibited in the show. Johnson creates both large fabric installations as well as paintings and drawings. Each of these mediums shows a very refined understanding of color.

“She kind of also plays on narrative and story,” Johnson says.

Rounding out the show is McLean, Va.-based artist Mike Dowley, whose expressionist work demonstrates an equally mastered color palette. The painter earned a master’s degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2008.

While his work largely features otherworldly shapes, he says many of his designs come from things he sees while walking outside.

Pieces such as “Valve” show what may be the inside of an artery, with varying shades of red mingling with blacks, reds and greens.

Before entering graduate school, Dowley says he created mostly figurative and representational art, but as he learned about expressionistic artists like Philip Guston, his style changed dramatically.

“I started feeling like I could see why he was doing it and it wasn’t sloppy it was actually very controlled,” Dowley says. “And that was like an eye-opening thing.”

When he’s not painting in his studio, Dowley works as a graphic designer for companies such as Georgetown Learning Centers. While he acknowledges that he must work with certain color palettes and be mindful of commercial expectations, the work helps change things up.

“It’s a good break from painting and I basically work in the same kind of mode,” he says.

Although the artists in the show have had their work displayed in many parts of the country from Los Angeles to Miami, the VisArts exhibit shows the new faces of local talent.


“DC Emerging: New Urban and Domestic Interpretations” runs at the Metropolitan Center for the Visual Arts (VisArts), 155 Gibbs St., Suite 300, Rockville, through Aug. 11. An artist talk will be featured at the gallery on July 23, and a reception will be Aug. 4. Call 301-315-8200 or visit www.visartscenter.org.

Hamiltonian exhibition links fellows together

In preparation for its final exhibition of the season, Hamiltonian Gallery enlisted local artist Zoë Charlton to curate a group show featuring all ten of the gallery's fellows. Calling the show “Fellows Converge,” Charlton created a chain in which each artist represents a link, and encouraged them to work closely with their neighbors on either side to influence each other's creative process during the two months leading up to the exhibition. “The question isn't 'How are we influenced by other artists?'” says Charlton, “but rather ‘How might considering another artist's creative process be a way to reexamine and refine our own practice?’”

In spite of this daisy chain theme—or perhaps because of it—the resulting pieces remain highly individual. One piece by Jonathan Monaghan depicts an architectural model of a well-known gentlemen's club literally swaying in the wind, rendered in 3D animation that could easily be mistaken for live video. (Monaghan now works for MakerBot Industries, the geniuses who brought us the 3D printer recently featured on The Colbert Report.)

Another piece by Joyce Lee consists of two video projections separated by a wall. On one side, a tranquil pool of water is projected on the floor, its surface vaguely reflecting the turrets of a nearby structure. Only after crossing to the other side do we see, projected on the wall, the mansion hinted at in the pool, creating a three-dimensional piece that can only be seen one part at a time.

“Fellows Converge: Broadly Thinking” runs through Aug. 6. Hamiltonian Gallery is located at 1353 U Street NW, Suite 101, open Tuesday through Saturday from 12-6 p.m. A panel discussion with the artists will be held on Wednesday, July 13 at 7 p.m.

Continue reading on Examiner.com Hamiltonian exhibition links fellows together - Washington DC local artists | Examiner.com www.examiner.com/local-artists-in-washington-dc

Art Preview: Jessica van Brakle at Hamiltonian Gallery

Local artist’s new work takes her crane motif back to the drawing board By Kriston Capps

Jessica van Brakle atop one of her muses. Photo by Joshua Yospyn.

Jessica van Brakle atop one of her muses. Photo by Joshua Yospyn.

Jessica van Brakle has carved out a place in Washington’s art scene by sticking to a distinctive visual meme: cranes. Most—if not all—of the works she has produced since she graduated from the Corcoran College of Art & Design in 2007 have employed freehand drawings of construction cranes. Van Brakle has juxtaposed this industrial motif with planes of pastel paint and other highly decorative features.

But for a show that opens Saturday at Hamiltonian Gallery—where the artist is a fellow—van Brakle has gone back to the drawing stage, so to speak. The new works by this Washington native are marked by a reductive approach to perspective and use of color. With these works, van Brakle is not simply drawing cranes; she’s building compositions as if from blueprints.

“I like the idea of manufacturing the landscape,” van Brakle says.

Her new works draw from a series of 19th-century German landscapes exhibited at the National Gallery of Art—works by Caspar David Friedrich and his contemporaries. At first glance, these lush representations of the sublime in nature would seem to have almost nothing to do with the construction crane, a modernist symbol of progress.

“You really still see the drawings in them,” van Brakle says, speaking of those German landscapes, such as “Ruins of a Fortified Tower Among Wooded Hills” (1816-21) by Friedrich Salathé—a model for one of her works on display at Hamiltonian. At the edges of the original German painting, painted scenery surrenders to simple line, a feature that attracted van Brakle: “It relates to how I see the cranes, that sort of armature.”

"Delicate Balance" by Jessica van Brakle. Image courtesy Hamiltonian Gallery.

"Delicate Balance" by Jessica van Brakle. Image courtesy Hamiltonian Gallery.

For her latest works, van Brakle borrows the general composition from her landscape sources; in several works, she has mirrored the scene across a central axis. Manipulating scans of the landscape paintings, she isolates and amplifies dark shadows, until patches of Teutonic forest turn black while other features zero out entirely. She then projects this transformed landscape onto paper and paints these blotted shadows—reducing them still further by applying paint directly, forgoing the texture of any brushstroke.

“I like flattening things out,” van Brakle says. “I could make more perspective for my work, but it’s never really mattered to me.”

Rendered in black, white, and gray, the reductive works bear perhaps just one feature in common with the bright, feminine pieces she displayed in her Corcoran thesis show (which, by the way, nearly sold out). The crane has remained a constant. A crane takes the place of the fortified tower in her adaptation of the Salathé painting, while in others van Brakle has merely inserted freehand drawings of cranes to balance the composition.

“I visualize my cranes in their artwork,” she says, describing the experience of viewing these paintings.

At her studio at the Arlington Arts Center, reductive drawings on large paper hold the foreground among smaller, brighter works on canvas and panel. Van Brakle, who studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and the Maryland College of Art and Design (now part of Montgomery College) before finishing at the Corcoran, says she’s inspired by Washington artists such as Isabel Manalo, whose paintings typically feature flattened perspective and an abundance of bold colors.

But van Brakle’s work—despite the constant of the crane—has taken a different tack over time.

“I’ve slowly been moving into a more reductive direction,” she says. “I went [to art school] for illustration to start. That made me realize I wanted to do the opposite of that.”


Writers and visual artists join forces for "Call + Response: Textures"











A group of writers and visual artists have joined forces for Hamiltonian’s second “Call and Response” exhibition.  Co-curators Kira Wisnewski and John Bert came up with the idea of “Call and Response” in order to solidify the channel of communication between artist and writer.  While last year’s show was simply called “Call and Response”, this year an additional sensory term was added to the title, “Call and Response:  Textures”.  The title of this show references the succession of two dissimilar phrases played by various musicians, the second phrase responding to the first.

Four writers and four artists were selected to participate in “Call and Response:  Textures”.  Each writer contributes one “call”, which is categorized as a short piece of fiction or poetry.  And each artist produces a new installation in “response” to one call.  The writers have not necessarily met their artist counterpart, which helps build anticipation on how the artist will respond to their work.  Naomi Ayala, Stuart Dybek, Reese Okyong Kwon, and Srikanth Reddy are the four writers who provide the “call” and John Bobby Benjamin, Amanda Burnham, Maggie Michael and the TM Sisters are the artists who create the “response”.  You can visit www.callandresponsedc.org for more information on the participants and to read each writer’s comments about the show.

“The Ugliest Girls in Town” is a short story written by Reese Okyong Kwon detailing a couples’ evening spent watching a Burlesque show in New York City. Maggie Michael created an installation using a piece of string that hangs between two walls forming an ‘X’ in the space between.  As Kwon writes in her post on the exhibition’s website, “Maggie Michael’s X will in some way be inspired by my Y, which was inspired by a few burlesque dancers’ Z”.  Srikanth Reddy’s “From Readings in World Literature” denotes selected excerpts from literature written over numerous time periods representing various world cultures.  Jon Bobby Benjamin’s installation features a wooden work table filled with stacks of miniature books.  Many are extremely well known, such as William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury”.  The topics of the books range from philosophy to outer space.  A plaid shirt hangs on the side of the table and small statues of thumbs are place on the surface of the table accompanying the books.

Stuart Dybek’s “call” is a short story called “Bruise” describing a particular encounter between a man and a woman. His use of imagery is so powerful; it is almost as if he paints a picture with his words.   In his blog post Stuart Dybek writes, “writing is an art in which the medium-language-is abstract….The reader can do what physicists say isn’t possible:  flow backward in time”.  In their response, the TM Sisters portray multiple images of a moving woman.  The images are projected onto three different walls in a partially enclosed space located toward the back of the gallery.  One image shows a woman’s hair blowing in the breeze as she sways ever so slightly.  The other image shows a woman sitting on the beach pulling up her seer sucker spring dress revealing her bare leg, referencing an act described in “Bruise”.

Naomi Ayala’s poem “Eyes Looking” is the fourth call.  In her post Ayala comments on her past workings with an architect who wanted to “articulate the space” in a construction project they were involved with.  Artist Amanda Burnham does just that in her ‘response’.  Burnham portrays an urban neighborhood scene composed of brick row houses, street signs, roads, etc. Pieces of white paper, paint and black and orange strips of tape were used to build this community.

There are so many cool things about “Call and Reponse:  Textures” that I am hoping there will be a third installment next year. If you saw the “Call and Response” show last year, you have probably already paid a visit to Hamiltonian Gallery, but if not you have until May 7th to see the amazing works of art created by this talented group of people.  You can also read the interview between Dan Brady of Barrelhouse magazine, a participant in last year’s show, and Kira Wisnewski and John Bert which gives more insight into the making of this exhibition.

“Call and Response:  Textures” showing at Hamiltonian Gallery through May 7th, 1353 U Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20009, hamiltoniangallery.com

Link to Pink Line Page


Artist showcases talents, shares experience with area students


Artist Joyce Yu-Jean Lee wrapped up a residency at the Red Barn Art Center at Rhyolite under the sponsorship of Goldwell Open Air Museum on Feb. 15.

Lee holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Mount Royal School of Art, and has studied at the Art Students League of New York and the International School of Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture in Umbria, Italy.

Trained and skilled in classical drawing and painting techniques, Lee currently produces multi-media work that incorporates pastel painting and digital video.

Her work at Rhyolite centered around a reinterpretation of Albert Szukalski’s “Last Supper,” which is the key piece in the Goldwell collection.

Using a group of local young men to portray the biblical figures, Lee created a piece that included a pastel painting that combined the basic layout and perspective of the room in Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting of the subject with elements of a slaughterhouse, with the young men being presented as sheep butchers.

She also created a series of still life prints involving found objects from the area presented in the vanitas tradition. Lee explains that vanitas paintings were originally celebrations of life, but are also about death.

“I’m interested in how I can revisit iconic historical paintings and bring them back to life through video installations,” says Lee.

She has done this with works by such artists as Vermeer, Caravaggio, and Hopper.

“There is always something about the quality of light in the pieces I select — it’s what attracts me to them,” she explains.

She had been thinking about doing more art based on religious paintings and finding out that Szukalski’s “Last Supper” was here is what attracted her to apply for the Goldwell residency. She said she did not originally plan to include the “Last Supper” in her show, which is opening in the Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington, DC on March 12, but now it has become the focus of the show.

The show will include time-lapse sunrise and sunset footage shot in the Beatty area, the video interpretation of the “Last Supper,” and the vanitas still lifes.

Lee usually uses two projectors to display her video interpretations on walls that meet in a corner, but she will display the “Last Supper” on a flat wall in keeping with the fresco nature of Leonardo’s work which was also Szukalski’s inspiration.

Before finishing her residency, Lee gave a presentation to Mike Dszynski’s art class at Beatty High School.

Once it is completed, the work done here may be viewed along with other samples of her work on her website, <a href=www.jyjlee.com.


Pahrump Valley Times



'Who doesn't want a conversation with what's beautiful?'


Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, January 13, 2011


Here's a paradox for you. It's a lousy time to be running an art gallery, what with the economy still limping back from a bruising recession. Why pay good money for something you can't eat, wear or live in? On the other hand, it's quite possible that there's never been a time when we needed art more than we do now, for its power to uplift, inspire and challenge the status quo.

Vast swaths of you, however, have yet to discover the joys of the area's gallery scene (which may explain why it's such a lousy time to be running an art gallery). Sure, you've been to each of our world-class museums at one time or another -- who hasn't? -- but have you ever ventured into one of the places where today's artists try out ideas and give shape to images that might grace museum walls tomorrow?

Art galleries are laboratories where artists can take chances.

And that's a scary thing. Not just for the artist, but for the viewer. Unlike a museum, there's no docent, no wall text, no art history book to tell you what's good or bad, what it all means, why it's so expensive or what it's made of.

That's scary, yes, but it can also be thrilling, as with anything that's brand new. That's why art openings (at least the good ones) are so often jammed. To be sure, there's strength in numbers, and looking at something unfamiliar -- and something very possibly perplexing -- is less intimidating in a crowd. But there's also a rush that comes from being among the first to experience something that's never been seen before.

We'll make the adventure easy for you. Here's a list of eight area galleries to get your feet wet, along with dates of upcoming opening receptions. Think of them as parties that you're encouraged to crash. And with an open bar. Most gallery receptions offer free wine or beer, along with light snacks. (On rare occasion, there's a modest suggested donation.) The best way to get notified of future exhibitions is to sign the mailing list when you walk in the door. And don't worry. There's no obligation. No salesman will call.

Each of the places we've picked -- a mix of nonprofits and commercial spaces -- has something to recommend it: longevity, daring, verve, smarts, commitment, pluck, sheer beauty of the space, or proximity to other galleries. In each case, we've included a suggestion of another gallery stop in the same neighborhood, so you can compare and contrast.

Why bother? That's the easy part. For the same reason you read books, watch movies, go to plays and listen to music. As one gallery owner we talked to said, "Who doesn't want a conversation with what's beautiful?"

Hamiltonian Gallery

1353 U St. NW. 202-332-1116.

www.hamiltoniangallery.com .

When Hamiltonian first opened in 2008, it was an innovative hybrid: Part nonprofit finishing school offering fellowships to young, unrepresented artists who wanted to learn the ropes from more-established artist-mentors, and part commercial gallery. It still is both.

Since then, the exhibition program has evolved. No longer is every show automatically divided up between masters in one-half of the gallery, and pupils in the other. This makes for fewer awkward arranged marriages and a brighter spotlight focused on the work of those who have yet to make their mark.

"If people are interested in observing artists in the long term, they should know about us," explains director Jackie Ionita, "because after art school, we're step one."

Now on view: "Magnolia Laurie: Holding Up" and "Bobby Benjamin: Going Home," through Saturday.

Up next: "Katherine Mann and Selin Balci: Bound," opening Jan. 22 from 7 to 9 p.m. Through Feb. 26. (Artist talk: Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.)