- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 21, 2000

Tired of being upstaged by Washington's museums, local artists are holding their second annual Art-O-Matic.

The free public showcase at the cavernous former Hechinger store near the Tenleytown Metro station in Northwest displays the talents of about 700 visual and 100 performing artists.

Washington hasn't seen anything like Art-O-Matic since the International Sculpture Center organized the 11th International Sculpture Conference and Exhibition here in 1980. The summerlong, citywide sculpture celebration — the galleries mounted special sculpture exhibits, as well — showed the work of 88 international artists chosen by an international jury. Millions of people attended.

Art-O-Matic draws from all the mediums. Khadija Saleh, who came to this country from Pakistan 10 years ago, is showing her woodcuts, etchings, acrylics and oils. The artist says she hasn't exhibited much. "Art-O-Matic will encourage me to show more," she says.

The process for entering Art-O-Matic is democratic. Artists pay $35 and contribute 15 hours of work.

The quality of artwork is unexpectedly high, considering the non-juried process. It's also better than last year's.

Art-O-Matic designers Jennifer Childs and Veronica Szalus, and assistants Jonathan Glick, Thom White and Beth Charlton created a superior installation that breaks up the space. They worked for four weeks with the help of volunteers, and grouped exhibits in areas named for neighborhoods, such as Trinidad and Kalorama.

Artists showing their work include Richard Dana, Judy Jashinsky, Michael Clark and Felicity Hogan, along with newer artists such as Graham Caldwell.

Mr. Caldwell, a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, could well catch the eye of galleries and museums with his intriguing glass-and-steel "The Eye."

"My sculptures embody the fluidity of glass and its ability to amass light. They are simultaneously invisible and visible. I am looking for the bones of the invisible," his artist's statement on Art-O-Matic's Web site says.

Showing near him is Elizabeth Burger, with her unusual tepee-like installation of dollar plants. It's both structural and evanescent. Just as last year, Art-O-Matic has something for everyone. The juxtapositions of certain kinds of art are effective. Miss Jashinsky tells the story of 17th-century artist Artemisia Gentileschi in her "Roman Fever" installation. Mr. Dana's "Black as Coal," a vertical hanging scroll installation, appears next to it. Hers is a feminist work, his a more spiritual one that evokes death and loss.

Miss Jashinsky made the floor piece of cotton duck and acrylic to follow a map of Rome in 1611. It shows the places that Gentileschi frequented after the artist to whom she was apprenticed, Agostino Tassi, was sentenced to prison after her father accused him of raping her.

Tassi was a friend of her painter father, Orazio Gentileschi. His trial became a public scandal. The lunar images hung behind Miss Jashinsky's floor piece chronicle the 28 phases of the moon during this period in Artemisia Gentileschi's life.

Mr. Dana's installation is as starkly simple as Miss Jashinsky's is complex. The top black charcoal area holds an ambiguous old woman's face. The empty white of the paper scroll evokes the empty spaces of Chinese painting. The scroll falls to the floor from a 10-foot height. The artist has arranged lumps of charcoal beneath in a disintegrating grid.

Sam Gilliam, one of the established artists in the show, displays a silkscreen print. Joan Danziger shows her signature anthropomorphic sculptures. She recently began a series of large-mixed media flowers. The one here is the 6-foot-tall "Fantasia."

Lou Stovall, who runs the Stovall Workshop at Newark Street NW, gathered prints, acrylic paintings and watercolors by eight of his apprentices and friends for Art-O-Matic.

His wife, Di Bagley Stovall, collaged an inviting series of raised acrylic-and-beadwork flowers especially for the show.

Mr. Clark and Miss Hogan, who work collaboratively, present several round paintings that seem to float in space. The two run the Museum of Contemporary Art in Georgetown, better known as MOCA.

The level of sculpture in Art-O-Matic is especially high. Randy Jewart, who organized the "It's Sculpture" outdoor sculpture program in the District, made the 8-foot-tall, 6,000-pound "Inheritance." He layered approximately 200 multicolored flat slabs of marble and granite into an iconic pyramid. He brought the pieces in two loads from his studio and created the sculpture on site.

A not-to-miss artwork is Michael Platt's "The House of Memories" on the lower level. The dwelling is a wood "shotgun house" formed after those in New Orleans. Such houses are long and narrow, with rooms arranged one behind the other.

Mr. Platt's mother came from that city and he visited there often. "Shotgun houses are poor men's houses," he says. "They used the longest boards they could find to avoid the expense of interior walls. Ever since visiting New Orleans as a child, I have been fascinated by the houses' narrow proportions."

He also saw these houses in South Africa and Brazil and feels they connect New Orleans with the Caribbean, West Africa and South Africa.

Christiane Graham's "Fulcrum" stands near the Platt sculpture. She arranged mannequins with unusual animal masks in a ritualistic space. Miss Graham says she looks to shamanistic practices and mythologies in her work. "The masks are intentionally wearable," she says.

Several installations are eye-catching. Ivana Panizzi, originally from Brazil, suspends little bottles filled with tiny photographs for "The in Vitro Project."

Baltimore artist Fred Collins made one of the most arresting installations, from which TV sets blare and lights flash.

Paris Bustillos created a hilarious, nonstop video for TV called "The Art Critic."

Art-O-Matic organizers expect about 35,000 visitors before the show closes Oct. 28. Last year's Art-O-Matic brought a high volume of sales for artists, and even more are expected this year.

Cultural Development Corp. provides support for the event, and Madison Marquette Realty Services is donating the 160,000 square feet space.

The extensive programs of music and dance, artist talks and workshops, a disc jockey booth and Rorschach Theatre's production of Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" also are drawing crowds.

Art-O-Matic 2000 demonstrates what artists can accomplish when they get together. It's a gift to the city and themselves.

WHAT: Art-O-MaticWHERE: 4500 Wisconsin Ave. NWWHEN: noon to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. Sunday and noon to midnight Wednesday, through Oct. 28TICKETS: FreeINFORMATION: www.artomatic.org

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