- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2003

''Strange Deal, Works by Georgia Strange and Georgia Deal" is the intriguing, if puzzling, title of the Gallery K's current exhibition of the work of two artists.

Both "Georgias" met at the University of Georgia, stayed in touch as friends and artists and developed a love for Italy. They often show together.

The two have had unusually rich opportunities to work in Italy. Washington-based Ms. Deal, now head of the Corcoran College of Art and Design's department of printmaking and papermaking, taught part time in Cortona four times between 1983 and 1999 for the University of Georgia. She also took a sabbatical in Italy during 2000.

Ms. Strange, a sculptor, is director of the School of Fine Arts at Indiana University at Bloomington. She also has visited Italy many times and also taught there. She recently revisited Certosa del Galuzzo, a 14th-century monastery outside Florence, to see its 66 portraits, or majolica tondi, of saints and prophets by Andrea and Giovanni Della Robbia.

Ms. Deal calls up memories of her family's stays in Italy she's married to sculptor Tom Ashcroft by screen-printing the sharper images and using paper pulp for the softer ones. Ms. Strange digs her fingers deep into red clay for heads she sees as metaphors for human suffering. Their art shows surprisingly well together.

Like many artists, Ms. Deal evokes memory through charged symbols. Her large "Reckoning Blueprint," which stretches horizontally across the gallery's main wall, contains several. A bowl, taken from an old engraving, stands for her. A boat refers to her husband, who grew up around water in Florida. A diamond engagement ring expresses earthly desires. The monkey holding a wineglass, also from an old engraving, serves as a metaphor for the escape of travel.

Her work is about memories of travel. During her sabbatical, she made a series of three "bands," images composed of separate vertically configured panels. For the band titled "Pietrasanta," which at first glance looks like an old, rubbed stone wall, she attached Belgian linen paper around a painted wood support, printed the softer images with paper pulp and screen-printed the hard-edge images. Then she rubbed waxes across the surfaces to give them a glazelike patina similar to ceramics and frescoes.

Evoking a lunch in Pietrasanta with a sculptor friend in a private restaurant dining room that once had been a jail, she appropriates inmates' graffiti of a key on the wall in the jail as well women with exposed breasts, a red lacquered ladder and a letter. Images are, as she puts it, "in-" or "out-focused" to reflect either the sharper or fuzzier images recorded in our memories.

Ms. Strange displays an intense involvement with Italy's classic sculpture in her modeled clay heads attached to metal supports or "bodies." She says she worked with the expressiveness of human hands before beginning the series of clay heads, which refer to the Della Robbia saints that ring the Great Cloister of Cerosa del Galuzzo.

"The modeling of the heads records evidence of trauma experienced by nameless members of humanity," she says. "They are anybody and everybody who have suffered pain and loss."

The artist wants visitors to view her works as life-size totems that invite meditation and self-examination. The light-filled gallery offers an excellent setting for such quiet introspection.


WHAT: "Strange Deal, Works by Georgia Strange and Georgia Deal"

WHERE: Gallery K, 2010 R St. NW

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; through March 28

TICKETS: Free

PHONE: 202/234-0339

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