Coffee in hand, prolific DC based painter and teacher Steven Cushner appraises the sequencing of canvases leaning against the wall. His job is to shape how the works of Freda Lee-McCann and Eleanor Kotlarik Wang are presented. The two share a duo-show in the downstairs portion of Dupont’s Studio Gallery for the month of April. Their exhibits, A Second Look and EARTH, SEA and SKY respectively, bring a fresh perspective to traditional images. Lee-McCann’s mixed media works occupy the front room as the three artists begin to set up the show.
“Poetry and calligraphy are collaged onto the landscapes in multiple layers and paints are in between to create new textures and atmosphere,” Lee-McCann details, describing how she has taken a career’s worth of painting traditional Chinese landscapes into a new realm by incorporating unexpected media. The resulting canvases are both complex and harmonious, recalling Chinese mythology in a moody contemporary composition that creates an entirely new aesthetic.
Similarly, the diversely scaled acrylic paintings by Wang, positioned further back in the gallery, take traditional subject matter to new places with her perspective and technique.
“Like the nature that inspired these paintings, there is both a wild expressiveness and a calm sensibility that pervade the images. Layers of pigment were painted and then scraped off, over and over again in a rhythmic succession of activities,” describes Wang.
The abstracted forms flow from canvas to canvas in a subtle yet mesmerizing manner. Blending these aesthetics fluidly is the task at hand as the three long time painters set up the show. With unbiased fresh eyes, Cushner aides in negotiating the relationships between the two collections and their individual parts. This collaborative mentality results in a successfully cohesive collection that flows from one room to the next. By the end of the afternoon, the cluttered space has been transformed into a carefully crafted show.
Lee-McCann’s pristinely collaged works engage with the viewer by combining the past with contemporary techniques while the abstracted natural forms created by Wang take on a life of their own thanks to her deft use of color. She skillfully combines fluorescent orange with luminescent pigments and deep neutral tones to create works which feel resolved both individually and as a group. The collaboration with Cushner has resulted in a more interesting show, as the meticulously placed lighting illuminates the grand nature of Lee-McCann’s altered landscapes and the unique staggered placement of Wang’s paintings highlights their idiosyncrasies. The exhibit, which is up through April 25th, harnesses the space of the room and the form of the canvases producing an unexpected relationship between the artists’ work. It is certainly worth a visit to see three distinct artistic visions come together in one exciting show.
By Jessica Metzger