Sunday, September 10, 2023

A quick visit to the Torpedo Factory

Yesterday I spent about three hours wandering around the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, visiting every single space, gallery and studio that was open.  The place was very busy, full of tourists, locals, and all kinds of people walking around the DMV's most precious art jewel.

Over the years I've written many, many, many articles, blog posts and pieces about this very special place, including these last two in the Old Town Crier newspaper, (1 and 2) discussing my thoughts on what is happening at the Factory since the City of Alexandria took over.

But for this post I'm just going to focus on this visit, with some observations and opinions.

On the subject of "open", I was both surprised and disappointed by the significant number of studios which were closed on a Saturday afternoon. "Saturdays are our busiest day," noted a prominent Torpedo factory artist who has been there for decades... as I left her studio after chatting with her for a while, she was working to close an $8,000 sale.

On the third floor alone, I would estimate that half the studios were closed, which in my opinion is not acceptable, especially when they are routinely closed. By that I mean that I saw signs on the studio doors that stated the open hours, which were Monday through Friday, with Saturdays and Sundays being either "Closed" or "By Appointment Only."

Since the heavy hand of the state now dictates every and all things Torpedo Factorish, I would recommend that the City Kommissars order the artistic workers to be open on weekends. In an amendment to that motion, as there are 52 weekends a year - let's settle on 42 weekends.

At the Art League on the ground floor, I walked through the current group show, which was curated by Regina DeLuise

As art jurying is very subjective, I usually knock heads with jurors when I form my own decisions as to prize winners, etc., but in this case Ms. DeLuise and I agree 1000% that Party on East Park Place by Wendy Donahoe indeed earned that prize!

Party on East Park Place by Wendy Donahoe
Party on East Park Place by Wendy Donahoe

Also on the spectacular scale of the art ratings was The Feast Of The Gods by Teresa Oaxaca, a huge oil on linen which as usual lets Oaxaca flex her enviable painting skills - she's one of the most gifted artists in the DMV.

The Feast Of The Gods by Teresa Oaxaca
The Feast Of The Gods by Teresa Oaxaca

I also liked Ravishing Strength by Stephanie Chang, Joy by Dian McDonald, and several others.

In studio 204 I met and chatted with Sarah Bentley, a classically trained young painter with gorgeous paintings done in the kind of accomplishment that is only achieved after thousands of hours of laborious practice and study of the Old Masters. She notes that:
I began copying at the National Gallery of Art in 2017, drawn to copying paintings as I further my education and skills. I have found that copying from the old masters allows me to examine the surface of the paintings, the texture of the paint itself. While being allowed to copy is an honor, I feels as though copying the works from the NGA allows me to have a conversation with the painters who have come before me, further continuing my education as an emerging artist.
On the third floor I walked into Jacelyn Orellana as she was painting a small portrait. 

Orellana is a Pro Tem artist at the Factory, and yet this very young painter already shows and displays the painting bravura and skills of a much more seasoned painter.  

She has already mastered one of the most difficult tasks in the realm: the rare ability to create intimate portraits that are not only a true representation of the likeness of the subject, but also (and equally as important and hard to do) to capture that ethereal psychological imprint that is also part of any portrait.

And here is the shocker: Incredibly inexpensive and affordable prices! Her Gouache portraits start at $100 for a 5x7 inches, $200 for an 8x8 inches Acrylic, and $300 for an 8x8 inches Oil! Let's give her some business - contact her here.

I suspect that we're gonna hear a lot more in the near future about this bright young star.

Throughout the hours I visited and continued to re-visit the Target Gallery, where "Sound Horizons" was being featured. The exhibition was being presented by the City of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts and Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT).

The exhibition includes four video, sound, and time based artworks by professional staff, students, and colleagues at Virginia Tech University selected for Alexandria and the surrounding region.

With the possible exception of a five-minute audio and video presentation titled "Dear Younger Me" (Keisha V. Thompson, Jada Hoffman, Gilette B., Adele, Ben Knapp, Dacia Kings, Tianyu Ge, Eric Lyon, Geefa Adane, Sydney Johnson, Meaghan Dee, Andraé L., Brown & Tilandra Rhyne), I was overall very underwhelmed by both the presentation and the presented works.  In fact, I felt as if I had stepped back into the late 1990s technology birth of video and artists.

The exhibition runs through January 28, 2024, so it will be boring a lot of people for a long time to come.

The Torpedo Factory and its family of artists and galleries is one of the jewels of our DMV's cultural tapestry - keep visiting it and keep supporting our artists!

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