Friday, November 11, 2016

Transformer's 13th Annual Silent Auction & Benefit Party

Support Transformer in their work to connect and promote emerging artists, the young visionaries who help guide us in asking questions, growing understanding, and making change in our world.

Buy a ticket to their
13th Annual Silent Auction & Benefit Party,
and buy artwork by the 175+ participating artists.

Early bird ticket price of $175 is extended through Sunday 11/13.

Advance ticket purchase is required.

Visit Transformer's Auction page 
at for further details.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Call to Artists

WHAT: The 26th Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival
WHERE: Reston Town Center, Reston VA
WHEN:May 19-20, 2017
The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival is a competitive, juried, outdoor event that showcases the best contemporary fine art and craft from around the nation. The Festival, which typically attracts 30,000+ patrons, is held in Reston Town Center, located in the affluent suburbs of Washington, DC. Reston Town Center is an easily accessible and upscale shopping and entertainment destination.  Our clientele is described as "affluent, enthusiastic young to middle aged couples who are not too price sensitive."

We recognize that our artists invest time, effort and money to participate in the Festival and we strive to make sure that everyone's Festival experience is excellent. 2017 exhibiting artists will enjoy outstanding support from our exceptional volunteers and a diverse knowledgeable clientele. Below are some artist hospitality attributes of our event:
*Nationally ranked outdoor festival

*The Great Application Giveaway: Art-Linx will award 3 lucky artists who elect to participate in this free drawing their jury fee.  Entry is based on application (not acceptance) to the show.  Winners will be notified via email.

*Drive-up, set-up/tear down adjacent to booth
*Reserved artist-only parking for oversize vehicles
*Convenient and profitable selling hours
*Ample volunteer support
*Booth sitters
*$5,000 in awards
*Printed program that features full-color thumbnails and websites for every artist with accompanying booth numbers
*Continental breakfasts
*Reduced hotel rates for onsite accomodations
*Free bottled water and snack delivery
*Indoor restrooms
*Police presence in additional to the 24/7 Reston Town Center Security
*Artist mentor opportunities  
Each year our Festival features approximately two hundred artists who are selected on the basis of quality, originality and craftsmanship by a panel of independent jurors and by members of our curatorial staff.  All are superb professionals with extensive experience in various disciplines of studio art and museum curation.

This Festival is annually produced by the Greater Reston Arts Center and is our primary fundraiser. As a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to enriching community life through excellence in contemporary visual art. We offer free-to-the-public exhibitions and art education programs across all ages, and impact over 20,000 children in 40 are schools. The proceeds from the Festival directly support our educational and outreach programs.

We are committed to elevating the profile of our Festival, and have increased our marketing budget to reach new audiences and promote interest from collectors. We contract with a professional PR firm to develop an aggressive marketing and promotion campaign to better market, recognize, and celebrate our Festival artists. We negotiate for well-placed advertising in prominent magazines and newspapers, arts focused catalogs, and online Going Out Guides. We have a strong outreach campaign for social media, radio, and television, which includes both paid and trade advertising. 

For the event approximately 70% of the artists are returning, 30% are new and 6% are invited, which include the ten award winners from the previous year. Exhibitor Ginny Herzog says; "I have been exhibiting at the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival for fifteen years and it is my favorite and is now my only east coast show. This show repeatedly delivers art savvy patrons and collectors from around the DC area."

Art collectors know our Festival and mark their calendars early for our marquee event. Local collectors Bob & Bonnie said "We love to purchase artwork from the amazing artists at the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival. These works add vibrancy and interest to our home, while helping support the arts and artists who create them. Over the years we have collected over 20 pieces of art at this event and made many connections with artists we now call "friends". It is one of the best venues for art in the Mid-Atlantic, and also a highly anticipated event for the community and the metropolitan Washington, DC area."

Art enthusiast, Margaret says; "every year I have a list of events I very much look forward and must repeat....The quality and diversity of the art is excellent and always interesting...This year the first picture I saw as I approached the Festival took my breath away. It was perfect for a spot I had in mind...." 

Don't miss your opportunity to be here!
Apply online through Juried Art Services

Application Deadline:  December 11, 2016
Application Fee: $50 (non-refundable)

Each application require four (4) artwork images and one (1) booth/display image fully representative of work you intend to exhibit; and an artist statement, explaining your creative process, use of materials and techniques.
Additional information is available at 
Call or Email questions to Festival Director Erica Harrison 703-471-9242 ext. 113 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Congrats to President Elect Trump

President elect Donald Trump
Congrats to President Elect Donad Trump, whose unlikely victory was remarkable!

As we do with all President elects since we started in 2003, we wish him the best of luck, skill and ability in running the world's most powerful political office... and a well-deserved Bravo Zulu!

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Artomatic, Montgomerycountymatic, moneymatic... problematic

Prologue: After you finish reading the below, copy my question in bold, click here, and then paste the question onto an email to each of the MoCo council members and to their Kommissar, Mr. Ike Legget.

The current version of Artomatic, the DMV's greatest visual arts extravaganza, which opened last Tuesday in Potomac, Maryland, is the smallest iteration of the show since it started almost 20 years ago. Ironically, this may make this version the "easiest" one to visit and digest, as the normal gigantic size of the show is often the main issue that jams art critics' bandwidth when they visit and subsequently discussing the show.

As usual, AOM started with the venerable George Koch, Chair Emeritus of AOM and the ancestral father of this event, introducing some local Montgomery County artists, as well as the local developer (Foulger-Pratt, who owns the building and surrounding development), Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and a couple of local politicos (Council Vice President Roger Berliner, and Council member George Leventhal.

Foulger-Pratt 's CEO, Cameron Pratt, discussed the process via which the company approached AOM leadership about hosting the show, the opposite of the usual process, where AOM searches, and then begs for space. This deserves a kudo to Mr. Pratt's company. He was also quite funny in his remarks, discussing how real estate developers/politicians are not exactly well-loved these days.

Everyone laughed at the pun, and when Councilmember Leventhal's turn came up, he also brought it up, but incorrectly noted that Pratt had mentioned Donald Trump (by name) in his joke (he didn't... he just said "real estate developers/politicians"). This not only added a little bit of the Presidential race into the remarks, but it even highlighted the divisions, as the person behind me whispered to his companion: "I thought Pratt was talking about LuAnn Bennett..."

For any readers not familiar with Ms. Bennet, she's a local DMV real estate developer running for Congress in a race for her husband's former seat. Radio and TV ads constantly hammer home the message of her alleged manipulation of tax laws to enrich herself... cough, cough, so it's easy to see why Pratt's message could have been about Bennett and/or Trump.

Other than the Leventhal jab at Trump, both politicos pretty much delivered the same message, and what was common in their remarks, was the immense praise for the arts and its economic impact on Montgomery County.

They heaped praised on AOM, on the visual arts, on artists, on number two pencils, etc.

However, after a little investigation, the only thing that Montgomery County apparently has not done, is to contribute a penny towards AOM. If my conclusions are incorrect, then my apologies, and someone please correct me, cough, cough.

I discussed this with Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County. I noted that when AOM was held in Prince George's County in 2012, the The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission had orchestrated a program via which multiple Artomatic artists from PG County were selected to have their work acquired for the county's art collection. And together with M-NCPPC, the Prince George’s Arts and Humanities Council supported a couple of programs for Artomatic 2015.

Would Montgomery County -- one of the richest (11th richest county of 1,343 counties in the US) and most heavily taxed counties in the nation, one whose council members recently approved a whooping 8.7% property tax increase, and Maryland's state and local tax collections per person ranked 3rd highest nationally! -- be doing something similar with county artists at AOM?

In other words, would the county be acquiring any AOM works for their public art collection?

The answer was no, and the reasoning behind it quite solid: The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County's miserable funding has barely enough funds to cover the maintenance and preservation of the nearly 700 works of art presently in its collection - so it can't afford to buy any!

For me, it put all the political talk in the trash bin and left me with the puzzle as to why PG County artists were shown some financial love, but Montgomery County, by far richer and with a much wealthier tax-paying base, cannot or will not, or perhaps hasn't even considered it!

Council members of Montgomery County: Will you set aside $20,000 for acquisition of artwork by Montgomery County artists currently on display at AOM?

Artomatic 2016 is in the Park Potomac development, which is located where Montrose Road crosses I-270, almost right off where the Beltway and 270 connect (going North). Artomatic is at 12435 Park Potomac Avenue and is free and open to the public. With 45,000 square feet of display space on the 5th and 6th floors featuring 380 artists, even at this "small" size, it is the largest open, anything and anyone shows, display of art on the planet. Do not miss it!

My review of Artomatic will be coming later this week!

A rarity: A DMV museum show about a DMV artist!

"DC area museum curators would rather take a cab to Dulles to fly to Berlin, or London, or Madrid to visit the studio of an emerging artist, than take a cab to Alexandria, or Adams Morgan, to visit the studio of an emerging local artist..."

 - F. Lennox Campello, Kojo Nmadi show about a decade ago...
Breaking news! In a radical departure from the norm, a DMV area art museum is doing a museum show about the works of a "local" artist!
This selection of fifteen classic stripe paintings by Gene Davis from the 1960s reveals the ambitious vision and accomplishment of one of Washington, D.C.’s outstanding visual artists.
Gene Davis: Hot Beat is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from the Joanne and Richard Brodie Exhibitions Endowment, Gene Davis Memorial Fund, James F. Dicke Family Endowment, Tania and Tom Evans Curatorial Endowment, and YARES ART, New York, Palm Springs, Santa Fe.

Gene Davis: Hot Beat

3rd floor North, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.)
November 18, 2016 – April 2, 2017

Monday, November 07, 2016

DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Accepting Applications for Additional FY17 Grants

Deadline to Apply: December 2, 2016

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) is accepting applications for the following additional funding opportunities for FY17 grants: 

FY17 Projects, Events and Festivals Fall Cycle
In accordance with the FY17 Budget Support Act, Section 2152, DCCAH is offering opportunities to support the following:
  • A grant to support the establishment of a children's museum in the Central Business District, as defined in Title 11 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations;
  • A grant to support an organization providing literary-enrichment programming through author visits throughout DC Public Schools and Charter Schools;
  • A grant to support an organization providing orchestral performances with supporting community engagement events;
  • A grant for capital improvements for a historic theatre on Pennsylvania Avenue NW that produces primarily Broadway-style musical theatre performances;
  • A grant to support an organization dedicated to preserving the history of African-American involvement in the American Civil War.
DCCAH will present a Projects, Events and Festivals Fall Cycle program orientation and technical assistance workshop for interested organizations on Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 11:00am and at 6:00pm at DCCAH's offices, 200 I (Eye) Street SE, Washington, DC

For guidelines and a complete description of the FY17 Projects, Events and Festival Fall Cycle, and to submit an application, visit 

Additional funding opportunities for FY17 will be announced in the coming months.

Vote tomorrow!

Model Citizen (Head)
2012, archival pigment print
15 x 15 inches, ed: 5.
Courtesy of Connersmith

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Girl Scouts yummy stuff???

Eclat International magazine visual arts coverage

My review of LA artist Sedi Pak is on pages 40-41, and my review of Chicago's two major art fairs on pages 20-22.

Read it online here.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Kicking it at SOFA Chicago

The iconic SOFA art fair in Chicago is without a doubt the planet's leading sculptural art fair, and in all fairness, they're trying very effectively to expand from the 3D world onto an art fair (period) model.

DMV artist Lori Katz made his debut at SOFA this year and she's kicking butt and taking names! When a wall looks like the one below at any art fair, it's always good news!

Lori Katz's empty wall (lots of sales) at SOFA Chicago 2016
Lori Katz's empty wall (lots of sales) at SOFA Chicago 2016

Friday, November 04, 2016

Review of Artomatic 2004

This is a teaser of my review of Artomatic 2016, which is coming up after I make my third visit to the the show... can you pick how many blue chip artists have emerged from that AOM over a decade ago? Can you see why I like Artomatic?
Artomatic Energymatic Daggermatic

Art critics, like most writers, usually get paid by the word, sometimes by the article, and occasionally by an infinitesimal percentage of whatever profits their writing generates. And most art critics and writers visit a gallery show or museum exhibition, get a few handouts and spend about half an hour studying the works on the wall before heading home or to the office to pound the word processor’s keys and earn their buck-a-word for the review.

You can’t do that with Art-O-Matic, the huge, almost every two years, open visual arts extravaganza that this year hosted over 600 visual artists and another 400 performance artists at the laberynthic former convent building that last housed the Children’s Museum on 3rd and H Street, NE.

The idea behind Art-O-Matic is simple: find a large, empty building somewhere in the city; work with the building owners, and then allow any artist who wants to show their work help with staging the show and with some of the financial needs. This year, AOM artists paid a $60 entry fee plus worked a few hours assisting with the show.

And this year around 600 visual artists brought their art to the public.

In order to write a proper, ethical review of AOM, a writer must spend hours walking five floors of art, jam-packed into hundreds of rooms, bathrooms, closets and stairs. And I think that this is one of the main reasons that most art critics love to hate this show. It overwhelms them with visual offerings and forces them to develop a "glance and judge" attitude towards the artwork. It’s a lot easier to carpet bomb a huge show like this than to do a surgical strike.

Add on top of that an outdated, but "alive and kicking" elitist attitude towards an open show, where anyone and everyone who calls him or herself an artist can exhibit, sans the sanitizing and all-knowing eye of the latest trendy curator, and you have a perfect formula for dismissing a show, without really looking at it.

This quaint and elitist attitude towards art is not new or even modern. It was the same attitude that caused the emergence of the salons of the 19th century, where only artists that the academic intelligentsia deemed good enough were exhibited. As every art student who almost flunked art history knows, towards the latter half of that century, the artists who had been rejected from the salons (because they didn’t fit the formula of good art) organized their own Salon Des Refuses, sort of a 19th century Parisian Art-O-Matic.

And a lot, in fact, most of the work in the Salon Des Refuses was quite bad, but amongst the dreck were also pearls like Manet's Le Dejeuner sur 'Herbe (Luncheon in the Grass), Monet's Impression: Sunrise, (and we all know what art "ism" that title gave birth to) and an odd and memorable looking portrait of a young lady in white (The White Girl, Symphony in White, No. 1) by an American upstart by the name of James McNeill Whistler.

Everyone who was anyone in the art world hated and dismissed this anti-salon exhibition; except for the only "anyone" who actually counted: art history.

But then somewhere in the next century, the salons and their formulas returned. Only their name and their display styles had changed. They were now called Biennials, Biennales, Bienales, Documentas and their settings were in museums, entire cities or pristine white cubes around the world.

Only their reasoning and misguided logic remained constant: "Only we know what is good art."

And that is why these modern salonists and their acolytes will never respect, like, or understand Art-O-Matic: they recall that the Salons des Refuses almost broke their control over art; it won’t happen again.

And like the poet Marti wrote: "I know the monster well, for I have lived in its entrails." You see, over the last two decades I have been the juror, curator, decision-maker for hundreds of shows. And as a freelance art critic I have written and evaluated hundreds of artists and shows. I have been a minute gear in the world-wide machinations to keep control of what is art and never let a new Salons des Refuses wrest control again.

OK, OK, I know that am going overboard here; but... do you get the point?

But I am also an artist, and I like the concept of Art-O-Matic.

And not just because of the miles of artwork on display, much of which is mind numbing bad art; in fact, so bad that it is sometimes almost good in its exorbitant mediocrity. The main reason that I like Art-O-Matic is the palpable amount of artistic energy that it delivers to Washington, DC every couple of years. It is as if some invisible visual art battery in this ignored art scene comes to the forefront and gets recharged with brilliant white light (made as we all know, of all colors in the spectrum), and 50,000 people who generally would not set foot in a gallery or museum come and see art and artists and absorb the positive energy that only creative minds can generously give away.

So I enter my fourth Art-O-Matic with several preconceived ideas in my very subjective agenda:

(a) It’s going to take several visits and many hours to write my fourth review of Art-O-Matic in as many shows.

(b) There’s going to be a lot of dreck in the show. But art is in the eyes of the beholder; my dreck could be your pearl.

(c) I’m going to find several pearls in the show

(d) I’m going to re-charge my visual arts battery

(e) Our gallery will pick up some new artists from this show

On visit one, during the press preview, glass sculptor Tim Tate (Disclaimer: whom we represent and whom we "discovered" at a past Art-O-Matic) whizzes a group of us through the five floors of the show. It still takes three hours or so, but I have taken notes. Five visits and more than twenty hours later, I feel comfortable to start writing about the show.

A lot of the artists in the show are well known to me, and so I begin to discover "new" ones – at least new to me. Judy Jashinsky, who is one of the firebrand organizers who keeps this (and past) Art-O-Matics running, grabs me and asks me if I’ve seen Mark Jenkins’s pubic hair tapestries.

tape men by JenkinsAnd Jenkins is one of the first memorable discoveries in this show. Tucked away in a corner space, Jenkins has created two noteworthy entries into the show. First in everyone’s lips are his photographic explorations of close-ups of pubic hair (loupe included in the installation) that through the magic of digital manipulation become interesting designs of elegant abstracted qualities. A second Jenkins emerges from his crowded little room: the tape sculptures.

Jenkins uses common transparent packing tape (yards and yards of it) to create superbly crafted and visually attractive figurative sculptures, as well as the odd, unusual organic shaped one. Through documentary photography, we see what happens when Jenkins places these plastic figures in a public venue. A passing man stares incredulously at a plastic man inside a dumpster; or a beach jogger is surprised by an alien looking tape creature that the sea has washed ashore.

photo by Iver OlsonIver Olson is another talented discovery for me. He gets the award for the best porn in the show, although his display is also peppered with some otherwise just plain sensual photo-collages. It is almost as if there were two Olsons in the show: a really torrid, sensual photographer, and a brilliantly inventive pornographer.

In one of his photos, Olson has a woman with her hand buried inside the vagina of a second woman, who is sitting on a couch, seemingly bored, while her friend is searching inside her vagina, with (as an artist friend of mine put it) a "did a leave my keys in there?" sort of look. Somehow Olson has transformed the hardcore act of lesbian fisting into an almost funny scene of lustless abandon. Other good porn in the show is offered by Eduardo Rodriguez, Alexis Bine and Rudy K.

Another discovery is Ira Tattelman’s installation titled "They taught me to wash away my desires." I don’t know if it is because the building was once a convent, but there is certainly a strange, palpable energy in some parts of the building; people like Stephen King feed on this sort of energy and produce brilliant books; it is clear that Ira Tattelman also absorbed and channeled this energy into his installation. part of Ira's installation

"They taught me to wash away my desires" is inside a smallish bathroom furnished with a shower, a tub and some archaic 19th-century type bathroom stations (such as an enema station). Tattelman has installed a small pump in one of the stations that keeps re-circulating brownish, brackish water and add a watery sound to the room. To the right, inside and around the dirty tub is what at first sight appears to be a dismembered human body (they're actually some sort of artificial legs).

Put together the Stephen Kingesque feel of the room, the moist sound effects, the outdated chrome and dirty tile bath stations, and the human parts, and you have an installation that would give Hannibal Lechter a nightmare. It’s brilliant and somebody better put police ankle trackers on Tattelman now. sculpture by Senegal

A couple more artists who deserve to be mentioned in the Hannibal Lechter art list are the very good and macabre sculptures by Stephon Senegal: this is a young artist to keep an eye on; in my opinion possibly the best sculpture in the entire show. Some other pieces by very good artists in this new trend of Lechterism are "Joroko" and also the installation "Sun Ray" by retro-recycling master Ray Jacobs.

M. Rion Hoffman really impressed me with her photography negative boxes installed along one of the main hallways. Hoffman’s boxes are delicate and have that ability to bring the viewer in for an intimate, close-up exploration of whatever story this talented artist wants to deliver. However, her large photo-collages, displayed next to her boxes, appear brutish and heavy handed by comparison, although part of me kept being re-directed from them to her brilliant boxes.

photo by Matt DunnMatt Dunn is a mother load of photographic talent with a built-in magnet to attract, discover, capture on silver gelatin film, and then show us, the really interesting, throat-clearing substrata of human society that makes Diane Arbus’ photographs look like Sears portraits. This is a master portraitist in his element.

In the glass room, Washington Glass School directors Tim Tate and Erwin Timmers have created the most professional looking set of rooms in the entire building and provided the means to discover a couple of new talents in that beautiful genre. Another fact that surfaces very quickly is that the Washington Glass School is certainly stamping its own imprimatur, its own "school brand" in a sense, upon many of our area’s young glass artists. I particularly liked the figurative "man" vessels of Michael Janis, where Janis takes Tate’s seminal idea of narrative biographical wall panels and marries it with Tate’s apothecaries (nine of which were acquired by the Renwick Alliance) to deliver a fresh, new set of ideas in glass.

boat by Syl MathisIn these rooms I also liked Syl Mathis, who reminds us that the true beauty of glass lies mainly in its simplicity. Mathis delivers a series of pieces exploring the "boat" theme in glass. I preferred the simpler, more elegant forms by Mathis over some of the more elaborate pieces, perhaps made a bit distracting by their complex support stands and crafty materials.

Allison B. Miner is a very talented painter, and at the last Art-O-Matic, where I first discovered her small, in-your-face paintings, I singled her out as one of the best painters in that show. Miner is still one of the best painters in this show, and her talent with the brush and composition is clearly evident to the most casual observer. I do however, think that it is time for Miner to move on and push her enviable painting skills beyond the tight, close-up routine that she has come dangerously close to boxing herself in. This is a very good painter at the beginning of her career and I am sure that we are but seeing but a tiny bit of what Miner can and will deliver.crayon portrait by Barbaccia

Joseph Barbaccia is another artist whom I have been observing for the last few years and this year his crayon self-portrait – literally made out of hundreds and hundreds of crayons in a postmodern pointillist style – easily qualifies as one of the best pieces of art in the whole AOM.

Barbaccia is hard to pin down as a painter, sculptor, uh... crayonist? He explores and pushes art in all dimensions.

painting by DowellStaying within two dimensions, and doing a magnificent job of it are three enviably talented painters: Margaret Dowell, Michal Hunter and Jeffry Cudlin. All of these artists have that spectacular technical mastery of the brush that it is so easily dismissed by people who have never tried to mix cerulean blue with Payne’s gray and ended up with mud. Dowell’s paintings show not only extraordinary technical skills, but also a hungry sense of desire and intelligent understanding of her subjects – who are often transgender and cross dressing personages around our area.

Michal Hunter is also a technical virtuoso of the brush, with only one painting in the entire show; tucked away so far and so difficult to find, that had I not run into Hunter while she was on hallway monitor duty, I would have missed it completely. I am glad that I didn’t, as it is a very powerful work by a woman who is slowly re-affirming her once solid place in the Washington, DC art scene.

Jeffry Cudlin surprised me by delivering some very strong compositional works that are really excuses for Cudlin to use a representational subject to offer works such as "Author, Author," that are really more about the intelligent employment of color and shapes and composition. I write that he surprised me because I am not usually a big fan of these sorts of "interior" works. However, because the paintings are all about shape, color and composition, I found myself admiring them for those points, rather than for their subject matter.Scott Brooks' baby drawing

Creating a new place for himself is an illustrator named Scott Brooks, who in this new Art-O-Matic incarnation is like a strange, macabre John Currin, but can paint and draw a lot better than Currin ever learned to. A lot of people were talking about Brooks' disturbing images; this is usually a sign of success for any visual artist. Both the police and art collectors need to keep an eye on this talented artist.

But quite possibly the most talked about (well, at least the most listened to) pieces in the show are the two robotic installations by Thomas Edwards.

talking fish by Scott BrooksLocated on the main hallway of the fourth floor, Edwards first greets the passerby with an installation of several of those mechanical talking fish that move their heads and sing songs. He has changed the original recordings and instead of a Christmas carol, the fish now beg you to stop eating their eggs or complain that they’re dying, etc. It is funny and inventive. Edwards’ second piece is a motion sensing robotic head that follows you along a wall track and peppers you with irritating questions like "where did you get your hair done?"

Edwards’ installations are intelligent creative and they fit well right into the Hollywoodism tradition of past Art-O-Matics.

There is a lot of channeling of well-known artists in this AOM. Two artists stand out: Mark Stark channels Dan Flavin and Erin Hunter continues to somewhat channel Erik Sandberg.

Kevlar dress by Bridget VathI also enjoyed Bridget Vath’s very inventive use of Kevlar to design and construct dresses and other clothing apparel; I suspect that Vath could start a very successful line of Kevlar clothing with good markets in Baghdad, Beirut, Bogotá, Atlanta and most of the Balkans.

The funniest piece in the show, other than Thomas Edwards’ annoying talking fish is also one of the most famous paintings in the world.

I am referring to Kayti Didriksen’s now infamous portrait of Bush and Chaney titled "Man of Leisure: King George," where Didriksen has regurgitated Manet’s famous painting Olympia and has Vice President Chaney serving an oil well to a nude Dubya.

the famous Bush painting by KaytiThis image, a few weeks ago, at the height of the Funky Furniture controversy with the City Museum, was the most downloaded Internet image in the world.

It is a terribly funny, badly painted and highly successful work. Didriksen not only captures Bush’s likeness perfectly but also delivers an interesting expression (that’s perfect for the subject) in the much abused President (abused by a lot of AOM artists that is) and also offers a hilarious VP Chaney with a neck that seems inflamed by gout.

As with past AOM’s, a lot of artists explore the nude human figure in both paintings and photographs. This is a subject not usually seen in Washington area galleries, and I can't recall the last time that I saw an exhibition of nudes in any of our area’s museums. I noted Peggy McNutt, Shannon Chester (especially well done is "No. 10, Chair 2"), Adrienne Mills, Chris Keely, Dana Ellyn Kaufman and Candace Keegan.

Keegan kisses rubber duckyOf these, Kaufman and Keegan both use their own bodies to deliver interesting ideas and suggestions. In Kaufman’s case, extremely acidic, caustic and pointed commentaries with provocative titles married to insane figurative paintings. In Keegan’s case, she pushes a lot of moist buttons in our psyche by playing with stereotypical Hustlerian depictions of women: See Keegan suggestively sucking on her necklace; see Keegan in pigtails offer her breasts to the viewer. However, in the end what we do see are two strong women who use their art intelligently and use the taboo nude to converse elegantly with the viewer.

There is a lot of forgettable abstraction at AOM. Two artists who stand out from the masses (and happen to be sisters) are Andrea Cybik and Jan Sherfy. Their work explores colors and action and also stands out by their very professional presentation.

In summary, I’ve been to every single Art-O-Matic ever staged, and I am in the minority opinion that they’ve improved each time, and each time they give us a most precious gift: the energy that only several hundred creative minds working together can deliver. I hope Art-O-Matic grows to become a national level open show and then grow some more and become a worldwide showcase for the world’s largest open international art exhibition and a new dagger to the heart of the 21st century salons.

SOFA Chicago VIP Opening

While Artomatic opened last night in the DMV, the SOFA Art Fair had their VIP opening in Chicago last night as well. 

And the DMV's own  Audrey Wilson is leading the pack there as the gallery showcases Lori Katz, Dulce Pinzon, Elissa Farrow Savos, Alma Selimovic, Tim Vermeulen and me! 

And Audrey Wilson was rocking the opening: Multiple sales of Lori Katz's work, and of Audrey's own work, as well as breaking the ice for me, and for Dulce, and Elissa!

Call for video art

Deadline: November 15, 2016.

Videos not in excess of 15 minutes are requested for inclusion in Frame & Frequency 3, an international video art exchange, presented as a series of screenings and exhibitions held concurrently in Medellin, Colombia at the PLECTO Galeria and at VisArts in Rockville, MD in November and December of 2016.

Video, film, and new media work will be accepted: experimental, documentary, animation, narrative, non-narrative, multimedia, digital imaging, net art, interactive media, sound art, etc. All foreign language artworks must have English subtitles.

Please send email submissions including - Video links(vimeo), Artwork Synopsis, Bio, CV and

Contact Information to: Frank McCauley, Exhibition Coordinator, VisArts at Rockville,;

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Why do art critics hate Artomatic? Let me explain...

Artomatic, as I once noted on the Kojo Nmandi show, is the visual arts extravaganza that everyone loves, but art critics hate.

Why do they hate AOM? In 2009 I explained it thus, referencing the 2009 AOM version:
Criticism, Journalism ethics and AOM

I've been reviewing art shows since the beginning of the 80s decade during the last century, when I started doing so as an art student at the University of Washington School of Art.

Since then I have moved at least 25 times, lived twice in California, twice in Rhode Island, twice in Europe and twice in the Greater Washington, DC area, to highlight a few of those moves. And throughout all those years I have been involved in the arts, usually as an artist, quite often as a dealer, but always as a writer.

And as part of those experiences I have met dozens and dozens of art critics and writers who write about art, and using those experiences I feel that I can form a pretty decent and sound opinion about what I will discuss next.

Most writers who write about contemporary art shows start by physically visiting the gallery, or museum, or space where the show is being held, in order to look at the artwork (I say most because I know of at least two well-known writers, one a critic for a major newspaper and one a well-known blogger, who wrote reviews as if they'd been to the shows, but it was later proven that they had never visited the space nor seen the show).

Is it the case that some reviews are being written after simply viewing an art show online? Probably, but let's say that generally speaking, most art writers and art critics (there's a difference by the way), start by visiting the space where the show is being held.

If they are lucky enough to write for a publication which pays them to review shows, they either get a flat, per review payment, or a per-word payment (usually also associated with a maximum number of words limit). Some also write the reviews for free, just to be published.

So a typical writer either (maybe even and/or):
(a) Get's a flat payment for a review - let's say $500 in our forthcoming example
(b) Get's a per word payment for a review - Let's say $1 per word with a limit of 600 words
(c) Does it for free

So let's say Billy Artsy writes for a publication which uses either (a) or (b) above, and usually Billy goes to a gallery to see a show that interests him, or is assigned to cover a new museum show. It's a little different in either case (museums usually have press previews with all kinds of packages and hand-outs and discussions and opportunities to meet the curators and/or artists and ask questions.

But in the case of galleries, Billy either drives to the gallery, or takes the subway or bikes to the gallery, arrives and enters the space. In the Greater DC area, your average gallery's group show probably has 30-35 works of art hanging by maybe 15-20 artists. Some juried competitions may have as many of 50 artists. The largest (non AOM) group show that I can recall in our region was "Seven," which I curated a few years ago for the WPA and which had 66 artists in the seven galleries of the Warehouse spaces on 7th Street. There were around 200 works of art in that show, as well as a couple of installations and several performances.

But your average gallery group show that Billy is used to seeing and reviewing, and getting paid for is about 30-35 pieces of art by a dozen or so artists. That is his average reference point for a group show.

Once he arrives at the gallery, the owner or attendant recognizes Billy, gets up and greets him (heaven forbid that Billy is not recognized and treated a little special by the dealer). Depending on several variables, Billy can either be aloof or very friendly to the dealer.

Some art writers see art dealers as the "enemy," while others are mature and understand that just like the writers, the dealer is a key part of the art world universe.

Billy then spends about 15 or 20 minutes looking at the artwork, reading any press materials that he may have been handed, and taking notes on his forming opinions on the show. He may ask a question or two, or simply ignore everyone and focus all his attention on the art at hand. If Billy is especially tuned to a show, he may spend longer there, but let's say that all the artists are new to Billy and after 15 minutes he leaves.

Let's do a little Math and let's keep the numbers simple for simplicity sake. We're accelerating Billy a bit (in my own experience as a gallerist, our DC area critics hang around closer to 30 minutes per visit), but he takes 15 minutes to look at 30 works of art; this equals 30 seconds per work of art.

Later Billy submits the review, and a couple of weeks later he gets a check for $500.

A few weeks later Billy's editor emails Billy and asks Billy to do a review on Artomatic, as the editor keeps hearing about this "Artomatic thing" and getting dozens of letters (cleverly being written to the editor by the Artomatic artists) asking why the editor's newspaper hasn't covered Artomatic.

Billy takes the subway to go see AOM, as he has never really driven around SE and the AOM website tells him that the event is located in a building right on top of a subway exit.

When Billy arrives he is greeted by two volunteers who hand him material on AOM, and neither of the volunteers recognize Billy, nor he them. He asks on which floor the show is, and the volunteers suggest that Billy start on the 9th floor and work his way down. Billy finds it hard to believe that there are nine floors of art.

Billy takes the elevator to the 9th floor and comes out to face yet another volunteer sitting on a desk by the elevators. The volunteer smiles at Billy, but does not recognize him.

Billy begins walking the 9th floor. Already, on this floor alone, is the biggest group show that Billy has ever been to; it hasn't hit Billy yet, but soon he'll realize that there are eight more floors to go.

Billy is a little overwhelmed from the very beginning, and because of the large number of artwork and artists, he comes across a lot of what he considers really bad art: lots of tasteless nudies, loads of unsophisticated beginner art, terrible portraiture including more boudoir portraits in one place that Billy has ever seen in his life.

Billy is seeing a lot of the type and level of artwork which Billy has never seen and most probably would never see in the galleries that Billy tends to favor.

Because of the way the artists' booth are, Billy started (pre-conditioned from his many gallery visits) by weaving a sine wave walking pattern around the gallery walls and working his way around the floor and looking at each artist's gallery individually.

An hour later Billy realizes that he's not even three quarters of the way through the 9th floor and he still has 8 more floors to go.

And so Billy begins to (as humans do) adapt to the sheer size of the art show in front of him, and begins to speed up a little. He no longer visits each artist's gallery wall, but walks at a fast clip between the walls and glancing from the middle left and right covering 8-10 artists at a glance and only pausing to look at the work a little closer if something catches his eye from afar.

He begins to miss details and also misses entire groups of artists. When he walks by the Barbies, he doesn't realize that there are multiple artists in that set of Barbie artwork. He also misses the nuances of David D'Orio's wonderfully minimalist glass sculptures of recycled materials. As he makes the turn into a new aisle, his speeded up sightseeing is directed to one side at that moment and he completely misses Rania Hassan's deceptively complex marriage of painting with 3D sculpture.

By the time Billy finishes the 9th floor, he's sure of four things:

(a) no way that he can cover nine floors of art in this one visit unless he speeds up considerably.
(b) most of the work in the show is dreck.
(c) his notes are all from the first hour on the floor
(d) None of these artists are really good enough to show in a gallery and that's why they are here.

He walks down to the 8th floor, where the AOM floor attendant smiles at him, but once again does not recognize Billy.

He is now in full speed mode; if the artist's work doesn't grab Billy from ten feet away, forget it. At this point all that Billy is seeing are robots, skulls and a lot of bad photos of nude women, plus an annoying huge number of bad portrait artists. he is also missing a lot of intelligent, good art, a lot of it.

And then Billy is recognized by an AOM artist, and to Billy's dismay the artist wants to make sure that Billy sees his work. Billy promises to swing by, but in a nice way tells the artist that he is busy and needs to move on.

There's a small crowd of people in front of Deb Jansen's amazing revenge installation on this floor, and Billy, attracted by the crowd, slows down to see what the fuss is all about. He is hypnotized by what Jansen has done and Billy makes some notes about this installation. It's the first time that he has stopped to actually look at work closely on the 8th floor. Had not there been a crowd in front of Jansen's installation, Billy would have missed it as well.

Fifteen minutes later Billy has finished his whirlwind walk through of the 8th floor. It still took him half an hour, and in that 30 minutes he has "reviewed" about 100 artists and about 2500 works of art. He has completely missed the work of nearly a dozen artists on this floor who are already in the collection of major museums and represented by galleries all over the US and Europe. Blue chip artists in a plebian art show.

He also misses several "new" artists who will soon move on to galleries, museums and other such high art places.

By this time Billy's mind is made up. Nothing in the remaining seven floors can save AOM from the wrath of Billy's review.

He debates if it is even worth it for him to look at the rest of the show, but Billy's ethical side wins out and he descends to the 7th floor, where he is greeted by yet another floor attendant who doesn't know Billy from her aunt Elvira.

Billy finishes the 7th floor in 15 minutes, a new floor record. He only stops to glance at the glass displays by the British Sunderland artists because the displays caught his eyes as very "gallery like." The professional-looking displays put Billy in his comfort zone.

But he has already been at AOM for over two hours and has only seen three floors.

He debates skipping the six other floors, and "just to be fair," decides to pick one more floor at random, to "see if anything is different."

He decides on the 5th floor. By now it's getting a little into the evening and Billy is surprised at to how many people are viewing the show. Billy has never seen more than a couple dozen people in an art show at any time in any gallery, and even on the rare openings that he goes to, not more that 30-40 people in at once.

At AOM Billy sees hundreds and hundreds of people pouring in, and the elevators are getting crowded and slow and a tired Billy has to wait for an elevator to take him down.

On the ride down Billy decides on the 3rd floor and gets out. He sort of glances around and tries to absorb the entire floor from the edge of the elevators' entry points.

Billy decides to pack it and go home to write his review of Artomatic. He has seen more artwork in the last three hours that he has all year round. Most of it quite forgettable to Billy, atrocious even. In the process he has also missed seeing more artwork than most critics see in a year. And his visually overloaded mind has not seen the truly outstanding work of dozens and dozens of new and established good artists.

But Billy will write a review about the entire show, including the 700 plus artists whose work Billy never saw. Had Billy known about the scope of this huge show, Billy would have studied the artists' list ahead of time and highlighted the well-known artists whom Billy has already reviewed in the past, when they showed in the galleries that Billy frequents. That way Billy covers his own review foot prints.

But Billy missed them, and he's about to carpet bomb the entire show, including artists who Billy actually likes and whose gallery shows he has reviewed in a positive light.

Billy goes home and he is tired. Because it is now rush hour the subways are crowded and by the time Billy gets home, he is exhausted, both physically and mentally overloaded.

A couple of glasses of wine from a wine box helps Billy to relax a little as he sits in front of his laptop and Googles the web to see what other critics have written about AOM. After all, Billy wants to ensure that he is aligned with his elder critics and with the faddish new ones from the art blogs.

Almost to a man (woman) they all write bad things about AOM's artwork. What Billy doesn't realize is that many of them saw AOM in the same manner that Billy did. Some of them have never even visited AOM, but they still trashed it.

Billy revs up his trendy Mac and begins to earn his $500, which is what he would have been paid if he just went and had reviewed a "regular" gallery show, with maybe one artist's solo or a dozen artists' group show.

Billy trashes AOM, lest he be ever asked to do that much work again.

When the review is published, Billy's editor is surprised by the large outpouring of hate letters and emails and comments about the review. They come mostly from AOM artists, disgusted with Billy's review of the show. But they are unaware that they're about to help with Billy's career at the paper.

Billy's editor is pleased to discover that Billy has so many readers; after all, a letter is a letter, and Billy's AOM review column has received more letters and comments than all of Billy's previous columns added together.

This becomes a good checkmark on Billy's record with his editor. Who knew that Billy's gallery review column had some many followers?

Billy is pleasantly surprised by the positive outcome of an otherwise exhausting event.

Sometimes it bothers Billy to recall that he never really saw all the work in the manner that it deserved, but he does a little Math and he feels better when he discovers that in order to review AOM in the way that he reviews all other art shows, he would have had to spend a dozen hours there just to give each artist about 3/4 of a minute. That's an impossible task, if you ask Billy, especially for a measly $500 bucks.

That makes Billy sleep better at night and feel like he's still an ethical writer.

Artomatic Opens Tonight!

The greatest visual art show on the planet...Artomatic opens tonight... be there or miss 350 artists! 

The greatest open art show on Earth opens tonight folks! 

After my first quick look: Start on the 6th floor and wind your way down... my review and top 10 picks coming! 

Visitors will enjoy easy access to Artomatic from the Montrose West Exit off I-270. The Park Potomac community, with its colorful floral mural is a landmark. Enter the complex by the lane marked for Park Potomac Avenue, circle the round-a-bout, and follow the signs to Artomatic at 12435 Park Potomac Avenue. Plentiful two hour free garage and surface parking is on site.

Or come by Metro via Red Line and transfer to RideOn buses 42 or 47. Check WMATA Trip Planner for further information, and see the Artomatic website about Foulger-Pratt weekday shuttle service from White Flint Metro Station direct to Artomatic.

For the latest information about Artomatic 2016, how to participate in the future, when to visit, the activities and events calendar, subscribe to Artomatic by email or Facebook and visit

What: Artomatic 2016, an arts spectacular at Park Potomac in Montgomery County.
When: Thursday, November 3 – Friday, December 9, 2016:

Thursdays: Noon – 10 pm

Fridays: Noon – Midnight

Saturdays: Noon - Midnight

Sunday: Noon – 6 pm

Closed on Thanksgiving Day
Where: 12435 Park Potomac Avenue, Potomac, Maryland, Floors 5 and 6.
Who: For everyone and for free. Persons under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
Performance: For information about how to perform at Artomatic, visit:
Social Media: Facebook: Twitter: @ARTOMATIC

Wanna go to an opening?

39th Street Gallery/Gateway Arts Center
3901 Rhode Isalnd Ave.Brentwood MD, 20722
(Second Floor 39th Street entrance)

In the Visionary Art tradition, the 39th Street Gallery is pleased to present six self-taught artists in the upcoming exhibitions.
Artist Reception - November 5 from 5-8PM.
Please come out and help the 39th Street Gallery support and welcome these wonderful aritists. Free and open to the public

Kanika Sircar at Waverly Street

new work in clay
November 8 – December 3, 2016
Reception: Friday, November 11th, 6 – 9 pm
Artist Talk: Saturday, November 19th, 3 pm
Meet the Artist: Saturdays during the show

Kanika Sircar makes use of maps and texts as central images in her sculptural vessels and tiles. Prints of charts and excerpts of poetry are layered over slips, stains and pencil drawings. Maps are employed to evoke both certainty and doubt, pointing to where we assume we are and the arbitrary nature of that assumption. Thought provoking and beautiful, her pieces variously reference Vedic cosmography, diagrams of the Copernican universe, drawings of Martian topography, and the documents and plans of India’s partition.
4600 East West Highway
Bethesda, MD 20814
Gallery Hours: Tues – Sat, 12 – 6 pm