American University Katzen Arts Center Presents Group 93-2022

By Editorial Team on September 19, 2022

Wed, 14 September 2022 - Sun, 16 October 2022

Reception: Saturday, September 24 from 3pm to 6pm

ARTISTS:  Joan Lewis Birnbaum. Lucy J Blankstein. Michael Graham. Marjorie Hirano. Carol A Jason. Myrtle Katzen. Virginia Mahoney. Marc Pekala. Luciano Penay. Susana De Quadros. Patricia Segnan. Romeo Segnan. Claudia Vess. Gail Watkins. Margaret White. Walterina Zanellati.

Since 1990 Group 93 artists have come together to explore the rigor of a critique method developed by artist and professor emeritus Luciano Penay.  After a year of discussion artists see a notable jump in the holding power of the artwork.  The artists have diverse professional backgrounds and individual approaches to visual language.  They have made significant contributions to the Washington area art scene and exhibit individually in the US and the world.

The exhibition incorporates a diversity of topics such as war reflections, ecology, still life, non-objective, surreal, and realistic approaches and shies from no media, genre or method. The high bar is “Each work speaks for itself.

Nature runs through the 2022 show, revealed in tonalities painted on board by White in response to a Vermont landscape that first appears as a Leonardo rushing water study, light sifting through the boughs of a pine tree that Birnbaum enhances with raised texture. Nature does the weathering, along with steel wool, on Watkin’s paintings, abrading façade-like surfaces with wind, water and time creating an archaeological unity.  In large monotypes in black, yellow and green Vess intimates the pressures of nature on the edges while in Blankstein’s paintings on paper, nature including humanity is threatened by cascading bombs.  In her abstracted prints bird forms swoop over Monte Cristallo on 9-11.  Vess’ sculpture of a figure entangled with Styrofoam raises questions as do the adjacent Penay collages.

There is joy, in the colors of Katzen’s still lifes, landscapes and people, jazz in Pekala’s 9:30 Club and letter form compositions. Zanelatti and R. Segnan use the colors of a four-layer print process to depict Venetian boats, water, air, and imaginary cities.  And there are moods in Jason’s shapes of pale color and mysteries in Mahoney’s surreal drawings that leave the journey to the viewer.  Hirano’s approach is to layer and turn shapes into new complex organic-geometries that light up with subtle tones of watercolor.

In art, realistic images are never far away.  Graham transforms tiny marks of colored pencil, pastel and oil crayon into sweeping landscapes in small formats and shadowed flowers in vases.  Palm trees sway in the humidity of yellow-green oil impasto in De Quadro’s paintings while her etchings make the most of the printmakers black.

Ineffable, like colors in the sky, tonal shifts emanate from five columns of joined panels, reclaimed from a piano crate by P. Segnan, mark the Hours.  Sculptures in a variety of materials inhabit the rotunda, hydrocal, and bronze in the case of Josephine with a fur stole by Jason, a Vess assemblage with lace, Victoria Woodhull by Vess, and a cluster of small, plaster-cast walking and standing figures by White.

Installed together, the correspondences among the 103 works succeed in creating a total visual experience.

About the artists

Joan Lewis Birnbaum   After living in North Africa, Birnbaum completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at AU (BA, MFA) before moving to Rome where she studied lithography. She developed her approach to abstraction and non-objective imagery out of the Abstract Expressionist idea of the spontaneous gesture because of its drama and immediacy. Integrating gesture and structure she brings each painting to its implied conclusion while retaining the painting’s initial vitality and directness. Birnbaum has exhibited at the Landow Gallery and Creative Partners in MD and her paintings are in many private collections.  Birnbaum initiated Group 93.

 Lucy J Blankstein evokes transitory moods with layers of glazing over quick marks that imply an image briefly noted.  She experiments with waterbase media for monotypes.  She taught art in Ecuador and in the Dominican Republic where she established an art colloquium.  Blankstein served as Executive Director of the Washington Women’s Art Center (’77-8), worked at the National Gallery of Art, at the National Portrait Gallery and was the assistant to the director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Later, she started the Lee Art Center Gallery, VA, curated shows at the Inner Space/Gallery10, WDC, is a curator at The Cabinet: Art, recently co-curating a show at the Sebrof Forbes Cultural Center.  She is the PR Coordinator for Group 93. Blankstein has exhibited in the US and Europe:  (Art Students League, NYC, BA Grinnell)

Michael Graham concentrates on the creation of mood through the use of color and light in a variety of media: graphite, colored pencil, dry pastel and oil pastel. His interests range from landscape and still life to classical architecture. Graham, a Professor Emeritus of Design taught in the AU Art Department for 30 years. Exhibitions in DC include the Daystar Gallery and the American University Museum. (MFA, Yale.),

Marjorie Hirano traces aspects of her drawings from plant forms, often superimposing and intermingling the new forms with geometric shapes to further distance her imagery from the original source and its inherent reference. This distance, Hirano says, “allows me the freedom to react to shapes, patterns, colors and spatial organization creating new meanings.” A Professor Emerita of Art in printmaking and graphic design at AU, Hirano has exhibited throughout the DC area, in Richmond, Philadelphia, Chicago, La Fayette (TN), Cedar Rapids (IA,) Temecula (CA) and Boone (NC.) (MS, Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology.)

Carol A. Jason sculpts figurative and abstract pieces in clay, wax, Hydrocal and wire. She also constructs abstract wood sculptures from found wood and other materials.  Her paintings explore how light color and organic forms evoke feelings of mystery, peace and calm (with a little whimsy thrown in.)  Carol coordinates an abstract painting class at the Yellow Barn in Glen Echo, MD and is a member of the Washington Sculpture Group. (BA, MFA, AU),,

Myrtle Katzen  I paint because I like to see the different highlights and colors in nature and feel joy in the beauty of flowers and plants.  Viewing art reminds me how fortunate we are to be able to see.” Katzen studied art at the Abbott School of Commercial Art, the Corcoran School, the American University and was awarded an honorary degree from George Washington University.  She worked as a fashion illustrator for Sears and the Hecht Co. and then taught art at the Maret School.  In the 90’s she founded the Katzen Art Gallery to showcase DC artists.  An early member of the Group 93, Katzen was inspired to become a major benefactor of the Katzen Arts Center. 

Virginia Mahoney is a working artist who spent her career designing exhibitions for the Smithsonian. Having spent a career explaining things to the public, she at some point became more interested in the many possibilities that lie in creating visuals that do NOT explain things. Instead, she became intrigued by creating imagery that only suggests things to the viewer, things that might be unclear, and allow the viewer to add their own interpretation. “I mostly look inward for my subject material. Emphasis here is on the quality of a line, suggestive forms and unpredictable images. Using a pencil, charcoal, or brush, often I find the color and quality of line can stand alone with minimal need to fully define a specific image… suggesting instead a glimpse of internal unconscious thoughts.”

Luciano Penay, a master of collage, abstraction, realism and surrealism is also known for his effective method of critique.  Emeritus Professor of Painting and Drawing at AU, Penay has curated and installed many exhibitions at the University, the Emerson Gallery and other venues in the DC area and in Chile.  He also taught Relations of Art to Literature in the Department of Languages. Following a grant to study Art Conservation at The Institute in Mexico (‘79-80,) he created paper conservation courses and a lab at AU in1982.  His collages are carefully constructed from a point of view that then takes the viewer into other realms. (MFA AU)

Susana De Quadros studied in Lima and Ottawa before settling in WDC.  She apprenticed in printmaking with Ann Zahn at the Printmakers’ Studio in Bethesda, MD and participated in the Washington Printmakers Calendar for 15 years. Wanting to work larger, in 2002 she began painting in oil on canvas, expanding the expressive aspects of her imagery while continuing to work from her imagination.  Her landscapes impart a sense of tropical weather stretching far beyond the tropical garden she planted in her backyard.  De Quadros has exhibited extensively, locally, nationally and in Argentina, Peru and Costa Rica.  Her work is in many private collections and in the Library of Congress Print Collection.

Patricia Segnan worked in the film industry and was nominated for an Emmy for costume design in 1971 for an NBC series on President Lincoln before returning to fine art painting, collage, printmaking and polychrome wood sculpture.   She allowed new forms to evolve from the materials.  Experimenting with pure gesture in painting, her marks evolved over time into alphabetic and ideographic elements.  She exhibited extensively in the in the US and internationally from her base in Venice where she worked at Atelier Aperto.  Her work is in museums and in private collections in the US, Britain and Italy and is now represented by (BA Carnegie Mellon; MA (film and video) AU, MFA AU)

Romeo Segnan   Emeritus Professor of Physics at AU, initiated course studies in 1975 in the physics of sound, founding the Audio Technology Program. He apprenticed in printmaking at the Atelier Aperto in Venice and began exhibiting in Italy in 2011. Many of his prints feature boats, a subject he knows well from sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and rowing a Venetian sandolo. Segnan has arranged exhibitions in WDC of Venetian printmaking and the artists’ books Il Libro della Notte and Metropolis now housed the in Marciana Library in Venice. Segnan prints at the Atelier Aperto in Venice.

Claudia Vess   “Whatever the media, each piece is a subtle editorial comprised of daily interests, material culture, the news and research.”  Exhibiting in the US and in Europe, Vess’s most recent exhibit was a tableau on Wisconsin Avenue NW at the Pepco Window Gallery at the Harrison Street Substation.  She has worked in community arts development, galleries and museums, and is a gallerist at The Cabinet: Art, recently co-curating an exhibition at the Sebrof Forbes Cultural Center.  She serves as the Coordinator of Group 93. (AB Smith College, MFA AU) ,

Gail Hillow Watkins “My paintings are carefully constructed with comics, photocopy, paint and glue and attacked with sandpaper, wire brushes, boiling water or graffiti resulting in a reintegration through the action of time and nature.”  Originally from Washington, DC, Watkins is based in Annapolis, Md.  She serves as an advisor to St. John’s Mitchell Gallery following her twenty year career teaching painting at St. John’s College.  Represented by Gallery 10 in DC, she also exhibited at The Corcoran Gallery of Art and museums across the country.  Her work can be found in galleries in Annapolis and in numerous private, corporate and museum collections in the US and abroad, including the AU Watkins Gallery Collection.   (BA Duke, MFA, AU)

 Margaret White  is known for atmospheric large, luminous landscapes with glazes of metallic pigments and the Vermont series.  An early member of Group 93, she lives surrounded by a garden in Chapel Hill, NC.  For several years she has been experimenting with plastercloth catching momentary gestures of figures.  White has been a Resident Artist at the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and traveled widely.  She has exhibited in the Watkins Gallery at AU and Somerhill and Craven Allen galleries in North Carolina. She has expertise in antique prints and archival framing techniques.  (MFA AU ’75)

Walterina Zanellati specializes in non-toxic printmaking methods using soy based inks.  She uses a three-color monotype process with transparent overlays to heighten the atmosphere of her brightly-colored imaginary landscapes. She is a partner at Atelier Aperto in Venice where she studied traditional and experimental etching techniques. Zanellati exhibits in Italy, Spain, France, Germany and with Group 93. Two of her works were chosen for the 2012 Almanac Italia Nostra.  She participated in the artists’ book project, Metropolis, and other book projects published by the International Center for Graphics in Venice.   (BFA Academy of Fine Arts, Venice)

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