On View: January 7 – January 30, 2022
Seeing My Way by Sonya Michel
Seeing My Way, an exhibit of work by Sonya Michel, will open at Touchstone Gallery on January 7. Michel, a noted historian of U.S. women and social policy, began her career in art after retiring from a professorship at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2016. She joined Touchstone several years later and presented some of her work in a virtual solo show in 2020. This will be her first in-person solo exhibit.
According to Michel, the title of her show has two meanings. The first refers to the process by which she became an artist. After many years of teaching and publishing (she is the author or editor of some thirteen books and dozens of articles), she decided to return to her “first love”: making art. Since then, she has been exploring and experimenting with many different media as she develops ways to express how she sees the world and responds to it.
The title’s second meaning emphasizes Michel’s effort to “find her voice,” to see things her way. She began her new career with painting but soon found herself drawn to less conventional materials—what she calls “the stuff of everyday life”: packaging and labels; textiles, paper and plastics; “found objects,” large and small. She incorporates these things into her work as-is or prepares them by tearing, painting, crunching or otherwise modifying them. The results take the form of collages and assemblages as well as works on canvas.
Michel points out that her artwork is not unconnected to her previous output as a scholar. There, she addressed women’s experience and how it has been shaped not just by the ideologies, laws and policies of their day but also by the built environments in which they live and work. These days, she says, she is “intrigued by modern domesticity and the colors, textures and shapes of items that compose it—not just the products themselves but the packaging in which they arrive.” At the same time, she notes, “I can’t help seeing the perils of abundance: the stuff that enables our lifestyles also clutters the world and poisons our air and water. To borrow a phrase from William Butler Yeats, it is a terrible form of beauty.” The exhibit will run until January 30.
Mass – Balance – Space by Gale Wallar
MASS BALANCE, in glacier terminology, refers to a measure of the change in mass of a glacier; the balance between accumulation (growth) and ablation (loss) in a glacier system.
In art terminology, MASS refers to a three dimensional form that stands out from the surrounding space because of value, color or texture. BALANCE refers to the equal weight or attention of forms in a composition that contribute to visual unity. SPACE is a term that defines a pictorial illusion to depict the infinity of the natural environment, where one sees receding forms.
A few weeks into the pandemic shutdown in March 2020, Gale Wallar reviewed her photographs taken during a journey to Alaska six months earlier.
During that summer of 2019, Alaska had been beset by unusual climactic events: heat waves, high winds, and forest and tundra fires. Denali, the highest peak in North America, was shrouded with clouds and haze. On the last day of Wallar’s trip, the skies suddenly cleared over Denali and the surrounding mountains of the Alaska Range. For the first time in weeks the snow capped peaks and glaciers glistened in the sun and offered themselves up to be revered and examined. The visual immediacy and drama of Wallar’s close up shots of mountains became the impetus for a new series of paintings.
The paintings that Wallar began in 2020 focus on the upper regions of mountains, in the snow accumulation zones, where the compressed snow and ice form the glaciers that eventually feed the rivers and creeks. Across the globe, climate change and rising temperatures in the mountains imperil sources of precious water as the glaciers recede and move rapidly toward extinction. Mass balance is shrinking.
Wallar’s compositions, based on selective adherence to her source photos, are drawn by hand on the canvas. Large shapes and value areas are blocked in. Layers of custom mixed color and details create contrast and depth The use of color tonality, value changes, repetition, texture, mass, balance and the illusion of space adds to the expressive commitment.
In February 2021, Touchstone Gallery and Wallar presented a virtual show, Mass Balance: Endgame. Despite the high quality of the presentation, a virtual show cannot replicate the physical experience of viewing art, particularly the larger works. This current show is an extension of the virtual exhibit along with several new works. All can be viewed in person in MASS – BALANCE – SPACE.
Wallar has previously exhibited in group, solo and juried shows in the US and Europe. She has a studio
at the Torpedo Factory Art Center and her work is in private international collections.
- Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 12pm – 5pm
Masks are required inside the gallery.
Touchstone Gallery is located at 901 New York Ave. NW. For more information, visit www.touchstonegallery.com.