May Mid City Gallery Previews

By Phil Hutinet on May 14, 2015
From Maria VanTassell’s NASCAR Series. Image courtesy Pleasant Plains Workshop.


Published concurrently with Capital Community News’ May Mid City print and online editions.


A Peek into NASCAR at PPW

You know you’ve always wanted to peek into the world of NASCAR which has grown in the largest spectator sport in the United States surpassing our national pastime, Baseball, and even the National Football League in audience size. In her NASCAR Series, Ann-Marie VanTassell allows visitors to view this world from the controlled environment of the Pleasant Plains Workshop gallery. Trained as a photojournalist, Washington, DC-based photographer and Pleasant Plains Workshop resident VanTassell counts anthropological photographer Catherine Opie as one of her influences. In her NASCAR photographs, Ann-Marie VanTassell turns the tables on her subjects as the spectators become the spectacle on full display for gallery audiences to see. In so doing, VanTassell’s oeuvre straddles the line between social-science and art. VanTassell’s images masterfully convince the viewer that ordinary, every-day Americans are actually “the other” (l’autre), to borrow a term from French Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, rendering seemingly banal quotidian scenes exotic and somewhat otherworldly.


Three Concurrent Exhibitions at Touchstone Gallery     


Over the winter and early spring, Touchstone Gallery artists, Paula Lantz, David Beers, Shelley Lowenstein, Mary D. Ott and Judy Giuliani participated in a community workshop at New Community ArtSpace with youth and adults. The artists and Shaw residents collaborated on creating artwork in various mediums yielding a body of work which will be on display at the Touchstone Gallery through the end of May. Gallery-goers will have a chance to observe the best of community art and art-making as the annual collaboration between the Touchstone Foundation for the Arts, the Touchstone Gallery, ArtSpace and the Shaw community comes to fruition in the form of an exhibition.

Aleksandra Katargina’s In Pursuit of Happiness

Russian born Aleksandra Katargina examines the Pursuit of Happiness. Thomas Jefferson first coined the phrase and derived his inspiration from English philosopher Thomas Locke who wrote not about happiness but rather about the “pursuit of property.” Katargina’s has a different take on the subject altogether. Her central thesis rests on the premise that most of us spend life in the pursuit of happiness. Through a series of figurative paintings, Katargina examines two-paths in the pursuit of happiness. The first path comes out of “pressure relief” which the artist argues can be achieved through goal setting or escapism. The second path describes working in harmony with oneself and one’s surroundings. From these two ideas, Katargina paints a series of parables examining the realization and pitfalls of achieving happiness either through pressure relief or in harmonizing oneself with one’s surroundings.

In addition to the above exhibitions, Touchstone will also host a group show of its members in May.

Larry Cook, Some of my best friends are black , 2014, neon light, 131 x 6 inches
Image courtesy Hamiltonian Gallery.


Stockholm Syndrome at Hamiltonian

Mini-series such as Alex Haley’s Roots visually recreated an unfiltered look at the horrific and odious practice of the Transatlantic Slave Trade also referred to by historians somewhat euphemistically as the “Middle Passage”. However, whereas author Alex Haley sought to gain a deeper understanding of his own identity as an American of African descent by tracing his family history, artist Larry Cook takes a different approach in his examination of the African Diaspora in the Americas. Cook focuses his examination of identity in our “post-racial society” by studying what impact the Transatlantic Atlantic Slave Trade had on the “subjugated”. Cook’s study encompasses African populations in all of the Americas, specifically in the Caribbean, Latin America and the US. Through text, neon, appropriated audio and video, Cook’s work will re-examine our post-racial society’s narratives likening the plight of present day Americans of African descent to captives suffering a type Stockholm Syndrome.



May Mid City Exhibitions:

1353 U Street NW, Washington, DC 20009
202.332.1116 |
Stockholm Syndrome by Larry Cook
May 16 – June 20
OPENING RECEPTION:  Thursday, May 21, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

1515 14th Street NW
202.234.5601 |
Through May 30

1234 Ninth Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
202.232.4788 |
Versus  by Jason Wright
Thorugh June 7

2608 Georgia Avenue NW
Ann-Marie VanTassell: from the NASCAR series
Through May 31

901 New York Ave NW, Washington DC 20001
202.347.2787 |
Chiaroscuro: Out of the Shadows Touchstone member artists show
In Pursuit of Happiness by Aleksandra Katargina (Touchstone Foundation Fellow)
I Belong Here juried show of student work from Touchstone@ArtSpace project
Through May 31