What do Washington area artists think about their community? This was asked of each of the artists exhibiting a self portrait in an exhibition at Jane Haslem Gallery in June, 1985 when the gallery was located at 406 7th Street, NW.
The artists and in some cases, their portraits are listed in alphabetical order.
1. David Adamson – both artist and dealer
Study for large Self Portrait, 1985. laser print with hand coloring, 4 1/8 x 5 5/8"
I feel that Washington is a city in search of it’s ‘Art’ identity. For artists this creates a ripe environment for change and experiment and for dealers the opportunity to take chances outside of the mainstream.
2. Allen Appel
Self Portrait with Cuckoo, 1983. hand colored silver photograph, 20 x 24"
The Washington Art Community, like all major art communities, is populated by hacks, glory-hunters, complainers, whiners, bad dealers, good dealers, excellent dealers, terrible artists, wonderful artists and hype-artists. It is fueled by gossip, innuendo, lies, truth, bad criticism, good criticism, backbiting, foolishness, altruism, cheap shots and honesty. It is not New York, Paris or Los Angeles and never will be. It is not the place that makes the art. It is the artist.
3. Scip Barnhart
Rembrandt, Me, Woodward, Bogart, James Dean, and an unidentified Baseball Player (R.C.?) Petting the Dog from Deverell’s Twelfth Night...1983-85. litho pencil on ball grained aluminum, 34 x 47 1/4"
4. Leon Berkowitz
Self Portrait, 1985. pastel on paper, 29 3/4 x 22"
You can make it in D.C. Save your plane fare to N.Y.
5. Ed Bisese
Valentines, 1983. pencil on paper, 23 x 30"
It may be inappropriate for me to speak of the Washington art community. I work alone in a little studio and regards art as a personal campfire. But I know other artists. We share similar goals in a city devoted to a much different task.
6. Beatriz Blanco
Transition, 1984. corten steel, 65 x 23"
I have been part of the Washington Art Community for about six years and since then I have seen some changes. When I first came here I remember people telling me that Washington wasn’t a place for an artist but for a politician. I found myself in a very interesting art community with a lot of variety, that not only lives under the ‘New York art shadow’ but also strives to create its own imprint. I was part of the Zenith Community shortly after I moved to Washington and there I experiences the friendship and the true collaboration between artists who live and work there. I have found that this spirit is prevalent amount other artists in the city and this quality, I feel, is the essence of the art community in Washington.
7. Howard Carr
Self Portrait, 1985, oil on board, 16 x 22"
I love living in Washington. It's great!
8. Al Carter
Big Al Fishing, 1985. graphite, watercolor, collage, 22 1/2x 18 1/2"
The art in Washington DC is becoming more and more distinctive.
9. William Christenberry
Self Portrait with Sculpture, 1984. color polaroid, 8 x 10"
10. Manon Cleary
Graduation Day. Self Portrait with Mother, 1984. oil on canvas, 61 x 49"
Fifteen years after I arrived in Washington, my perception of the local art scene is that: it's bigger, it takes itself more seriously (or more self consciously), It's more polarized and political, it's not as much fun. It is still an easier, calmer, cheaper place to live than New York, but New York remains essential to an artist for national and international exposure. Despite obvious New York influences on trends and styles those styles remain pleasantly marked by local idiosyncrasy, which gives the art a fresh, unique Washington feel, no matter what form it takes.
11. Joan Danziger
Birdlady – A Portrait, 1983. resin reinforced fabric over wire armature, celluclay, acrylic paint, 34 x 24 x 18"
The art community is political, complex and diverse but full of talent and imagination.
12. Rebecca Davenport
Self Portrait, 1982. oil on canvas, 72 x 48 1/4"
The Washington art community; collectors, dealers and artists, is quite diverse, encompassing a number of age, economic and stylistic categories.
13. Gene Davis
Self Portrait, 1983. acrylic on canvas, 46 x 36"
14. Danni Dawson
Self Portrait, 1985. oil on canvas, 46 x 36"
It appears that the quality and quantity of the visuall arts in the greater Washington area has not only grown over the past ten years, but grown exponentially. It is merely a matter of time and Washington will become a major art center. I'm very excited about our future.
15. Willem de Looper
Self Portrait with Television Set, 1985. watercolor and pen on paper, 11 1/2 x 8"
16. Jane Margaret Dow
Portrait, 1984. acrylic on canvas, 29 x 23"
17. Werner Drewes
Self Portrait, 1971. woodcut, artist proof, 18 1/2 x 11 1/8"
18. Roger Essley
Brass Ring, 1984. photomontage, conte crayon, 59 3/4 x 60 1/2"
There is no coherent Washington art scene that I am aware of - no dominant school or area where artists congregate or museums that consistently show local art. I am not sure that is all bad. I am ambivalent about the idea of regional art and the power of galleries/museums to create a new style or school. There are a number of talented artists working, showing, and sometimes selling in Washington. They deserve support and recognition.
19. Elizabeth Falk
A Portrait, 1976. bronze, 26 x 20"
Washington is an ideal city for an artist to live and work in. It has the humaneness and beauty of a small town combined with free access to some of the world's finest museums. I am very excited about the way my work is developing here although I feel that neither the Washington art scene has, nor any other current art scene would have little to do with it.
20. Alan Feltus
Self Portrait, 1978. oil on linen, 10 x 10"
Washington artists are like New York artists, or artists anywhere, in that they are unlike one another. The Washington art community is so diversified that Washington art cannot be understood or appreciated except by dismissing categories and openly confronting statements by individual artists on their works. Every attempt to fairly represent Washington art has failed to include important artists; apparently no exhibition or written account can succeed in this, no matter how ambitious.
21. Carlton Fletcher
Self Portrait, 1981. oil on gesso panel, 9 x 10"
The idea of a community of artists, dealers and patrons strikes me as a kind of special-interest group, of no more usefulness to the rest of the world than dog-fanciers or hot-air balloonists. I would rather see a realer community, in which the artists, dealers and patrons played their part; this we do not have. In any case ,I am not aware of there being one art community, but many, each with little understanding of the others. Perhaps this is inevitable, because there is no agreement on what art is for, and no culture insisting on temple-carvers and cathedral masons are more comprehensible to me than the intention of most of my colleagues; no doubt that goes both ways.
22. Fred Folsom
Sunday at the Park, 1983-84. oil on board, 48 x 96"
There are thousands upon thousands of DC area artists frantically struggling in a very small, selective, fickle market. Many feel failed because they aren't making a living and haven't been discovered. Much heroic effort in a political town!
23. Patricia Tobacco Forrester
Grinning, 1985. watercolor, 40 x 25"
Having to make a statement characterizing the Washington art community about this matter of having a local identity. It seems to me that the insecure worry about positioning themselves. I have no time for, nor much basis for, complaining.
24. Hayes Friedman
Man and Me, 1982. oil on canvas, 60 x 50"
The Washington art community – I wish I knew them, but I was painting that day.
25. Sam Gilliam
Self Portrait, 1984. paper, wire construction, 12 x 6 x 6"
Washington has always been a good city of artists. The question is, can it become a city of great artists?
26. Robert Godwin
Self Portrait, 1985. oil on masonite, 48 x 24"
The Washington art scene: pretty good, what there is of it; plenty of it, such as it is.
27. Carol Goldberg
Fantasy Self Portrait, 1985. color Xerox of pencil and charcoal drawing, 15 x 9 1/2"
DC belongs to a nation – the environment is multi-national - and the city turns over every four years. While the rest of the country looks for a way out of pluralism, the DC art community's strength lies in the individuality reflected by the city. No apparent cohesive art movement – but an accessibility among artists, dealers, patrons, and some writer of art.
28. Margery Goldberg
Blue Eyed Lady, 1975. cherry wood, glass & turquoise
29. Lewis G. Hawkins
1984. oil on canvas, 24 x 20"
30. Linda Hendrick
Self Portrait With Cows, 1985. charcoal on paper, 70 x 76"
Washington is coming of age. It's art community feels a power that it is only beginning to express. Washington draws Americans from the whole diversity of this nation; it's art expression will magnify the richness of this heritage.
31. Lani Irwin
Self Portrait, 1985. oil on linen, 16 x 15 1/2"
I believe the world has become much more connected for artists, that there is little distinction between artists of one region and another, one country and another. Yet perhaps because of the wealth of museums in Washington, the art community here seems to be growing rapidly in numbers of artists and quality of work, to be taking its place as a major art center. I believe that the arts are a major force in the development and enrichment of mankind and I welcome this growth of the art community in a hostile world as a sign of hope.
32. Jacob Kainen
Self Portrait at 75, 1985. brush and ink drawing, 26 1/4 x 19 1/2"
33. Margarida Kendall
Portuguese Nun, 1983. oil on canvas, 36 x 28"
Do Washington artists have a forum where to exchange new ideas with the local galleries and museums? Does the promotion of local artists by the Washington galleries extend beyond this area or are artists forced to look elsewhere for their promotion throughout the U.S. and abroad? Do the Washington museums acknowledge a special responsibility towards local artists or do they feel precluded from doing so because of their role as national museums? Are Washington artists to be recognized only on the basis of their ability to reflect trends which originated elsewhere, or has the time come for Washington to emerge as the center of new movements in the visual arts? These are all issues which need to be resolved if Washington artists are to be allowed the opportunity to develop their fullest potential.
34. Joanne Kent
Self Portrait, 1985. mixed media, 19 1/4 x 15 1/2"
35. Kitty Klaidman
Self Portrait, 1985. acrylic on paper, 32 x 40"
In any art scene there are elements that deserve praise and others that deserve criticism. I will limit myself to praise. A great many Washington artists merit recognition for their talent and dedication, as do the dealers for their integrity, seriousness and support.
36. Edith Kuhnle
Self Portrrait, 1985. pastel and acrylic 16 x 16"
37. Leslie Kuter
Self Portrait #2 Catcher, 1979. soft painting (hooked rug)
To me, the fact that the business of Washington, DC is politics is an attraction. Only two or three years after I arrived in 1971 I came to realize that there was no other city in the United States that I wanted to move to. It has always been easy to meet artists and survive making art.
38. Aaron Levine
Self Portrait with Hat, 1982. pink Tennessee marble, 22 x 8"diameter
39. Val Lewton
Self Portrait with the Apparition of Michael Smallwood, 1985. acrylic on paper, 29 x 24"
In Washington, as in other American cities, artists come together in order to hang around decaying semi industrial parts of town looking for cheap rent, cheap beer, and an exhibition every 18 months. The only bond centers around how best to live and survive as an artist in D.C. are what artists make are their own business and not considered a polite topic for conversation.
40. Marvin Liberman
Self Portrait IV, 1985. oil pastels, 26 x 23"
The solitude necessary to make art has its painful side, aloneness, self-doubt. To counteract this state, friendship is utterly necessary. And for those dear friendships that I have accrued I am deeply grateful. In co-joining these many circles of close frienships we have developed community. And tough many parts of this community are strangers to the others, somehow we know of the basic affection and respect which we hold for one another in choosing the life we call – an artist's life.
41. Ken Marlow
Self Portrait in Studio, 1982. oil on canvas, 34 x 24"
After being in Washington only a short period of time I am excited to find such a strong and diverse group of artists. This diversity is not surprising considering the major museums and galleries in the area.
42. Alfred McAdams
Self Portrait with Two Daughters, 1983. pencil drawing, 9 x 18"
In D.C., the wheeling-dealings like everywhere, but we have by now developed more professionalized type and more truly tender cultivation of major and minor talents. However, satellite city does face a difficult task – how to reach again the glorious levels achieved by the Washington Color School luminaries who, though individuality inspired, made a collective breakthrough. Well, hang in there, Washington art (now more multifaceted) has energy, verve, and humor and its own special ethnic strengths.
43. June McAdams
Self Portrait, 1985. oil on paper, 22 x 14 3/4"
Quite recently I saw the biennial show at the Whitney museum and still more recently the Washington Show at the Corcoran. I enjoyed the Corcoran show much more than the one at the Whitney. I think the Washington art scene is in excellent shape.
44. Nancy McIntyre
Self Portrait, 1985. acrylic on paper, 21 x 15"
I like Washington just fine, as a place to be an artist, but I have to admit that the Washington art community remains a mystery. No doubt I should be trying to join it, though every time I read about it in the newspaper it sounds disgruntled about one thing or another, whereas most of the individual artists that I talk to seem reasonable content here. So many of my favorite artists are working around D.C., I really would like to get to know more of them – maybe I'll meet some at this show and find out what's really going on.
45. Jeri Metz
Waiting Room II, 1985. hand colored photograph, 14 x 11" edition 10
I know two other artists with whom I can have discussions and critiques. Otherwise, I am completely isolated. If there is a Washington art community, I have not been included in it.
46. Kim Murray
Self Portrait, 1984-85. watercolor, pastel, pen and ink, 22 x 29"
Washington is a beautiful city and I've lived here almost all of my life. The art in this city has always inspired me, and ever since I was a child I grew up with the idea of wanting to be an artist. It's also a great place to raise a family.
47. Jody Mussoff
Triple Portrait, 1985. color pencil, 13 3/4 x 31"
I'm not terribly curious about the Washington art scene, probably because I haven't been terribly excited by what I've seen here through the years. That's not to say that I wouldn't unearth some interesting work if I was out there more, but my inspiration lies elsewhere. I never was a very social person anyway.
48. Tom Nakashima
Self Portrait with Karmic Fish and my Favorite Matisse, 1985. oil on canvas, 15 3/4 x 19 3/4"
All Washington art is more or less 'Post-Color School' – you can't escape it, it's the only measure that people around here understand. Some of us have turned the lights down – aiming them inward at the darker side of things. Well – call us 'the Apostles of Gloom and Doom' if you will, but we won't do your lobby anymore.
49. Lee Newman
Self Portrait, 1979. oil on gesso panel, 11 x 7"
The Washington art community is all right with me. I do not bother it. It does not bother me.
50. William Newman
This Ain't no Party, 1985. computer drawing, 21 x 41"
There are some very talented artists living in Washington. Because of this the art community has a great deal of potential.
51. Laney Oxman
Self Portrait, 1985. stoneware, 24 x 19"
I find a distinct separation of the Washington art community and the Washington craft community. I would like to see a melding of the entire creative community, as I personally feel there are so many exciting things being created in Washington in many varied medias.
52. Byron Peck
Ochos Rios, 1985. acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48"
Returning to Washington in 1979 I was pleased to see a lot of effort by the local downtown art community to produce an active Washington scene, new shows, art spaces, clubs and music in an attempt to catch up with New York, which seemed somewhat dormant then. In 1985 it seems that New York has gotten it's vitality back and Washington has lost its by splinting its art center in half and letting itself by dominated by an almost institutional grouping of artists and dealers.
53. Julie Schneider
Self Portrait without My Glasses, 1985. graphite drawing, 29 x 23"
"The move to Washington three years ago was my eighteenth move. I have found excellent critics, galleries and artists – and superb museums in Washington! However, the final environment for making art is just me and the surface and that happens anywhere, anytime."
54. Lisa Semerad
Self Portrait, 1985. graphite on gesso board, 12 x 14"
The Smithsonian brings us eye to eye with medieval icons and face to face with living artists. American art, from abroad, special exhibitions, lectures and shows. These opportunities provide an ideal springboard for the developing artist and the Washington area offers many outlets for these achievements.
55. Gary Shankman
Self Portrait, c. 1980. oil on canvas, 23 x 8"
Whether the manner of painting is called tight, painterly, photo-realistic, conventional, figurative, abstracted, or traditional, Washington, DC has always had a strong tradition of figurative art. Although the Washington art scene has often been dominated by popular styles, young artists continue to explore and experiment with all the elements of realistic art.
56. Joe Shannon
Pan Worship, 1985. oil on canvas, 39 x 44"
My favorite brain surgeon says, 'Wherever you go, well, there you are' Washington has everything a body needs – except a fame engine. New York throws a long shadow; but in Washington a few superb artists provide sunshine in the shade.
57. Prentiss Taylor
Academy Self Portrait, 1949. lithograph, edition 25
Of course there was an interest in art from the beginning of Washington but that had to be gauged along side of the wide and often avenues and the more or less genteel boarding houses and the few ambitious hotels between the Capital and the White House, the 'dilatory domiciles' for those drawn to the new Capital, and aesthetically this had to be reconciled to the public's basic urge for the concrete, the literal portrayal of the people and their paraphernalia, their possessions which were suitable to their ambiance; furthermore to stimulate this intellectual curiosity and the aesthetic responses, large paintings, mainly on topical subjects were exhibited, at modest fees, in picture galleries that were vulgarly known as 'Dime Museum.'
Our most immediate early humanist influences had come from the inspired humanism of President Thomas Jefferson and from the Rembrandt Peale family in Baltimore with its cultural museum, the Municipal Museum, yet it was not until the late 1850s that William Wilson Corcoran endowed, and built, the gallery that bore his name to demonstrate his belief in and to encourage American Art and he was moved to create Oak Hill Cemetery which, with Rock Creek and Congressional Cemeteries, were the most eminent pantheons for the civilian citizenry and all of this was carried forward through the decades of greedy affluence that dismayed Henry and Clover Adams, but did see the formation of some serious private collections although the social and architectural aspects peaked about the end of the century and, what galleries there were, varied greatly in quality and artists had to make out as best they cold; among those who found Washington lacking in stimulation and substantive reward was James Abbott McNeill Whistler who tried it for about a year.
As a time-binder between early Washington and the impending future there was the Arts Cub, 1915, and the Phillips Collections, private until opened to the public in 1920, and which gradually added an art school but, far beyond its influence through teaching was the significance of the experiencing of the paintings by those who visited, laymen as well as artists. This inspiring collection has had a special place in creative Washington, it would be unfair to pass over as ineffectual or nonexistent, the many people who have given of themselves to increase the area but a single instance in my own career was that of Eben F. Comins, an exceptional commission portraitist, on the one had, and an artist who was exploring in the new directions that were coming from Europe and, who in 1929, when he was in charge of the exhibitions at the Arts Club, invited three young artists, Stuart Davis, beginning a name, Walter Bragg, a convalescent veteran of World War I who did illuminations at Walter Reed Hospital, Prentiss Taylor, 16 year old, native Washingtonian abstractionist, to show un-orthodox means of expression to the public and to introduce 'Modern Art' and its assimilation into American art, speaking of this, what more appropriate place to have 'What is Past is Prologue' carved boldly on the Archives building against the danger of thinking one has invented something only to find, when the enlightenment comes, it is not the newness of what a creative person does but the quality of the contribution the person makes to the concept.
58. Diane Tesler
Self Portrait, 1976. oil on canvas, 24 x 12"
59. Peter Thrasher
Self Portrait, 1985. oil on canvas, 28 x 30"
The Washington art scene involves many talented people, many of these people have been very helpful to me in my recent return to this area. It is very challenging and exciting to be working among so many gifted people.
60. Alan Weatherley
Glove in Hand, 1079. watercolor, 7 1/4 x 7 1/2"
61. Mindy Weisel
Gypsy #15, 1985. watercolor and oil pastel, 41 x 32"
An artist's work is solitary by nature, not really dependent on a community – yet, perhaps because Washington has no cohesive community, it's all a bit lonelier than it need be.
62. Joe White
Self Portrait, c. 1975. oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 24 1/2"
The Washington art scene definitely not a highly subsidized San Francisco beetle ballet.
63. John Winslow
In the Studio, April 1979. oil on canvas, 50 x 60"
64. Frank Wright
Mirror Image, 1978-79. oil on canvas, 35 x 28"
The Washington art community? It doesn't exist! Washington has many art groups which are loosely linked and sometimes unaware of each other. But they are thriving! My own orientation to Washington art is through my studio of twenty-one years on Gallery Place, and the many students I have taught at G.W. and the Corcoran who are now active professionals and art lovers. For me, they present the Washington art community in the best sense of the word.
65. Dorothy Yanik
Self Portrait, 1985. conte & chalk, 17 3/4 x 22 1/4"
The Washington art scene, in its diversity, reflects contemporary American art. There is no Washington 'look'.