July 17, 2002 - When the Summer Salon opens next week at the Ellipse Arts Center, it will represent a triumph of inclusion for Arlington arts.
The annual show, open exclusively to artists living and working in the county, has found space for paintings abstract and concrete, photos in color and in black and white, collages of photos and fabric and sculpture large and small. It also found a home for a mass of local talent - 107 of the 263 local artists vying for space in the gallery, funded by the county parks department’s Cultural Affairs Division.
The pool of local talent is wide and impressive, said Trudi Van Dyke, Ellipse director. "Arlington has a tremendous array of artists. A lot of artists choose to live and work here," she said. "These shows always attract a wide range, from high school students to professionals."
With some 263 entries, not all of those artists would make the cut for this year’s juried salon. Ellipse holds juried salons every other year, and the works in the 2002 exhibition were selected by Diana Blanchard Gross, former curator for the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News. "She has a strong design sense, and she picked a show that will work well together," Van Dyke said.
It was somewhat difficult, Gross said, because of the range of media, painting, photography, collage and sculpture, entered in the salon show. "Obviously, it’s a little easier when a show has one theme. This will make Trudi’s life a little difficult," Gross said. "But it’s nice to see all of those different artists. It gives the public a chance to see a lot of different works."
Not making it into the show is not the reflection of art or an artist’s inherent worth, though. "Artists need not to be discouraged" if they aren’t selected, Van Dyke said. "The juror goes through [all submissions], and she says 10 percent, absolutely yes, 10 percent, absolutely no. But that middle ground could be so different based on so many factors."
<b>CHRIS FENDLEY’S EAGERLY</b> anticipating the opening of the 2002 Salon, which will give her chance to meet other Arlington artists. "It’s good to know what’s going on around you," she said.
Fendley is a relative newcomer to Arlington, moving here with her husband Tom Greenland a year ago. But she broke into the Washington area art scene in the early ‘80s, earning good reviews for her paintings that mixed rock icons, religious icons and the style of the Dutch Masters. "Neo-expressionism was big, and I used collages at that time," Fendley said.
Fendley dropped out of the art world for nearly a decade when she lost confidence in her technique. She went back to art classes, relearning techniques and working on more concrete representations of figures before finding her own new style.
Now, she said, her canvases have some common elements: human figures, often one dominating a canvas, with colors and forms filling in emotions for indistinct faces. The works are in some ways an exploration of the dignity of life, Fendley said, a representation of individuality without overwhelming details.
When she found herself painting these figures, it was reassuring, Fendley said: it brought her back to art "I feel much more accomplished now," she said. "I can paint a figure, and they seem to have their own inner life."
After her break, Fendley was happy to be back in the art world. That’s why she was happy to find the Ellipse gallery. "When I saw it, and found out about the show, I was thrilled. It has so much room, it’s such a nice space," she said. "It’s kind of important, if you live in Arlington, to be recognized as an Arlington artist."
<b>WITH ONLY THREE</b> years of experience, <a href="http://photos.mrmann.com">Chris Mann</a> has not had many chances at being called an Arlington artist, with the Salon only the fourth show where he will hang his black-and-white photo landscapes.
Mann, 30, was working with computers when he took a photography class at the Smithsonian three years ago, just "so I know what I’m doing," he said.
He began taking photos seriously after completing the class, and from there it was only a short step to developing his own work too. "I always felt funny taking stuff to the drugstore," he said.
Mann’s portfolio expanded dramatically last year, when he traveled throughout the Americas, seeing the world and taking photographs. His entry into the Summer Salon stems from that time, taken during a trip to Guatemala.
The Guatemala photos, and a series taken at the National Zoo, are experiments in perspective, looking up at Mayan ruins, churches and skylines, and through bars at animals in repose. "Because I’m tall, and I’m always looking down at people, I think I try to also look up more," he said.
Mann thinks some of his experiments with perspective grow out of a natural sense of organization. "Because I was an electrical engineer in college, I’m more organized in some ways," he said.
He first exhibited the photos from that trip in a solo show this January in Charlottesville, and got a positive response. "People kept telling me that Tikal, the picture in the Ellipse show, is very Ansel Adams-ish," Mann said, "and I guess that’s a compliment."
Since then, Mann has left behind his day job, trying to make <a href="http://photos.mrmann.com">his living</a> through full-time photography, and is trying to expand his abilities into the commercial realm, in part through photos for local bands.
That required some nerve. "I don’t feel comfortable shooting people yet," Mann said. "But I’m trying to make myself feel comfortable by doing it."
<b>WHILE MANN WAS</b> becoming a newly minted art student, Jayne Matricardi was turning her love of art into a career in teaching.
Matricardi, 28, teaches all levels of art at Woodson High School in Fairfax. But her studio and her home are in Arlington, where she makes the multimedia sculptures that will hang in this year’s salon show.
Growing up in Baltimore, Matricardi knew she wanted to be an artist, inspired especially by her high school art teacher. "I had a great high school art teacher, and because of her, I wanted to pursue art as a career," she said. "My mother’s a craft person, so my parents weren’t horrified when I said I wanted to be an artist."
That took her to the University of Virginia, where she majored in studio art and art history. But when she got out of school, she found herself facing the pressing need to make a living immediately.
"I switched to Web design for the money," she said, working for four years at the Web site of the Washington Post. But she also worked nights to earn a master’s degree in education, and began teaching early last year.
The job leaves her plenty of time to create art over the summer. But Matricardi tries not to segregate her life so strictly. "I don’t want to reserve art just for the summer. I try to work during the school year," she said. "But I do have this nice big chunk of time during the summer."
She also finds inspiration for her work throughout the year. Matricardi said she will get ideas for her work from letters and conversations, readings and what she overhears. She then pursues each strand of inspiration to see where it leads her.
In some cases, the inspiration shows up incorporated into the work. In her sculpture Amulets, small acrylic pockets hang from the walls, each filled with a strip of cloth with a phrase or sentence that Matricardi found enlightening. Other inspirations show up in less tangible forms.
For instance, she said, one of the works in the Salon show is a wooden basket, tied together with wire and with a pool of acrylic in the bottom called "Sieve." The sculpture was inspired by a story about a Vestal virgin in ancient Rome, accused of adultery. To prove her innocence, the priestess went to the Tiber river, and carried a sieve full of river water back to her temple without spilling a drop.
"I hear something, and I try to find out why I’m drawn to it," Matricardi said.