Artist Tricks Passers-By with Eye-Catching Mural

Artist Tricks Passers-By with Eye-Catching Mural

Josh Yavelberg is looking for validation as an artist, and he is beginning to find it in the Reston area. The 23-year-old Yavelberg moved to Reston from New York approximately six months ago. He said that his "first break into this area" was the "large commission at the Kitchen Guild," a kitchen-design build firm on Connecticut and Nebraska Avenues in northwest Washington, D.C. He used the technique of "trompe l'oeil," an optical illusion in which it is difficult to tell when the street ends and his mural begins. "If you stand at the right angle, you can't tell it's a mural," he said.

Jim McCoy, president of the Kitchen Guild, was impressed by YavelbergÕs professionalism and the subsequent reaction the mural received. ÒIt has received a lot of attention É it is a good marriage of commerce and art,Ó he said.

Yavelberg is a member of the Art League in Alexandria, for which he worked on a large mural project for the Old Town art shows on Kings Street last October.

YAVELBERG HAS different styles of artwork, from drawings to paintings, photographs to prints, murals to sculptures. He worked on a project in cooperation with Stop Child Abuse Now of Northern Virginia (SCAN), in which he "coordinated a community-based mural project entitled 'Artist's Tools.'" His Web site,, which contains a rŽsumŽ, gallery and links to online providers that have posted his artwork, states that the project was "designed with the specific purpose of community involvement." He divided the mural into frames that were outlined with a child's head. He harnessed the creativity of the local neighborhood, attempting to bring art to a wider audience, as the members of the community would draw a child based on his outline.

Yavelberg enjoys the home he has found in Reston. Yet, he said, "There are not many galleries for local artists with my sensibility of figurative art" and he would like to see that changed. He said that a positive aspect of the town is its proximity to Washington, D.C. He also speaks highly of the opportunity for commissions because Reston provides "money and space and the interest in artwork. It is quite unique Ñ a lot of professionals are interested in art who don't do it themselves." He said that this atmosphere is quite contrary to what he was used to in New York, as "everybody is an artist" in the city. "I am trying to be a big fish in a small pond, rather than a small fish in a huge pond," he said.

YAVELBERG HAS ALWAYS FOUND inspiration in art history, in which he majored at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. "Art has always been my passion. I have been going to open drawing classes since I was 13," he said. His mother was a muralist, which helped to fuel his artistic desire at a particularly young age. Yavelberg's favorite artist is Tintoretto, a Venetian Renaissance muralist. "I am enamored with his artwork and his commercial aspect, [as] he worked in much the same way that I do. He had a very good business sense to how he approached commissions."

His studies have only made him a stronger artist, since he uses artwork to develop his own style and technique. He based his painting, "The Last Game," on Tintoretto's "The Last Supper," juxtaposing the religious with the ordinary. The disciples in the painting are paying attention to a football game as "Jesus is passing the chips," he said. This painting was sold in Florence at the International Exhibition of Contemporary Artists in 2003.

His latest project grapples with technology. He employs genre painting to ask the question found on his Web site, "Are we still fully human, or are these new technological aids changing the way we live life so much that we are becoming cyborgs?"

He is attempting to use traditional styles to depict modern techniques. In the upcoming year, he will be "focusing on different aspects of mass-media culture and their effects on their environments," said a post on his Web site.

YAVELBERG IS WARY of classifying the market because there are "so many different styles of art going on at the same time." He is cognizant of a large movement for "installation art." Yet, he said that he neither attempts to predict the next movement in art, nor does he classify himself by what is popular at any given time. Rather, he said, "I try to understand [the market] in how the artist makes money. I try to work my shows around an installation aspect, it seems to be theme-oriented."

He strives to remain fresh; for example, he added "audio to a few of my recent works, adding more of a multimedia aspect" to his work, giving it one more dimension of realism and investing in the technology that he will be dedicating himself to over the next year.

Yavelberg would like nothing more than to have a "steadier income as an artist" and answer calls from "galleries contacting me for shows," instead of the other way around. He says he is truly happy with his profession as an artist. He said that he can see himself teaching drawing or painting styles at a college in the future, yet, for now, he said, "I'd just be happy to do my artwork and be paid for it."