Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Night Off For Art

Written by Kit Kimberly

Back at the Pink House for a few days, helping get ready for Mother’s Day. Thursday and part of Friday spent helping new “handyperson” Eric make bunk beds for the huge influx of visitors expected next week. He’s a wiz with a jigsaw!

Friday night, Joan and Jay convinced us to go to Art-o-matic (, described as a

“month-long multimedia arts event that draws together visual artists, musicians and performers and brings their work to the community without charge. It was originally conceived as a way to break down the geographical and social segmentation of the Washington arts scene, to bring art directly to the public and to build cohesion among artists. … Artomatic provides a forum for all of our area's artists to convene, perform and exhibit, strengthening the visibility, cohesion, and marketplace of Washington's arts community.”

Held in different empty office buildings, this year’s is in a typical concrete and glass block in Crystal City—but inside is a maze of visual, audio, film and interactive art. The 6th floor is laid out as a typical office level: long, narrow halls with doors opening off into small and large office cubicles. But instead of the sterile, computerized work spaces of a bureaucracy, each room opens into a wonderland of color and texture. Often hosted by the artists, who offer wine, cheese, crackers and—yum!—tiny petit-fours, each space represents a unique vision. Of particular interest to Midge and me is the series of paintings of the Capitol, done by (he tells us as we admire his work and eat his mixed nuts) a former lobbiest and active critic of the government. We give him a Code Pink button. The first of his paintings to catch my eye is the rich blue Capitol dome. I notice it because there’s something “wrong” with it—“it’s crooked,” I think, cocking my head; and in a nanosecond realize, yes, that’s the point. His other work carries the same level of irony and double meaning, and we get a kick out of analyzing it accordingly.

My personal favorites are two paintings by Stefanie Sylvester, a self-described “ ‘Business Manager’ by day, ‘artist’ on select nights” ( Her work is multi-layered and multi-faceted, communicating in media from hieroglyphics to newspapers, using influences from ancient Keltic to modern graphics. They’re the kind of paintings you could lose yourself in for hours and hours—I can see myself falling into one of them like Lucy, Edmund and Eustace in C.S. Lewis’ The Dawn Treader.

We decide to go up to the 8th floor which, we’ve been told, has an “entirely different vibe”—which, indeed, turns out to be absolutely true. A wide open space broken up only with concrete pilings, it could be a parking garage—except for the vivid and seductive installations laid out strategically to their best advantage. Here we enter “EVE’n”—an alternative interpretation of the Creation couple, focusing on our fore-mother’s perspective. We also participate in “Your 2 Cents,” an interactive computerized program that asks us questions, then films us answering them. We get a Code Pink message on there as well.

It’s late and time to go home—Joan, however, energetic as always, insists on driving us around to see “The Awakening”—an art installation that’s been near the waterfront of DC for many years, that’s been recently sold and will be moved. Midge and I walk around the giant emerging from the Earth, his hand clenched with effort, his mouth open in a roar of birth. By the ¾ waning moon, it is eerily fantastic. Then to the Roosevelt Monument which, by night, is mystical and moving in its profundity. Exhausted by her day’s work—after getting up at six—Desiree is asleep in the car. We get back to the house and up to our beds in a fog of wine, art, moonlight and magic, our souls replenished with connections and reminders that all is not war and horror in the world. Nights like this make me realize how important it is to protect the human spirit.

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