2014 SwatchRoom Salon Artist: Donna K. McGee

Artist Donna K. McGee creates richly saturated paintings, primarily traditional and minimalist abstracts that trap a powerful, nostalgic quality inside them. McGee uses muted colors that make you feel as if you are watching a fading scene, that is slowly moving away from you.

In her talks with ArtSee, McGee really honed in on the ideas of mentorship, inspiration, and evolution that were critical in her success as a painter.

These are probably three of the most important facets an aspiring artist can seek out or experience and we are so fortunate that McGee shared with us. 

ArtSee: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met/know in the DC art scene? Why?
Donna K. McGee: The most interesting person has to be my mentor of twelve years, Helen Corning [McGee's favorite artist as well]. She was an abstract artist and instructor at the Yellow Barn at Glen Echo.  She died three years ago at the age of ninety. She taught classes and had a solo in Maine the last year of her life.  She was able to help every student in her class to find their own artistic self.  Each of us are are abstract students today, and each of use have a different style of painting. 

A.S: What is the biggest inspiration for your art?  
D.M: The total aesthetic awareness of nature inspires me.  There is every color and texture imaginable in nature.  When I  paint I delve into the images that color and textures create on the canvas.  It becomes a magical experience.

A.S:  Speaking of colors, what is your favorite color?
D.M: That is a difficult question to answer.  I use lot of blue in my work, but sometimes I like to concentrate on one color and see how far I can go with it.  Bronze, gold, red, white...it becomes alive and pops when one color is juxtaposed to the next.  They all become a favorite.

A.S: What do you think has changed in your art career and your work since the beginning of your career?
D.M: I am braver. It is a very scary thing to put your work out there for others to judge. In the beginning I was more aware of "what the viewer would say" or "what would sell", instead of making it totally my creation. I am far more adventurous with color and texture.  I discovered, that as  I continue to stretch to new levels, those who have purchased my paintings continue to support my work. I have to be true to my self and continue to stretch to the next level.   

A.S: Lastly, what are you most excited for at the Salon Party?
D.M: I'm excited to be part of this opening where I have the opportunity to show my work to a new audience, and to meet others who are interested in local artists.

The SwatchRoom Salon is a three-day celebration of local and emerging artists, designers, and collaborations and giving back. 

Bringing the Art in DC to You

Mica Hartman

Art17 Opens Amy Flatten on February 7

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Next Thursday, D.C. based scientist and artist; Amy K. Flatten will fill the space of Coldwell Baker’s office space on 17th NW.  The show will open with a reception on Thursday February 7, 2013. In a science environment by day, Amy very deliberately breaks away from her scientific training in her artwork. Her work has consistently teetered on the edged of logic and imagination, often letting imagination win. 

For over a decade, she has focused on creating abstract works that challenge her creativity and take her away from her daily routine of lines and numbers. Although at first her work seems like a random gathering of colors, lines and shapes, if you dive deeper you can translate them into something of your every day life.  Amy’s work seems to bring the viewer to a joyful place where a simple object can take on new, bright colors and form.  Amy took some time to sit down with ArtSee and talk about her inspirations, work and career.


ArtSee: What’s the last show that you saw (not yours) that inspired you?

Amy Flatten: While this wasn’t the most recent show I’ve seen, one that really inspired me was an exhibit in 2008, in a small gallery space in Venice, Italy.  It was just a few small rooms off of a side street.  The exhibit featured the works of the artist Morago, (www.Moarago.net).  I was inspired by his use of black, red and white, so much so, that I bought a book of his works and often look through before I begin painting (in any color).  Today, even just seeing his pieces on the pages of a book, long after seeing the actual exhibit, seems to put me into a creative frame of mind.

AS: What’s your favorite place to see art?

AF: Small quiet galleries are one favorite—maybe with just a few folks lingering.  I like big galleries, but absorbing everything can seem daunting.

AS:  Where are you finding ideas for your work?  

AF: My artist’s statement mentions that I draw my ideas from everyday life—those simple things we see throughout the Washington DC area.”  That’s really true….and especially when I notice colors of our surroundings.  For example, black asphalt roads with yellow taxis and red traffic lights (I have a piece with those colors in this show).  Recently, I saw a display in a store window that combined 3 colors in a new way—I took a picture so that I might use them together in a painting sometime in the future.   

AS: Do you remember the first piece you ever sold? 

AF:  I remember first putting a few pieces in a coffee shop…and being flabbergasted that they sold!  That gave me more confidence to do things more “formally” and I remember selling my first piece at a more “professional price.”  The couple had considered a few paintings of various artists for their dining room and eventually selected mine.  They sent me an email later on to tell me they had installed an accent light to highlight it in its space on the wall.  I will never forget that couple—and the confidence they gave me from their interest in my art and the careful selection and care of my piece.

AS: What are you looking forward to most about your upcoming show? 

AF: That’s a hard question, as I am very excited about the opportunity in general.  I think I am most looking forward to learning more about the art scene in DC, and meeting others in the local art community.  It has been a good challenge to prepare the number of pieces I am exhibiting, and I look forward to seeing the reactions to the art from people I haven’t yet met. 

AS: What do you think has changed in your work since the beginning of your career? 

AF: When I first started using acrylic paint, my paintings had a very soft, watery, fluid feeling.  While I liked many of those pieces, I worked hard to learn to give my pieces more texture.  I now incorporate texture by using different palette knives and then smoothing and softening areas with damp brushes.  I like to layer the paint such that hidden objects and lines underneath reveal new findings in an often-viewed piece. 

AS: Where do you currently create your work? 

AF:  I either create my work in classes that I take through the Art League of Alexandria, or in my home.  I have a room at home set up with an easel, drop cloth and big table…and I feel comfortable just leaving it a mess while I am in the middle of some work.

AS: What is the biggest inspiration for your art? 

AF: In all sincerity—I am most inspired by other artists.  That can sound kind of trite, but one of the main reasons I continue to take classes is the chance to just chat with and learn from my own classmates, and get their feedback on a piece that’s challenging me, or where I just feel stuck.  I also love the chance to talk with them about something new they are doing in a painting – we all use each other for “sanity checks” and as “sounding boards.”  I love that about taking class.

AS: What’s the last show that surprised you? Why?  

AF: That would be the most recent Artomatic that was held in Crystal City, VA last May-June 2012.  At first, I was just glad to enter, but as the show drew nearer and I was preparing my exhibit space, I surprised myself by how strong my reaction was to the opportunity.  Beyond just hanging my pieces, I was surprised by just how passionate I felt about doing my absolute best on all aspects of the exhibit—hanging lights, painting my wall, getting exactly the right lettering for my name, on and on and on.  No matter what it took, I really wanted to feel like I had “knocked it out of the park” in my effort to make my exhibit as professional as I possibly could.  So it wasn’t any one aspect of the show itself that surprised me, but my excitement and commitment to the opportunity it provided.  In all seriousness, that single show has motivated me to push myself to learn as much as I can about finding new exhibit opportunities, and presenting my work to the public. I was also very very aware and appreciative of all of the volunteer organizers that enabled that Artomatic, and I owe them a debt of gratitude, as participating that show was sincerely a turning point for me. 


Art17 featuring the works of Amy K. Flatten 
OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday,February 7, 2013

TIME: 6:00PM till 9:00PM

LOCATION: Coldwell Banker Dupont, 1606 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

The show can also be viewed 9:00 am – 5:00 pm every weekday until April 23, 2013

For more information about Amy Flatten, please see her website at www.AmyFlatten.com