"Play By Play" Reveals Childhood Idiosyncrasies

Children are anything but angels.

Any mother, father, aunt, grandfather, older sister or brother has had the experience of seeing little Johnny rip off GI Joe’s head, and young Caroline strip Barbie and Ken of his and her clothes. 

Opening at Project 4 on January 11, Play by Play exposes the humor and darkness present in childhood playtime

The first exhibition curated by DC-native and ArtSee alumna Kayleigh Bryant in collaboration with FLEX, the temporary exhibitions group led by Calder Brannock of Camper Contemporary, this group show highlights the taboo gap between childhood innocence and adult reality, by re-contextualizing such mature themes as war and sex, within the context of children’s play.

Entering the first floor of the two-story exhibition space, the viewer is confronted with Amy Hughes Braden’s poignant portraits of children and their parents.

Academically trained as a portrait painter at Pratt and the Corcoran, Braden has a unique ability to render harrowing emotion through painted facial expressions. Instinctive feelings of sorrow that leap off the canvas and assault the viewer are deepened and emphasized through shaded areas, highlighted with bright blues, fiery reds and neon yellows. Gazing at Braden’s paintings, one experiences the sense of solitude that is so common to children and teens coming out of innocence.

“They have this kind of like eeriness, like there’s something underneath. There’s a little darkness,” said Bryant of Braden’s work. 

Amy Hughes Braden, "Bridget (Shy)" (2011- 2013) Amy Hughes Braden, Madonna of a Questionable Descent (2013) Amy Hughes Braden, Reed (2013)

Just when Braden’s Bridget (Shy) and Reed settle into the viewer’s psyche, he finds himself in the upstairs gallery, cheerfully lost in the whimsical worlds of Bridget Sue Lambert, Mark Williams, and Janelle Whisenant.

“I think there is a lot of playfulness happening in the art world now, and I think the idea of humor has been graced as a legitimate form of expression or form of talking about social issues,” said Bryant.

BSL, let me knowBridget Sue Lambert, I Never Thought It Would Feel This Way (2012)

Lambert’s large-format pigment print Let Me Know offers a glimpse into an empty bedroom. The black and white color scheme, speckled with a burst of red color from the lamp and flower on opposing sides of the room, creates an image of sophistication. However, open drawers and miscellaneous items on the floor complicate the image and the viewer wonders what transpired to leave this room such a wreck. Upon closer examination, one notices handcuffs and a Bible lying on the bed, illuminated by an unknown light source.

Taking the new discoveries into consideration, along with the realization that this is no ordinary bedroom, but is in fact, that of a dollhouse, it becomes impossible to resist the temptation of a coy smirk. 

“They’re meant to be a little over the edge of what people are comfortable with,” explained Lambert who says her artworks, in which she stages and photographs dolls and dollhouses, use humor, sincerity, and playfulness, to explore relationships.

Lambert’s dollhouse environments are apt counterparts to Williams’ staged toy soldiers, sometimes manipulated with play-doh, other times appearing alongside plastic animals.

Mark Williams, Beach (2003)

“I started going to Toys R Us and seeing how war toys were expanding and how camouflage started becoming much more popular. I even saw camouflage Easter Eggs,” explained the Connecticut-based Williams, who, while in graduate school at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, created the works in response to the US invasion in Iraq in 2003.

Williams’ deliberate choice of materials was informed by his awareness that items like toy soldiers and play-doh were becoming increasingly available to young children during wartime, and that children often stage toys in shocking compositions, such as Butt Plug, in which a soldier kneels on one knee with his gun touching a horse’s rear.

Mark Williams, Butt Plug (2003)

Like Lambert’s sexually curious dolls, Williams’ soldiers are posed in jest, yet retain somber undertones. In United Nations, a dark green soldier is surrounded by plastic animals — ducks, donkeys, rabbits, dogs and deer — poking fun at the idea of the United States as an ego-centric entity capable of ordering the animal-like nations of the world to do America’s bidding.

While Lambert displays her final artworks as large-format photographs that enthrall the viewer with minute details of settled dust on door frames or glimmering reflections in mirrors, Williams’ 4 x 6 inch one-hour photos, and his small-scaled diorama with a 4 x 6 inch opening revealing a black-lit interior battle scene, entice the viewer to interact with the images on a personal level.  Furthermore, the viewer is reminded of ways in which families used to send memories to their loved ones over seas, prior to the popularization of printing digital photographs at home.

Rounding out the exhibition, the fiber-based sculptures of University of Maryland, College Park MFA Candidate Janelle Whisenant provide an extra dimension within the exhibition space

Janelle Whisenant, Self Serving Mediocrity (2013)

Made by manipulating stuffed animals, pulling them apart at the seams, and turning them inside out, Janelle’s action-based sculptures articulate the process many children enact when altering their own toys, whether out of anger or curiosity. Placed among Lambert and Williams' satirical artworks, Whisenant's tormented sculptures spark conversation with Braden's somber paintings downstairs, reminding the viewer that a child's subversive play may not simply be, all fun and games.

Splendidly curated by Bryant, Play By Play inspires controversial and socially relevant discussion, while keeping the joyful spirit of the naive child alive. As Williams says, “As an artist, you’re always told while you’re working, that your innocence is at play. It’s very imaginative and harkens back to being a kid and doing your own thing,”

Bringing the Art in DC to You,

Roxanne Goldberg

Play By Play opens with a reception with the artists January 11, 7:00 - 9:00 PM, at Project 4 Gallery, 1353 U Street NW.

The exhibition runs through February 1. Regular gallery hours are Wednesday- Sunday, 12:00 - 6:00 PM.

Small Works Make a Big Impression at Hemphill

Hemphill Fine Arts

Current Exhibit: “Keeping It Alive” by William Willis and “Works on Paper” by Steven Cushner are showing June 8 to July 28, 2012 at Hemphill.

William Willis, Spiral, 2011-2012, 12” X 16”. Courtesy of Hemphill.

Highlights From the Show:  We were very drawn to Willis’ “Spiral” (pictured above) for it’s dynamic geometric construction. The piece sells for $5,500.  We also loved the delicate symmetry of Cushner’s “Untitled” (pictured below). We are thrilled for the artist and the gallery for the piece has sold!

Steven Cushner, “Untitled,” 2012, 21” X 17 3/4”. Courtesy of Hemphill, now sold.

A Little About the Artists:  William Willis’ work is driven by experiences both individual and universal across cultures. His use of graphic geometry stems from his personal reverence for the primitive, the ritualistic, and the repetitive in forms and shapes. Willis is well-represented in public and private collections throughout the country, including locally at The Corcoran Gallery of Art and The Phillips Collection.

Steven Cushner’s works on paper are a visual testament of the possibilities of painting and process. His works transcend the paper medium as complete and meaningful works of art. Cushner is also well-represented in public and private collections throughout the country, including locally at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and The Corcoran Gallery of Art.

For more information on the exhibit and the artists, please visit Hemphill.

Bringing the Art in DC to you,


Brian Petro Exhibits Latest Work at Vastu

Among the hustle and bustle of 14th Street’s trendiest bars and restaurants lies an art studio home to one of D.C.’s most beloved artists, Brian Petro.

This small workspace, lined with brick and exposed beams, is packed with works of art Petro has created over the decades.

Working as professional artist for years, Petro spent much of his time bouncing between New York and Washington, exhibiting at galleries and working on commissions from clients like Absolut Vodka, Ritz-Carlton Hotels and the Library of Congress.

But a few years ago, Petro decided to stay-put with a permanent studio space in the District, directly below the 14th Street contemporary home furnishing store, Vastu.


(Photo credit: Brain Petro)

At Vastu, Petro works as a kind-of “resident artist and curator,” exhibiting his own art on the walls and also contracting other artists to display their work in the store.

Currently, some of Petro’s latest artwork adorns the expansive space at Vastu, including pieces from Supermarket Series and Roman Series. And while both are drastically different in look and media used, the two series have one thing in common: the artwork is influenced by different periods of time in Petro’s life.  

The colorful and vibrant pieces in Supermarket Series pay homage to Petro’s time spent working in the produce department at a grocery store in central Pennsylvania.

“I really loved the physical labor of working in this huge produce department, and I didn’t realize what was happening until years later, but I’d go in early in the morning and pack this huge department full of colors and textures and shapes and smells, and when I’d get done, I’d sit back and have such a gratifying feeling to see all of this wonderful and beautiful stuff and realize that it’s really putting up an art installation every morning.”

Supermarket Series embodies more than Petro’s time spent in Pennsylvania; the series is also inspired by old grocery and bodega signs that Petro found while dumpster diving for found-art in Manhattan – A city he loves and describes as gritty, yet bright and energetic.

(Photo credit: Brian Petro)

Similarly, the more somber pieces in Roman Series were inspired from another period of time in Petro’s life. When he was 22, Petro took his first trip to Europe and spent some time in Rome and other cities throughout Italy.

“I was just floored by Italy,” said Petro, who attempts capture the complexity of Roman society with simple, stoic gazes of ancient statues and ruins.

For the pieces in Roman Series, Petro uses a difficult and tedious process that makes each piece of work unique – a process Petro refers to as “photographic thermal transfer.”

“What I do is I shoot on real film, develop and enlarge that and then print that with a four-color press onto paper, a chemical release agent and plastic,” explained Petro. “Then when I heat that, it melts the plastic into the toners and the ink and then I can press it and it will leach it off onto another surface. And in this case, the other surface is 140-pound archival paper.” 

Petro’s work will be displayed in Vastu through July 16. Additionally, Petro will open his studio to the public this weekend for the Mid City Artists Open Studio tours. Petro will be on-hand to show his work and answer questions from visitors from 11am until 6:30pm on Saturday and noon until 4:30pm on Sunday.

Interested persons can also schedule a free personal tour of Brian’s studio until July 16 by phoning the artist directly at (202) 270-7352. For more information, visit

We have arrived! ArtSee in DC’s Launch Reception!

This Saturday, July 16th, all artists and arts enthusiasts are invited to a launch exhibit to welcome DC’s newest fine arts community.  ArtSee is celebrating its first art exhibit with a cocktail reception and raffle for a photograph of the Washington DC landscape by Brad Kehr.


The focal point of the evening, however, will be the work on display of three fantastic artists: painters Kristin Lubsen and Blair Sutton, and photographer Wil Scott.


Kristin’s vibrant, figurative paintings focus on the interactions between her subjects, and reflect on seemingly intimate moments in today’s society that is perpetually “connected,” yet paradoxically suffers from emotional detachment. Her images can be both familiar and haunting in her ability to capture the psychological tension in relationships.



Wil Scott, a DC photographer, uses effects of light, rich colors, and composition to achieve stunning photographs of different landscapes and architecture from his travels around the world and the local DC backdrop. In his own words, Scott captures the “complexity, contradictions, and fleeting beauty” that can be found in the natural world; scenes we see every day, from a new perspective or through a “new lens,” so to speak.


Blair Sutton uses vibrant colors and experiments with different media to achieve bold and unexpected textures resulting in vivid abstracted imagery full of movement and life. Her work and specifically her experimentation with pigments and how they play off of each other or work together can vary from the playful, to the serene and contemplative.


This should be a great party and exhibition to celebrate the ArtSee in DC launch! We’ll look forward to posting photos from the event next week.