Art and the City – January 2017

Artist REvisit Profile: Barbara Nuss  

Barbara Nuss, Autumn Symphony, oil, 20x30

Air fills the enormous spaces in a dream and you are free to roam – to breathe and think and listen to the soft sounds that come from deep in the earth. Water reflects light that comes from within the sky and all of the elements of the landscape are of one voice. These dream spaces are real – places in and around Washington that have escaped, for now, our compulsion to make every square foot productive.

I wrote that eight years ago, and Barbara Nuss, through her wonderfully clear landscapes, still has the ability to trigger memories of the way things were and should be, and in some places still are. Barbara has moved to Annapolis and includes more Annapolis scenes in her body of work. But not many sailboats. “I’m not into boats.”

There has not been a big change in artistic direction in those intervening eight years. But there IS change. “I’m not really doing things any differently … just better.” Why? It’s a matter of continuously painting, working out technical problems, and seeing things differently – a matter of vision. Barbara not only sees the ebb and flow of a place, she can also visualize the art of the place, the painting itself.

Barbara grew up in the area and received a BFA from Syracuse. She began her art life as an illustrator but soon realized her love for painting. She is represented in galleries, museums, and private collections throughout the country and has received numerous awards, including the very prestigious National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ society’s Best Landscape award for her painting “Autumn Symphony.”

You can see Barbara’s work in the “Art and the City” show of the artists that I have “revisited” this year at Hill Center in March. You will be welcome to roam, to breathe, think, and listen to the soft sounds that emanate from the landscapes that only Barbara Nuss can paint.

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art.
Barbara Nuss has been painting landscapes for years and has taught landscape painting techniques. She has even written a book and is the president of the highly regarded Washington Society of Landscape Painters. Her work is in many public and private collections. She has won the most coveted awards in her field.

Yet, she says she is “still getting better.” It’s not that her techniques of depicting trees, or water, or clouds need honing. Those have been long mastered. It is the act of seeing, really seeing, not just registering impulses on the optic nerve. It’s the sorting out of the natural disorder of a place and creating order from that disorder. It’s the understanding of what she sees: how all the elements – waters with their reflections of unlimited hues, soils and grasses, trees and winds – dance in the light and warmth of the sun and move in one continuous and interconnected cycle of life.

That is what true landscape painting is: going beyond appearances. It is the understanding of the things, natural and manmade, that grow, sway, swim, and fly, or simply float, and how they gladly lend their natures and forms to the paint.

No matter how long you live, or how many scenes you compose, you can always get better at seeing, really seeing. And feeling. You have to reach out and touch that unity of life and form with your pen or brush, and most of all with your heart.

At the Galleries
“Artist’s Choice”
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
545 Seventh St. SE
Jan. 14-Feb. 1
Reception: Sat., Jan. 14, 5-7 p.m.
“Artist’s Choice” is the theme of the Capitol Hill Art League’s all-media juried exhibit for member artists. Expect a wide range of ideas and themes, styles, and techniques. The Jan. 14 reception is of course open to the public. As always there will be wine and cheese and conversation with the artists.

Hill Center Galleries  
Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Jan. 5-Feb. 26
Reception: Thurs., Jan. 12, 6-8 p.m.
The terrific Hill Center show for January and February features a group show of 37 artists from the Capitol Hill Art League, plus three solo exhibits.

With “Phantasize” Karen Cohen takes everyday images and creates “mythological visual stories” by employing various digital manipulation tools, layering textures, and colors. The recreated photographs “reflect what lies within, by viewing what is on the outside.”

Winston W. Harris’ newest show, “Time Tradition Exhibition,” combines three series into a conceptual theme to experiment in printmaking to recognize the importance of time as an event itself in American culture. He “introduces two disciplines into one format, transforming two-dimensional prints, and reinventing the image by recycling past artwork into a new identity.”

“Searching for Home” is a journey looking for the source of the emotional feeling of home. Marite Vidales, a native of Costa Rica, features three series of acrylic and mixed-media paintings: “Huacas of Peru,” “Transitions in America,” and “Costa Rican Landscapes.” Each incorporates symbolic icons and scenes.

“Celebrating 45 Years”
Foundry Gallery
2118 Eighth St. NW
Jan. 4-29
Reception: Sat., Jan. 7, 6-8 p.m.
Birthday party: Sun., Jan. 29, 2-4 p.m.
This show of new work by current and former members celebrates the Foundry’s 45th year of operation and its first full year in its North Shaw space. “From Craig Moran’s insouciant ‘Bright Spot’ to alumna Donna K. McGee’s mysterious ‘Hidden Treasure’ and a great deal in-between, the exhibit will be profuse, diverse and fun.” And don’t forget the birthday party. You’re invited.


A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim Magner can be reached at His award-winning book, “A Haunting Beauty,” can be acquired through