Art and the City – April 2017

Mixed media collage and acrylic paint on wood panel.

Artist Profile: Fierce Sonia
The hands … watch the hands. They guide you to the eyes – the compelling gateway to Fierce Sonia’s personal exploration of the mysterious forces of nature. Once you enter, the visual voices lead you to navigate the explosive colors, intricate patterns, and swirling graphic echoes that move you through the images and further into the story.

It is not a literal narrative; it’s about feelings. Each work mirrors what Sonia is feeling at the time. If the image is complex, it’s because emotions and opinions are complex.

Sonia’s intro to art was as an artist’s model. She became a physical presence in the work of every artist or photographer in the room. It allowed her to learn from every artist in the room … selectively. She began her own love of art with photography, often self-portrait figure studies, essential to her female chronicles.

As the narratives advanced so did the complexity of the work. She introduced painted backgrounds and layers of photo fragments, cutouts from fashion magazines, and everything from candy wrappers to fortune cookies to build collages. That brought a greater freedom of imagination and the ability to invent forms that give the story power.

Sonia loves legends with universal appeal. They are often traditional fairytales, but she champions female superheroes as well. She works primarily in series. It could be queens or mermaids, or maybe childhood memories. She has a series of her five aunts. She depicts them symbolically through her own emotional views and connections.

The name Fierce Sonia is both a privacy screen and her “inspiration of fearlessness,” the battle standard of her expedition into an inner space without boundaries. Sonia grew up in Alexandria. She has a teaching degree from Virginia Tech but came back to her true love, the Torpedo Factory. You can find her in Studio 5.

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
How do you become a professional artist, especially when your parents wanted you to become a doctor, a lawyer, or a hedge fund manager? I suspect that there are almost as many stories as there are artists, but they tend to fall into three general categories.

Art major. Like most kids, art majors drew all the time or loved coloring books or made funny clay things from an early age, sometimes better than the other kids. They got praise from family (taped on grandma’s refrigerator) and a nod of approval from the popular kids. Or they chose art because they were worse at other subjects. For me, entering college, it was either art or journalism, but art had fewer math requirements.

Escape. It’s interesting how many artists started out as something else. They escaped from some higher-paid but less satisfying profession. How many lawyers really want to be artists? How many dentists want to be sculptors? My son Brian majored in math and physics but turned to 3-D animation.

Accidental. You take an adult art class and discover that you’re pretty good at it. Or you take photos on family trips and get better and better, maybe take some classes. Your company needs someone to do layouts for the newsletter and is too cheap to pay a pro, so you eventually become one.

However, Fierce Sonia had her own way. She started as a model at the Art League in Alexandria and became a captive of creativity and connecting visually with others. There is so much she wants to say, and so many ways to say it. Sonia finds words inadequate so she lets her works speak for her, not for clarification but as a way of expressing the strength and mystery of the female spirit. Beautifully.

At the Galleries
“The Hill Rag’s Art and the City”
Hill Center Galleries
Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Through April 30
After a terrific opening reception on March 8, the show of the 12 artists that were “REvisited” in this column in 2016 continues through April. The range of ideas, theories, and techniques is truly exciting. They are top professionals and recognized leaders in their respective fields: Alan Braley, Tom Bucci, Tati Kaupp, Matt Sesow, Jan Kern, Andrei Kushnir, Anne Marchand, Ellen Cornett, Dana Ellyn, Patrick Campbell, Barbara Nuss, and Bruce McNeil.
My artist profiles are posted with each artist’s exhibit, as well as excerpts from my “Thoughts” about the themes and subjects of their work.
This is not to be missed. You won’t see a show of this quality and stunning professionalism again. The show is sponsored by the Hill Rag.

Pam Rogers
Capitol Hill Art League
545 Seventh St. SE
Through April 18
Reception: Fri., April 7, 5-7 p.m.
With “Botanica Magnifica” Pam Rogers, CHAL’s Artist in Residence, is creating an installation “that is sculptural in form.” It’s mounted throughout the gallery. Like all of Pam’s work it is open and filled with light. And topical. She makes her pigments and sculpture materials from wherever she is. It’s all about how we connect with a particular place and with the planet.
Pam is creating narrative scrolls and largescale paper works in the gallery, so you will have a chance to see the process, watch them develop from start to finish. She is available to engage with visitors on multiple weekdays and Saturdays. For the schedule see or call 202-547-6839.

“This Earth”
Capitol Hill Art League
545 Seventh St. SE
Opening: Sat., April 22, 5- 7 p.m.
This is CHAL’s spring show of local CHAL members. It’s an all-media exhibition and opens on April 22 with wine, cheese, and brief comments by the juror. This is always a delightful opportunity to talk to the artists and get personal insights in to their methods and purposes.

“Being bold for change”
Studio 5
Torpedo Factory Art Center
105 N. Union St., Alexandria, Va.
Through April 17
“Three bold female artists stand with all women to be bold for change.” Mixed-media artist Fierce Sonia, painter Barbara Muth, and studio guest photographer Julie Patrick are certainly bold in their approaches to form, color, and ideas.


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