Art and the City – June 2017

The Perils of Beauty

Be careful. Don’t look at it for too long or you’ll be a captive of its seemingly innocent charm. Resist its enchantment or you’ll be its prisoner, interwoven in a mystery of implications.

Suzanne Vigil’s pure artistry, her mastery of drawing and color, is by itself enough to pull you into the vortex with all its sly suggestions…but the endless possibilities of meaning will keep you there, even after you turn away.

Suzanne achieves color brilliance and exquisite details by drawing on transparent drafting film with color pencils. She draws on both sides, with up to 6 or 7 layers. The pencils are color safe—they don’t smear. And with a waxy finish, she can go over them with a bristle brush to get different textures. “It depends on how much pressure you use.” The whole process is variable and not always predictable. Surprises happen, and the effects are sometimes hard to replicate. “How did I do that?”

Suzanne is a native Washingtonian and graduated from Anacostia High. She received a BFA from the University of Kentucky and has taken classes at the Corcoran. She was an illustrator and art director for all publications of the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, for 40 years. She had “carte blanche” which allowed her great freedom and great fun, “but things could get a little macabre once in a while.”

When the computer showed up in the 80s, she had to throw away all those old art materials. She kept the drafting film and began drawing. She starts with a basic photograph…sometimes her own. She adds inspired story elements as the composition dictates. And magic happens.

Suzanne Vigil tells stories. It’s a matter of “push and pull”…always working with the characters…bringing them to life and letting them tell their own mysterious and beguiling stories.

You can see her work this month at the Hill Center. (See: At the Galleries).

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
Suzette Vigil (see: Artist Profile) is a storyteller. Her wonderful drawings hold you spellbound, agog at the intricacies and brilliance she is able to effortlessly conjure up. She pulls you into a very curious universe.

In “Pandora’s Catastrophe,” it’s easy to become so dazzled with the visual magic—fabrics, jewelry, color harmonies and transparent effects—that you can miss the subtle messages—the secret stories within the famous myth. The longer you look, the more questions pop up and the more captive you become.

That begs the question: what does make a good tale? Every storyteller—novelist…filmmaker…playwright…or artist—faces the same challenges. They all have to capture your interest and then hold it. Sure, there are any number of established techniques and devices, but it has to touch you emotionally and intellectually. It needs both tension and release.

A visual storyteller has most of the same concerns as a novelist. Suzette has had to find her own voice, not just her own medium, but the connection that comes from the universal truths that float like shadows through everything we do. That’s what locks us in.

Like most writers, she builds the story as she goes. But novelists can easily make changes…rewrites. Computer artists can do that as well…and photographers with Photoshop. Even traditional painters can go back in and make changes.

But, when it is all created with color pencils, it has to be tightly controlled. There is some give and take, within very narrow limits. It can be a long intensive process—hundreds of hours on each work. So you see, it is not so effortless after all. It takes great skill, and endless love and devotion.

At the Galleries
“Narrative Figures”
Hill Center Galleries
Old Naval Hospital
921 Penn. Ave. SE
– June 25

This is another terrific show at the Hill Center. Seven artists bring a kaleidoscope of choices on media, technique and subject.

In “Narrative Figures,” Suzanne Vigil, (See: Artist Profile) Elissa Farrow-Savos, Linda Button, and Tracy Frein interpret images of women, in sculpture and painting.

Suzanne Vigil draws magic. Mysteries. You are drawn into the story and you want to know who, and why. The how is with color pencil and a technique that plays down its own excellence. The works are large and beguiling.

The constructed pieces of Elissa Farrow-Savos come to life starkly. The intent is to unleash the “untamable,” the “inner wildness and ferocity that makes all women beautiful.”

With Linda Button, mannequins are the message. She is fascinated with the “…majesty and the distortion of human figures made out of resin, linen, plastic, wood, and even chicken wire.” Her “stained’ oil paintings are carefully built up with thin, transparent layers that reflect, magnify and exalt these nonhuman stand-ins that petition your attention behind their glass partitions.

The portraits of Tracy Frein are a black and white pursuit of emotional realities. She uses a technique she calls, “Drawing by Subtraction.” She begins with color pencil on drafting film and then strips away the colored pencil to expose strong interrelated black and white values. The subjects appear self confident and formidable, which belies an inner frailty.

In three independent shows, Christianne King, Ken Bachman and Sandy Hassan celebrate the magic of color.

In the flowing paintings of Christianne King, color exalts for its own purposes and she gives you buoyant but solid landscapes that capture the emotions and the truths of a place.

Ken Bachman is “…drawn to landscapes where the play of light and shadow in their colors capture the specific moment.  “I aspire to use a delicate touch to set a calm and pleasing mood.” He succeeds.

Sandy Hassan writes, “Quilt making is my expression of “joie de vivre.” You see that in her joyful perfection of color harmonies and patterns—the colors of smiles.

CHAW Adult Student Show
Capitol Hill Art League
545 7th St. SE
Jun 7 – 17
Recep: Jun 10, 5-7

This is the bi-annual opportunity for the adult students of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop to show off their work. There is a wide range of media and approaches to personal expression. Awards will be announced at the June 10 reception.

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