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Art and the City – July 2017

Art. Will Fleishell is all about art. His work, his home, his studio, his books, his volunteer work. Even his posts on Facebook are about painters, sculptors, and muralists.

I this wrote about Will seven years ago: “Art is a matter of creativity. It’s also a matter of craftsmanship. They both matter very much to Will Fleishell. He has been putting the two together since he was a child … on Capitol Hill. It’s a family tradition since the 1820s. His great-great grandfather came here from Germany. A stone carver, he worked on the grand capitol building in the 1860s.”

Will has been an engraver with the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing for 20 years, and he can be as precise as that exacting craft can demand. You see the range and reach of Will’s art in his intricate and exquisite pen and ink drawings of Washington neighborhoods. His painting, “The Quad at GW University,” celebrates not only the intricate brickwork, and his adroitness with detail, but his love of color and his lighter side – children playing on the grass.

Will believes the major difference between his approach to art today as compared to seven years ago is, “My work is freer, more open. More people-oriented. And I’m willing to take more chances.” As an antidote to the isolation required in engraving stamps and currency, Will joined drawing classes at the Capitol Hill Art Workshop (CHAW), where he now coordinates the weekly life-drawing class. The class “requires me to break out of my comfortable shell and mix with others.”

It is also fun, and that is what Will Fleishell is looking for in his art. He is turning more to sculpture because of the tangible physicality of it, and the structured freedom of it. But like all of his work, it is a marriage of creativity and craftsmanship.

You can often see his work in Cafe Berlin on the Hill. Or you can contact him for an appointment to visit his studio. That’s really fun. williamfleishell@gmail.com

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art.
Will Fleishell says the biggest difference between his art today and his work when I first talked to him, seven years ago, is fun. It’s not that he didn’t love his earlier art. He has always been in love with art – his and others. It’s just that he’s thinking “more of the community.” People. He thinks art should be entertainment. It should be something that everyone can love and enjoy.

Will is also turning more to sculpture. He is working on a dog, not just any dog, but a Scottish terrier. No animal draws smiles faster than a Scottie, with its body like a badger and head like a horse. And Scotties love people. I know, we had a couple. It will be bronze and will be in a local park yet to be determined. Will wants children of all ages to touch it. Maybe sit on it. Hug it. And they will, Will.

Will thinks artists need to lighten up. He’s right. So much art produced over the past few decades draws a blank stare from the public, nary a reaction … certainly not a smile, although it often draws a smirk. It is somehow assumed that “high” art should be devoid of emotions, especially humor.

When I was a student, we had a visit from sculptor William Zorach, then an old man. He said he was discouraged with all the “Do not touch” signs on his work in museums and wished he could start over big with statues that had signs that said, “Touch. Sit on. Jump on.”

I later taught art at a high school for delinquents who had been chased from polite society to a private “ranch school” in Tucson. We did beaucoup outdoor art. I had them make larger-than-life self-portrait sculptures with cement … but they had to be sit-able. Lounge-able. Play-able. We created an outdoor study area for the junior high kids. Fun? You bet.

Annual Juried Exhibit
Hill Center Galleries
Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
–Oct. 1
The Hill Center Galleries are wonderfully filled with art of all descriptions and media in the regional juried exhibition that runs through August. Over 100 artists from DC, Virginia, and Maryland have been selected by the juror, Claude L. Elliott, curator and arts consultant. His goal was to “create a compelling and exciting exhibition that features as many works as space allows.”

Cash prizes of $1,000, $750, and $500 and five honorable mentions have been awarded. See the show and see if your personal selections would be the same as the curator’s. www.hillcenterdc.org

Summer Exhibition
Capitol Hill Art League
545 Seventh St. SE
– Aug. 15
Reception: Sat., July 8, 5-7 p.m.
The Capitol Hill Art League summer exhibition presents selected works by local CHAL members. The July 8 reception, as always, is free and open to the public, including wine, cheese, and conversation with the artists. Also, CHAL solo shows will run throughout the summer, to Aug. 15, in the CHAW Gallery. www.chaw.org

Allen Hirsh
Foundry Gallery
2118 Eighth St. NW
July 5-30
Reception: Sat., July 8, 6-9 p.m.
Allen Hirsh’s world is “Mathematically Transformed.” “When a theorem about how the world works is put into the language of mathematics, unimagined results can be predicted by following the math where it leads.” Those unimagined results turn out to be pretty imaginative, and pretty wild. The colors are great. Go see it. www.foundrygallery.org

A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim Magner can be reached at Artandthecity05@aol.com. Jim’s award-winning book, “A Haunting Beauty,” can be acquired through www.ahauntingbeauty.com.

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