Judith Capen and Robert Weinstein are compelled to make art. It isn’t just art for art’s sake. It began as a compulsion – a force that gripped them in separate ways. It was overwhelming grief, a sense of loss that maybe only parents can know. In January 2012, their daughter Kirby, only 28, died after a short but ferocious battle against cancer.
An Easter egg coloring competition evolved into a compulsion for Judith. Eggshells became the sculptural form for the release of sorrow and anger. The first stage was revenge. Judith tortured eggs with spikes and pins and in every way visually possible.
In the beginning, Robert was “holding things together.” A lifelong, award-winning photographer, he began taking pictures of lost gloves – those fleshless, boneless hands that can be found almost everywhere, through every season. They can be workman canvas, warm woolies, stylish leather, fancy dressup linen, or high-tech fabric – gloves for work or play. It was about loss, of course, not hand coverings.
Robert and Judith are architects. They came to the Hill in 1977 and founded architrave p.c., architects. They specialize in historic preservation and have worked on most of the major monuments and buildings that are so familiar to us and to the world.
For Judith, the passion has evolved “from agony to tentative hope and memory.” She began to nest the eggs, then draw on them. She has the “Humpty Dumpty” series – putting them back together. The “curious” series – they simply draw your attention. And finally, for now, the whimsical series … with color added.
Robert discovers the stray gloves riding his bicycle around town. He records the ground around them, establishing context. He occasionally picks one up to take home, to join the others that speak to him poignantly about loss, and are beautiful in their own way.
Robert and Judith are beginning to share their passions and art. They have a show this month at The Corner Store (see below).
Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
How do you deal with grief, the kind that attacks suddenly, especially the sickness and death of a child? The fight-or-flight instinct doesn’t help you here, does it?
Sorrow, yes. Anger, sure. But where do you direct it? Or at whom? If it’s cancer, there is no one to exact revenge on. You can’t exorcize it by throwing somebody down and stomping on them. Unsatisfied rage can lead to depression, and you may look to someone or something for release. Religions were and are important to people, not so much because of dogma but as a place to turn with overpowering grief.
Others reach out to professional psychologists or counselors … or just friends and family members. In addition to human-to-human therapies, many have turned to making art or collecting it, or even just looking at it.
Art can be dark and furious – not directed at making pretty pictures. Art can also give purpose, sometimes evolving into positive resolutions and climbing out of the dark. Sometimes, sharing the human impulse to make art with others who are grieving can re-instill the elevated instinct of humanity to create beauty.
Judith Capen and Robert Weinstein are making that long artistic climb out of the dark and into the bright lights of making others smile. Whether it’s nesting the eggs, or a Humpty Dumpty rehab attempt. Maybe it’s one of Robert’s gloves. Perhaps he rescued one that was once yours. That reunion could be a thing of joy.
At the Galleries
The Corner Store
900 South Carolina Ave. SE
Dance party: Sept. 9, 7-9 p.m. (music by the Capitol Hillbillies)
Judith Capen and Robert Weinstein have spent the last five years creating art, extraordinary art, for an extraordinary reason. For Judith, it is an “eggstraordinary” collection of eggshell art. Each fragile shell becomes an interpretation of an emotional moment, from anger and despair to rebirth and restoration. She awards a new meaning to “these disposable containers of life.”
Robert says his photography and “lostglove” collection may be closer to “archaeology” than art. However, his “images and artifacts” are indeed art and are beautiful in a haunting way as they relate their narrative of loss.
Don’t miss the closing dance party and the chance to take home an “eggstraordinary” work of art and a glove lost … and found. Proceeds to benefit The Corner Store. www.cornerstorearts.org
“Annual Juried Exhibit”
Hill Center Galleries
Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
The Regional Juried Exhibition runs through August, and the Hill Center Galleries are filled with delightful art of all descriptions and media. 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
Karen Cohen / Paula Cleggett
Eno Wine Bar
2810 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Photographer Karen Cohen and painter Paula Cleggett share space at the Eno Wine Bar through September. Both are members of the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. Karen Cohen in her “Phantasize” series created photographs: “mystical imaginary places.” Paula Cleggett is a visual storyteller, whether the subject is figurative or still-life. www.karencohen.photoshelter.com / www.paulacleggett.com
2118 Eighth St. NW
Aug. 30-Oct. 1
Reception: Sat., Sept. 9, 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Artist’s tour: Sun., Oct. 1, 2:00-3:30 p.m.
In “Touchpoints,” Sarna Marcus depicts “the inception of our existence – gestation and birth – as interchangeable with that of the botanical world. This is a fascinating look at the biological boundaries of life forms. Seeds are sometimes eggs, with, at times, “internal human images.” It’s all about energy and tension. www.foundrygallery.org
The National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave. NW
Sept. 17-Jan. 5
NMWA has established the Judy Chicago Visual Archive at the museum’s Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center. The archive documents Chicago’s career from the 1960s to now. There is a companion exhibition, “Inside the Dinner Party Studio.” It explores the development of her “monumental and radical work: ‘The Dinner Party.’” www.nmwa.org
A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim Magner can be reached at [email protected] His award-winning book, “A Haunting Beauty,” can be acquired through www.ahauntingbeauty.com.