Art in the City

Artist Profile: Monica Servaites

Reflection10: This reflection image is from outside of the Library of Congress (Madison Bldg).

It’s all about eye cropping. Monica Servaites may be walking to or from someplace with her iPhone when she discovers a water puddle, plentiful in DC this year. The little pools of water display reflections of surrounding trees, structures or people. They magically move—mutate as you come near or circle them.

“Reflections” was the title of Monica’s March show at the Hill Center. But each image was not a simple collection of sunbeams bouncing off solid objects and landing on the surface of the rippling water.  There is a very palpable feel of design—the deliberate conversion of happenstance to an art form. That’s not surprising, as Monica is a graphic designer.

But the photo is not “arranged.” It is simply eye cropped with a practiced vision, seeing not only the colored light but the nature of the puddle— whether it’s in a dirt depression, an asphalt pothole or a location that can provide character. “There is much texture in alleys.”

Monica takes multiple shots and picks one. There is not much manipulation of the finished shot; she just uses apps on Instagram for color saturation, brightness, contrast, etc. That allows colors to dance, float and wiggle as they did in the sunlight.

Because Monica grew up here in DC, she is quite familiar with the innumerable important buildings and monuments that officially define the city, so she looks for places “off the beaten path.”

Monica graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design from West Virginia University and is a designer for the Capitol Visitor Center. She has a photograph included in the expanded juried show at the Hill Center this month. (See: At the Galleries.) She can also be reached at

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
I am continually caroming between requiring “fine art” to be something profound and deep, and letting it be just about anything. Should it be stiff necked, rigid and socially critical, and even condemning?  Or can it be light? Even frothy and fun?

We often assign more value to art based on how difficult it was to make. But that, in itself, is not a very good yardstick. I could spend years on and off with a painting and never become satisfied. Yet, I can float in a bubble of inspiration and pop out with something worthwhile. Even good. Still, I greatly value the skill levels I find among the artists I profile.

After flip-flopping over the years, I’ve decided that it is okay to have fun with the work, before and after you make it. And it’s okay if you don’t spend hours every day, and much money, marketing it unless it is necessary to sell. Yes, I know, that’s almost heresy. Sure, post on social media and enter shows, but don’t agonize if it is not chosen or bought.

For me, the joy is in the creating. The dread, the torture, is in marketing. Some artists love that part of the artist life, and are very good at it. But if I’m trying to sell, I find that my work tends to squeeze itself into forms that may be more agreeable, and begins to scan the horizon for someone with money.

Monica Servaites (see: Artist Profile) wants her work to be enjoyable. She doesn’t want it to be a chore. She doesn’t have a website and doesn’t want to feel captured by the work it takes to market. She wants to keep being intrigued. It’s a form of “walk therapy.”

Where will the joy take her? When the rains go away, and the puddles dry up, she will look for shadows.

Hill Center Galleries
921 Pennsylvania. Ave. SE
–September 22
This is the annual Hill Center Galleries Regional Juried Exhibition of over 100 artists from DC, Virginia and Maryland. It was juried by Annette Polan, Portrait Artist and Professor Emerita, Corcoran College of Art + Design, The George Washington University. Three cash awards, plus five honorable mentions were awarded.

A number of the selected artists have exhibited at the gallery previously, but many are new. Some have been profiled in this column over the years: Allen Braley, Kimberly Busic, Michael Ford, Jane Mann, Rindy O’Brien, Dilip Sheth and Suzanne Vigil.

This month I have profiled Monica Sevaites who has been in a previous show at the center and is included in this one. (See: Artist Profile.)

The show opening and reception was in June, too early for the column, but you have plenty of time to browse and discover the terrific variety and quality of the work.

“Winners’ Circle”
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
545 7th St. SE
July 21-Aug 18
Opening Reception: Sat. July 21, 5-7.
The Capitol Hill Art League presents the Winners’ Circle Art ExhibitIn the CHAW Galley. You can meet and mingle with the artists at the opening reception on July 21.

A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim can be reached at