Art in the City

“A Rose by Any Other Name.” Oil on linen, 12 x 12 inches.

You have to watch a scene, not just look at it. Watch the trees, the flowing water, fields of grass and flowers and the clouds. Watch ‘til they talk to you. Then listen to the voices that create the musical composition as well as the visual. Kathleen Walsh strikes up a conversation, listening to their suggestions on compositions, colors and patterns, and then does a quick sketch, making notes on the lights and shadows.

Kathleen occupies the warm, welcoming days of summer making sketches. She uses the cold winter months to recreate the drawings in paint – blocks of paint, areas of color and contrasts. The lines and markings of drawings become loose brush strokes. They dance with the elements of the landscape. Flickers of light move about the canvas. They come alive.

In “October Magic,” the fall background of red and orange sings, and the sycamores on the riverbank shimmy in the chill. The still water both absorbs and reflects the autumn colors. Bright flashes float throughout, keeping the whole composition moving.

In paintings like “First Light,” areas of color and contrast can become abstract, creating a surface painting, apart from the subject.

Photo of Kathleen Walsh. Photo: Jen Camp

Kathleen lives in Fredericksburg and paints in her studio, Liberty Arts Workshop. She has lived and painted around the world, including North Africa where she painted a striking series of the women. The landscape is so barren as to be invisible. They exist almost as flora, rooted in the desert sands. Kathleen’s recent floral series depict flowers in a similar environment, lasting in a vacant space.

She is currently being exhibited by the Stuart Gallery, 6655 Main St., in Gloucester, Virginia.

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
Strike up a conversation with a tree. Ask it how its morning went. The flower, the squirrel, the ant … the river. They will talk if you listen. It doesn’t matter how you paint or create art. Even if you don’t. Look and listen to what surrounds you. The natural stuff. It has plenty to say.

As Kathleen Walsh believes, you have to watch a scene. Not just look, but watch. Things are happening: growing, moving, talking – they recede, approach, survive. Some spring to life, sending roots deep. Eggs hatch, trees leaf out. Mortals mature and hang on for another day, another hour. They absorb the sun or lie sleek in the shadow. Others are dying, the final stage of being alive.

As an artist you watch and listen. The characters of the day spread their wings, or branches. They scurry up a tree or come to rest on it. They flash their smiles and do a dance. Everything talks or sings or cries. It’s all essential. After watching and listening, talk back. Converse. Eager is the bee or flower to tell its story. And water. Listen to water closely. Whether ocean, river or pond, there is an opera there. A rejoicing or a pleading. Repeat it in your work.

The more you watch and listen, the more you are making art, even if you are not actually making art. Even if you just look at art. Do more. Watch it. It will grow and move and talk. It will approach. Recede. Send down roots. It will absorb the light or lie sleek, not silent, in the shadow.

At the Galleries
Hill Center
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SW
May 2-June 23
Opening reception: Wed., May 8, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
This is the Hill Center’s spring show. Seven local artists bring oil paintings and mixed media to light and life.

  • Paula Cleggett’s oil painting series, “Shine the Light,” illuminates familiar themes – family, friends, food and frivolity – with light playing a leading role.
  • Elizabeth Dranitzke, with “Portraits of Women,” photographs the women in her “orbit,” capturing their confidence, beauty and strength.
  • Jenny McGee’s oil paintings, “Reality No More,” take a surreal approach to exploring the expanses of the mind. “Each piece is an intricate and in-depth journey towards self-reflection.”
  • Mike McSorley brings attention, importance and character to the common items around us in “Introspection/Inspection.” His basic oil painting technique of shading and extruding has been augmented with color theory, atmosphere, edge quality and experimentation.
  • Andrea Ottesen in “B o t a n i k a !” expresses the promise and hope of the Amazon. Her striking photographs reach for integrated health sciences, stewardship of our natural ecosystems and specifically a love for the rainforest.
  • Yemenja Smalls, with “MetamorphoSIS,” her mixed-media compositions, embodies “woman,” who by any appellation wears multiple labels across time and position but cannot fully “encompass this force with a name” as “she moves in and out of time, and pressure, and emerges transformed.”
  • Desiree Sterbini’s “With These Hands” brings to life those moments when the “ordinary people” in her oil pastel portraits are engaged in “their personal worlds of creativity, faith, family and daily life.” They physically connect to the outer world with their hands.

Foundry Gallery
2118 Eighth St. NW
May 1-June 2
Opening reception: Sat., May 4, 5-8 p.m.
Red balloons rise in our direction before a retreating landscape. Houses ascend in Wizard of Oz fashion above a swirl of erotic recesses. Forests, water and rocks are somehow a disaster. Painter Kathryn Wiley has found a new sense of depth in her latest collages. Something is wrong, there is a brutalism that borders on despair in many of her works.,

Touchstone Gallery
901 New York Ave. NW
May 1-June 2
Opening reception: Fri., May 3, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Meet the Artist: Sat., May 18, 1-3 p.m.
The three Touchstone galleries feature the Member Show in Gallery A, “Portraits Only” by Paula Lantz, in Gallery B, and “Branching Out: Original Prints” by Mary D. Ott in Gallery C. Ott’s exhibit features hand-pulled prints that “celebrate natural arboreal beauty.”


Jim Magner is a Capitol Hill artist and writer. Jim can be reached at