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Art and the City

They look like ordinary objects: a teapot, screwdrivers, a set of keys, a sewing machine, but they’re not. That’s the point. They’re extraordinary—beautifully designed, inventive ideas that have become the instruments in the symphony of our everyday lives. They are also Mike McSorley’s designed, inventive ideas about art.

These “Object” paintings are also about color, composition—and technique. Paint is its own master—creating a visually convincing illusion of light reflecting off the “Silver Teapot.” It provides the impression of depth. A room, perhaps a kitchen, is captured on the silvery surface.

His landscapes are mostly country homes and barns—structures with dignified power built by absent people. These are not your old rustic barns or derelict cabins.

“Granogue Barn” takes on the character of a mystery, pulling you into a moody disposition and intriguing story. In paintings such as “Greenbank Barn” or “Greenlight,” the buildings are solid, livable places. They may carry you to an idealized era, but there is a lurking reality there—something deep and human.

Silver Teapot, Oil on Panel, 10″ x 8″, 2018. Credit: Mike McSorley

All the paintings are ultimately about paint—the application of pigment and the reflection of light to expose color in natural shades and subtle variations. Each painting is structured solidly, with an understated but effective focal point, visually reinforced by perspective. He is able to create all of these 3-D images on a flat surface – fashioning a solid-appearing structure with a free and loose application of paint.

Mike McSorley grew up in Pennsylvania and has a BFA from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. His work has been included in many group and solo exhibitions. He lives on Capitol Hill and you can see his work in the current show at the Hill Center. (See, At the Galleries.)


Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
“Country” paintings and photographs often focus on old things, making a statement about time passing through perceived reality—like imagination sliding through a daydream that people had about the “good life,” and about how the dream faded and life rolled on.

A favorite is the deteriorating barn with washed-out painted signs and advertisements for long departed product brands, like “Cotton Boll” chewing tobacco, “Chero-Cola,” or “Klu Ko Kolo” (yeah, really) or “Uneeda Biscuit.” The rough boards are loose and you know the roof is leaky and little creatures have taken up residence. Or the subject could be a crippled old car or rusting farm equipment.

Green Light, Oil on Panel, 9″ x 12″, 2016. Credit: Mike McSorley

I have no complaints about any of that. These are symbols of time whipping past like a greyhound on roller skates (remember those?) or maybe an actual old motorized Greyhound—a bus on blocks in a weedy field. There are emotions that leap from these portraits of the past—especially if you knew those places and things when they were new.

But to portray the homes of rural people as if they are ageless, not deteriorating—not sheathed in sentiment—but to capture the panorama of attitudes and histories that continue to survive…that’s not all that common.

Mike McSorley (see: Artist Profile) gives these rural places dignity. The people are largely absent, but their living spaces are not abandoned—not devalued. The quality of the painting itself reaches back into art history and establishes a barrier, perhaps temporary, against time.

At the Galleries
Hill Center
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SW
—June 23
This is the Hill Center’s Spring Show. Six 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,” takes a surreal approach to exploring the expanses of the mind. “Each piece is an intricate and in-depth journey towards self-reflection.”
  • Mike McSorley (See, Artist Profile) brings attention, importance and character to the common items around us in “Introspection/Inspection.”
  • 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 eco-systems, and specifically, a love for the rainforest.
  • Yemenja Smalls, with “MetamorphoSIS,” her mixed media compositions embody “woman,” who wear multiple labels across time and position, but cannot fully “encompass this force with a name.”
  • 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.


Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
545 7th St. SE

Adult Student Art Show
June 8 –17
Opening Sat.: June 8, 5:30 – 7
This is the all-media exhibit featuring the students of CHAW’s adult visual arts classes.

“Winners’ Circle”,
June 22 – Aug 17
Opening: June 22, 5:00-7:00
This is the Capitol Hill Art League (CHAL) all-media exhibit of the 2018-2019 season winners. The best of the best.

When Tools Were Beautiful’. 
Corner Store
900 So. Carolina Ave SE
—June 16
Joshua Miller loves tools. “As a maker, I see our tools as an extension of ourselves.” He creates these pieces using locally sourced white oak and walnut, “which is air dried in my barn for over a year.” His designs are influenced by a time when tools were beautiful.
To June 16. Tuesdays from 5:30 to 8:00 and Sundays from 12:00 to 5:00 and by appointment. davidweiner @me.com

Touchstone Gallery
901 New York Ave NW
June 5 – 30, 2019
Opening June 7, 6–8:30
Touchstone Gallery Member Show is in Gallery A. In Gallery B is Michael Lang’s, “Slow Walking,”—Sicily during Easter Week and scenes of a small Sicilian town devastated by the earthquake of 1968. In Gallery C, “Structure” is photographer Ryan Feipel’s insights on the “symbiotic relationship of human architecture and nature” on the coastlines throughout the world.

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