Artist Profile: Kamilah House Dances With Color

Art And The City

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You can feel the color. Hear it. Touch it. Dance with it. Outlines and contours appear and distinguish themselves without separating, remaining a presence within the story. They intensify the collective emotion and give character to the fluidity within the composition.

The mixed-media works of Kamilah House combine the color and rhythms of North Africa, West Africa, South Asia and all the places she has lived and absorbed. Kamilah grew up as a “Bahamian/African American diplomat brat,” and she experienced the world. The world responded.

Like most artists, Kamilah has been drawing and painting since childhood, but the realities of growing up and finding the right vocation consumed energy and time. She went to law school and is an attorney with the Justice Department. With two small children, she continues to sketch and paint whenever she can and has been more of a fulltime artist over the past eight or nine years. She has taken classes at the Art League, but so much of learning is seeing. Really seeing, she says, “visualizing an experience” and understanding the inherent emotions.

The conceiving and completion of a piece goes well beyond painting. She works mostly with acrylics, but also oils. Actually, there is no limit to the materials she employs in each work: paper, cloth and anything that fits the subject and meanings. The methods and materials often reflect her interpretations of the social issues of the day. Her experience as an attorney and her background in international studies are all part of her love for current events.

The intensity of it all, especially color and composition, come from family and the tornado of feelings that may distinguish themselves without separating, but unite in creative force.

You can see her work in the Hill Center virtual gallery and on Instagram at @kohouseart and @kohouseartgallery. And soon at www.kamilahhouse.com.

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
“The meaning of life is to see.” Some guy named Hui Neng said that in 700 A.D. When I was young, I thought, duh I’m an artist, all art is about seeing. But having lived much since then, I’m beginning to, well, see what he meant.

It’s not obvious after all. Sight is not just a visual imprint of what’s in front. It’s the personal interpretation inside my head, the mind’s eye. But even before the interpretation comes the real seeing – the actual looking at something as an ever-changing fragment of ever-changing reality. That morphs into understanding. When I look at life, not just for what it is, but for what it could be, seeing becomes imagination – a particularly human gift that I don’t use as often as I should.

I still paint, and painting makes demands. It says that pretty pictures are not enough. It tells me to go beyond facades, to wade into the guts of our world as we live it. That can be tough. Painful. I don’t want to think of that beautiful landscape as an ongoing, desperate fight for survival … as life feeding on death. Painting also tells me that our ever-changing reality could go spinning wildly out of control into some chaotic explosion of techno/social conflict. No. I don’t want to see that either.

Having lived life in the raw, including combat, there is much I would like to un-see. And having spent many years on Capitol Hill, really seeing government, I have experienced fear and loathing. So, for mental health, pictures need to be pretty once in a while, or at least not induce suicidal despondency.

With Kamilah House the seeing is four dimensional, not simply patterns of light on the optic nerve. It is the very idea of sight – the idea of life that presents as a compelling demand to create. To really see.

At the Galleries
“Uniting US”
Hill Center
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Oct. 1-Dec. 31

This is a special virtual exhibit featuring the art of 30 US military veterans. There are 125 works of all kinds and varied subject matter, organized by Uniting US, veterans’ family members and friends. As a vet who has been involved in veterans’ art, I know how much it means to those who have been damaged physically and emotionally by combat.

Also, the annual Regional Juried Exhibition continues through 2020. A wonderful work from each artist, including Kamilah House (see Artist Profile) can be seen at www.hillcenterdc.org/galleries. 

“Flower Alchemy 2020”
Karen Edgett
605 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
(viewed through the window)
Through October

This is “Round 2,” 35 photos of people from the DC area merged with flower mosaics. Most of the portraits are from “selfies” sent at Karen’s request. She merges each photo with her flower mosaics – each “unique and balanced to the exact needs of the soul it is blending with.” The composite photos can be seen through the window of the Coldwell Banker Real Estate office. It will be lit to be seen at night. Watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8CWQIwLzrQ.

“Moments in Time … a very weird time”
Tati Kaupp
The Athenaeum Gallery
201 Prince St., Alexandria

Tati has been included in a very big show at The Athenaeum in Alexandria. The show is intended to be a “time capsule” that represents a “broad spectrum” of artists’ thoughts on the current situation. www.tatikaupp.com

Rosa Vera
The Yard DC
700 Pennsylvania Ave. SE

You can see an extensive collection of Rosa’s striking figurative and floral works at “The Yard” near Eastern Market. The show is also available online: https://www.clientraiser.com/radiates, [email protected].

“Return to Nature”
National Museum of Women in the Arts. (NMWA)
1250 New York Ave.
—Jan. 3

This exhibit features 20 photographs by 11 artists from the NMWA collection, many for the first time. These are large contemporary prints of lush landscapes along with exquisite vintage black-and-white flower studies.

“Paper Routes”: Oct. 8-Jan. 18. New for October is a group exhibit featuring cut, folded, torn, glued, burned or embossed paper creations that “range in scale from intimate and meticulous to immersive and monumental.”

 “Reprise”
American Painting Fine Art
5125 MacArthur Blvd. NW #17
Oct. 1-Nov. 30

This new show highlights the larger and medium-scale work of established gallery artists. It includes their usual wonderful landscapes and American scene paintings. www.classicamericanpainting.com

A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim Magner can be reached at [email protected]