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Art on the Block Highlights Local Talent

Four galleries hosted open houses during Occoquan's Art on the Block event on May 12.

Photographs of dining patrons transformed by digital paint colors; layers of beeswax mixed with resin and oil colors; a representation of death and hope captured in a single white balloon—these gallery pieces were among hundreds on display for Occoquan’s .

The May 12 event was the collaborative effort of four galleries located on the 300 block of Mill Street: Kelly’s Artbox, Artists’ Undertaking Gallery, The Loft Gallery, and Art a La Carte.

Each gallery offered buffet-style refreshments and the opportunity for patrons to familiarize themselves with the works of local artists and their wide range of techniques and media: from painting, pottery, and sculpture to photography, metal works, and jewelry.

Hannah Weatherington has worked at Kelly’s Artbox for five months, since she completed an art class given by owner Kelly Campbell.  Although Campbell was not present for the event, Weatherington explained Campbell’s latest project, “The Hope Collection.” 

Campbell created the series of four paintings to commemorate her father’s passing from lung cancer.  Weatherington said that half the proceeds from these works will benefit StepUp2Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to research and prevention.

Across the street from Kelly's Artbox, passersby had the opportunity to watch Tina Kannapel carve a delicate eggshell.  Kannapel's creations are part of a large network of local pieces at Artists' Undertaking Gallery, a 33-year-old cooperative.

Springfield couple and longtime photographers David and Jane Ernst have a symbiotic relationship that permeates their art. While both manipulate images digitally, and often of the same subjects, David’s work is one of contrast while Jane’s pieces are suffused with light.

“I started working with Polaroid SX-70 film years ago, but then they stopped making the film and I moved on to digital photography,” said Jane, who paints her images with pixels of color.

Frances Metcalf’s prints and encaustic wood panels are also available for purchase at Artists’ Undertaking Gallery.   

Metcalf began her journey towards the arts after retiring from a successful fundraising career.  While subsequently pursuing her bachelor’s degree, she chose to study printmaking, a medium familiar to the fundraising world, as an elective course.   

From her auspicious beginnings in printmaking—she was selected to show at the Torpedo Art Factory very early on, winning first prize and selling that piece of art—Metcalf started to explore an encaustic technique on wood.  “It was the medium I had been looking for my whole life,” she said.

Inspired by the portraits of Fayoum (also spelled Faiyum and Fayum) in Ancient Egypt and, according to Metcalf, dating to the Phoenician Empire, her modern encaustic paintings are created with pure beeswax, pine tar resin, and a mixture of oil paints. 

The encaustic process involves layering wax with heat.  Metcalf explained that “the only difference between the ancient technique and mine is that I use an electric heat source.”

Three artists welcomed visitors at Art a La Carte: metalsmith Donna Wilson, potter Michael Soderman, who works with his wife Michele, and jeweler Marie Marakowits.

With magnifying goggles perched on her head, Wilson was working on a cord of Viking knit.  This millennia-old metal weaving pattern fascinates Wilson, who began incorporating the flexible chains into her jewelry. 

Wilson further channels the notion of age and history in her pieces by including fossilized materials.  “I do one-of-a-kind pieces in series,” she said.

Marakowits’s inspiration comes from color first and texture second.  Her necklaces, earrings, and pendants recall earthly motifs and bright tonalities.  “I get a kick out of gemstones; they’re just glorious and wonderful to work with,” she said.

At The Loft Gallery, several artists were available to chat with the public. Deborah Conn, a watercolor painter and collage artist, was among them.  Conn’s exhibit, CONNtextures, will hold a prominent place in the front room of the gallery until June 3.

Conn’s paintings marry a collage technique of hand colored tissue paper and watercolor painting, giving each of her pieces depth and transparency.  Conn said, “My favorite subject is people and portraits.”

Like Conn, fellow Loft artist Francesca Di Lorenzo works primarily with the human figure. 

Di Lorenzo, a sculptor, took a course in sculpture over 20 years ago because the pottery class she had selected was full.  “It was meant to be,” she said.

The works exhibited for Art on the Block are available for purchase at their respective galleries during regular business hours. 

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