The art galleries I love most are inviting and unintimidating, highlighting a thoughtful curator’s focus and giving you a intimate view into the artist’s world. Stepping into Morton Fine Art’s new space on Florida Avenue off U Street felt instantly relaxing as curator Amy Morton welcomed me with a warm smile. I was eager to take a look.
MFA is housed in an airy white room on the street level of the MINT building, billed as an “innovative arts lab.” Really several concepts rolled into one – studio, arts consulting, gallery, artist advocacy – it’s conceived as a way to serve the changing contemporary arts scene by collaborating with multiple artists as opposed to maintaining a “static stable.” In addition to shows at the studio space itself, MFA hosts the bi-annual exhibit known as *a pop-up project which “pops-up” at various temporary locations around the city.
The opening exhibit is Small Works on Paper, on display now through August 26. It’s completely manageable for an afternoon pop-in with a carefully chosen selection from three artists – Vonn Sumner, Rosemary Feit Covey, and Laurel Hausler – working in mediums ranging from watercolor, wood engravings and mixed media. Strongly dedicated to the belief that anyone can be an art collector, Morton took the time to walk me through the current exhibit and shared her enthusiasm for the artists. It works. After a few minutes I felt the itch to take home one of Rosemary Feit Covey’s subversive wood engravings. It might happen to you as well. Or you can simply linger, wondering over some quietly powerful images.
One of the joys of the exhibit is being able to closely compare the three artists. Vonn Sumner is a California artist whose work struck me as reminescent of the pastel flatness revealed once grime is cleaned off Renaissance paintings, portraiture of hooded individuals that seem almost mystical. Contrast that flatness with DC artist Laurel Hausler’s tactile surfaces of layered paper spattered with coffee and salt, her images taken from a highly evocative literary imagination riffing off the theme of recovered Indian captives.
Then there’s Rosemary Feit Covey’s eerie black-and-white engravings of men and women in various states of undress and domination/submission play. It’s part of her Strip and Peep Show documentary series pulling the viewer in as voyeur, alternately mesmerizing and repulsing as you explore the depths of shadow and light in the medium.
As an admirer of Feit Covey from way back, I came into MFA expecting to be most drawn to her work, but as with all thoughtful exhibits this one surprised me as Hausler’s ended up being my favorites. She’ll have a solo exhibit at MFA in mid-September, and I can’t wait to share more of her work with you. So intrigued by the layering of these hypnotic pieces as I sat and stared back into the hauntingly drawn eyes… They seem almost alien, out of time. You wish they would speak.
Morton Fine Arts
1781 Florida Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009