We Love Arts: Rosemary Feit Covey’s Red Handed

Sometimes we experience works of art that embody both beauty and horror. The old word for this, now sadly devalued, was “awesome.” I hope artist Rosemary Feit Covey will forgive me for using that word to describe her current complete gallery installation, Red Handed. It is simply awesome.

Recently I visited Morton Fine Art to watch as Covey installed the work under the gentle eye of curator Amy Morton, spreading vinyl pieces across the floor. Even in that unfinished state before opening, it had undeniable power. Swirling vortexes of bald, nude figures, mouths open and arms red to the fingertips, soon covered the floor. I stepped gingerly over their faces, having no other option but to participate in their torture. It’s impossible to look away from the unsettling mass of bodies under your feet. It feels disrespectful. Jarring.

Guilty.

There’s no rest for your eyes on the walls either, which are also covered in variants of the twisting, stumbling figures. It’s difficult not to continually look down and dive into the pit. The vinyl floor pieces began as drawings, then printed both commercially and by hand, and finally overlaid in places with paint. Some prints were also made into wall paintings or just printed on basic paper. Covey got “housemaid’s knees” working on them (an old Victorian term that struck me as a cheeky metaphor for this quietly contained artist serving to bring these figures to life).

"Red Handed." Art installation by Rosemary Feit Covey at Morton Fine Art. Image courtesy of Rosemary Feit Covey/Morton Fine Art.

“Red Handed.” Art installation by Rosemary Feit Covey at Morton Fine Art. Image: MFA.

It’s an intensely visceral piece. Covey hopes it compels strangers visiting the gallery to engage with each other, to open up about their own distinct reactions. Though the work has its genesis in ideas of guilt, both individual and collective, viewers (or rather, participants) are encouraged to let their own interpretations germinate. Suicide, depression, isolation amongst the many, illness, the Holocaust, even zombies…whatever the dialogue that ensues, it has value to the artist.

"Red Handed." Art installation by Rosemary Feit Covey at Morton Fine Art. Photo credit: Sophia Guerci/Morton Fine Art.

“Red Handed.” Art installation by Rosemary Feit Covey at Morton Fine Art. Photo credit: Sophia Guerci.

Emotional reactions ran the gamut at last Friday’s opening (the crowd also went through “40+ bottles of wine,” Morton noted, and you may feel the need for a cocktail after visiting!) and will no doubt continue. The installation is on view now through July 5, and I encourage you to immerse yourself in the beautiful horror, facing the abyss both internal and external. Covey’s work is well worth the discomfort.

Rosemary Feit Covey’s Red Handed, now through July 5 at Morton Fine Art, located at 1781 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009. Gallery hours: 11am-6pm Tuesday-Saturday, 12-5pm Sunday. For more information call 202-628-2787.

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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2 thoughts on “We Love Arts: Rosemary Feit Covey’s Red Handed

  1. This is a wonderfully insightful review of Rosemary’s show, and it intimates themes and ideas that have long been part of her work. The article helps viewers to understand how they can be part of this unique “conversation.”

  2. what a well-deserved critique of this amazing show. and the images are fantastic. congratulations, rosemary! such an impressive installation.