Rapture Draft (Hell No, We Won't Go), acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24"
When I regained power five blazing days after the derecho, I found myself first stocking my fridge and then attending the exhibition Stocking the Fridge.
The show – located of course at The Fridge venue in Eastern Market – includes nearly 100 paintings by DC power couple Dana Ellyn and Matt Sesow. Politically charged, invigorating, and provocative, it was exactly what I needed to kick my newly re-powered life back into gear.
Ellyn and Sesow are extremely prolific (perhaps you’ve heard about their “31 Days in July” project, in which they produce a painting inspired by the news every day for one month); and this exhibition shows off just how much they can do.
With both incredible artists in one place and paintings lining the walls from top to bottom, it would be impossible to cover everything in one article, or even one visit.
Here are a few standouts to give you some idea of why you should run to see this show before it closes later in the month.
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Elephant(s) in the Room. 20″x24″ acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Dana Ellyn.
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Jose lays the check directly between us. He couldn’t have have centered it more accurately if he’d held a ruler. The Pilot and I glance at the pleather billfold like it’s the elephant in the room it’s about to become.
– from Rachel Machacek’s The Science of Single
Earlier this week Katie interviewed one of her favorite writers Rachel Machacek on her new book, The Science of Single. Tonight one of my favorite artists, Dana Ellyn, unveils several paintings inspired by the book at a happy hour at Tryst from 7-9pm. It’s a fun coincidence bringing all our worlds together. Coyly titled “The Art of Dating,” Dana’s work is directly inspired by quotes from Rachel’s book, as well as her own ongoing investigations into the challenging aspects of being a woman and the conflicting expectations modern society places on us (and those we place on ourselves).
“Rachel attended my painting classes a few years back while she was in the midst of researching/writing/editing her book,” Dana explains. After randomly seeing Rachel’s Facebook status about her book being completed this past September, Dana sent her a congratulatory note, to which Rachel responded with an offer of a preview copy – “The only caveat is that you have to tell lots of people :)”
Of course Dana went one better. “Would you be interested in me doing a series of paintings and/or drawings inspired by your book and we could do a joint event with art and book launch sort of thing?” she asked. And Rachel’s response? “I. Love. Your. Idea. LOVE IT.” In a way that kind of literary inspiration mirrored Dana’s banned books series. After brainstorming sessions and the involvement of Danielle Lanteigne from Tryst, the exhibit was born.
"The Books" by Dana Ellyn. Courtesy of the artist.
There was a time when banning a book meant silencing a voice. Flush with the power of our digital age, we may forget that information so readily available to us – both truth and lies – was once so easily stopped. That is, until we read about governmental attempts to control knowledge through digital means and realize it’s all still very prevalent.
I distinctly remember being very frightened as a child by the idea of books being banned – or worse, burned. The clandestine copy of Forever passed around my grammar school, eagerly highlighted, was the best instructor of sex education we had (we have it so easy now, seriously) and when it was confiscated by a puritanical teacher the sense of shame and then rebellion that resulted was a defining moment. Later on, books like Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange spoke deeply to my developing beliefs about personal freedom and responsibility. There’s a natural outrage in me against those who would try to censor artists from holding the mirror up to our not-so civil society.
Artist Dana Ellyn continues her examination of controversial subjects with Banned, a solo exhibit showing now through July 31 at MLK Library. Last December she applied her laser eye for hypocrisy to a wide range of untouchable subjects such as religion, politics, and feminine identity in Divinely Irreverent, a show I unabashedly loved as “an audacious exhibit delivering hard slaps to myths of many kinds.” Here, the examination comes from books banned or otherwise considered subversive – perfect for Dana’s love of metaphor – and the slaps are delivered to those who would ban information and keep us in the dark.
The exhibit opened to coincide with the American Library Association’s annual conference, and it’s worth taking a look at their list of the frequently challenged books – you may be surprised by what you see. Banned features seventeen paintings inspired by controversial books; here are three that I found resonated particularly with me. Continue reading
"Bull in a China Shop" by Dana Ellyn. Courtesy of the artist.
What’s most shocking about Dana Ellyn’s paintings?
That they’re truthful.
Opening this past weekend at the Evolve Urban Arts Project in the Atlas District, Divinely Irreverent is an audacious exhibit delivering some hard slaps to myths of many kinds – from religion to what it means to be a woman. These are thought-provoking pieces – sometimes outright painful to process – but always rooted firmly in honesty. They are also at times downright funny.
Dana fell in love with the city as a junior in high school, and has been a DC resident for the past twenty years since attending George Washington University. She now has the luck of living and working in a studio in Penn Quarter. It’s a natural partnership with Evolve, whose mission is to promote local talent in a low-key atmosphere, and her exhibit will run there until January 30, 2010.
I was lucky to have a private tour with the artist and curator Eric Hope, and I have to say – if you like your art to reach out and rattle you, get over there now. You’ll love it. And if you prefer your art to be pretty and decorous, well, go anyway. Open your mind to something different.