'Found in Rockville' at VisArts

Olena Lar, Frank Kowing and Sandi Atkinson are exhibiting oil paintings and mixed media pieces through Sept. 13 in the Portfolio Gallery at VisArts.

"Found in Rockville" is the second exhibit in and VisArts this summer with the aim of promoting the artwork of emerging, underrepresented artists affiliated with the City of Rockville through residence, work or membership in a Rockville-based organization.

"Found in Rockville" runs through Sept. 13, and an opening reception was held on the evening of last Thursday in the Portfolio Gallery at VisArts. There are nine pieces in the show by three different artists, including Olena Lar, Frank Kowing and Sandi Atkinson.

Originally from Ukraine and a current Rockville resident, Lar works in biotechnology and has a doctorate degree in Molecular Genetics. This is the first time she is exhibiting her work for the public.

"The whole idea of art is to express the unity of things in the universe," says the artist who takes a rather mystical view of existence in line with her scientific training.

"This can be described as inseparability, interference, interconnection and spiritual nature of all things in the Universe - both manifested and unmanifested in material existence," Lar writes in her artist's statement.

Her paintings in the show express a dominant color, which is also reflected in the titles of her artwork. "Lioness" swims in swirls of gold; "Firebirds" mixes red and orange hues to depict two figures marveling over a brightly lit orb; and "Waterfront" interweaves blue and green shades to render the impression of a waterfront with mountains in the background. She says that when she starts out she does not know what she is going to paint.

"I start applying color spots on the canvas and then mix them together until something emerges. I paint with my fingers and almost never use brushes. Like a sculptor, I can feel what I am doing on a physical level," said Lar, whose mother was an artist and exposed her to materials from an early age.

Lar works in oil, and she is also a quilter and a collage artist.

Frank Kowing was a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in Oregon growing up and is heavily influenced by "Native American and biomorphic art, telluric themes of earth and germination, growth and metamorphoses." Although he works mostly with found objects, creating 3D assemblages out of twigs, paper, epoxy, acrylic and textile, he is exhibiting three of his paintings in the show.

"Wendigo" references a Native American evil spirit, while "Bird of Prey" and "Greed is Good?" hang side by side, probing our moral compass.

"Art-making embodies our private struggles with the meaning of life, the relationship between humanity and nature. In a time when our ability to comprehend reality is becoming more and more blurred by our inability to abstract meaning, the visionary abstractionist of natural phenomena represents a way of making art that is inherent and primordial...Through use of organic shapes and a chaotic vocabulary, it is possible to awaken the viewer’s own private demons," he writes in his artist's statement.

Atkinson's mixed media work is inspired by her love of dogs and her experience training them. She is a native of Montgomery County and a member of the Rockville Art League and the Senior Artists Allicance.

While she painted "Street Corner in Puerto Vallarta" from a photograph taken on a cruise, "Wassail's Egyptian Connexion No. 2" and "Egyptian Fantasy with Basenjis" commemorate a subject much closer to home.

They feature Wassail and Romeo, two Basenjis who belonged to Atkinson and her family and died in 1997.

"Basenji's may have been known to the ancient Egyptians. This work references ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, using symbols readily understood by people who participate in the dog sports of agility, conformation, lure coursing, rally and tracking - all open to Basenjis," writes Atkinson in her artist's statement.

Atkinson works in acrylic paint, needlework canvas, burlap, metal papers and wrapping paper to create her paintings and collages. She lives in Derwood and her work has been on exhibit at and the Woman's Club of Chevy Chase miniature shows. She participated in the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair Art Show and plans on exhibiting at the 2011 Glen Echo Park Labor Day Art Show on Labor Day weekend.

Part of the "Hidden Rockville" series of summer shows at VisArts is also an exhibit of the work of the Senior Artists Alliance.

Gallery hours for "Found in Rockville" on view in the Portfolio Gallery are: Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.



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