New McLean exhibition puts emphasis on creativity

"Furs," by Maremi Andreozzi, is among the artworks at the McLean Project for the Arts' "(Not) Strictly Painting" exhibit at the McLean Community Center. (Photo courtesy of MPA)

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Formed from selections made by two jurors, McLean Project for the Arts’ (MPA) “(Not) Strictly Painting” exhibit encompasses a wide range of artworks – from paintings and sculptures to installations – and showcases distinctive artistic styles.

The exhibit, which opened Sept. 18, is MPA’s 13th “Strictly Painting” show and this year’s name change reflects the display’s more open nature, said exhibitions director Nancy Sausser at a Sept. 23 virtual discussion.

For the second time in the annual exhibit’s history, MPA had multiple jurors choose the works. This year’s jurors were Virginia-based sculptor Foon Sham, an art professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and Virginia Treanor, associate curator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

There were 218 submissions for the show and the pair selected works by 37 artists. Sham’s choices included some installations and were more abstract in nature, while Treanor’s selections often had more recognizable subject matter.

“I’m always very drawn to things where I can only imagine how long that took to craft,” Treanor said.

Among works chosen by Treanor were Ally Morgan’s painting of a fish, “St. Elmo’s Fire”; George Lorio’s “Infolding,” an arrangement of twigs and bark that resembles a tree’s cross-section; and Christine Lee Tyler’s “Deterioration,” an oil-and-acrylic painting of green archways enhanced by delicate, white floral patterns.

Sham highlighted several of his choices, including “Landscape” by Dennis Lee Mitchell, who used smoke soot to create a mountain scene evocative of traditional paintings from eastern Asia. Sham also liked the combination of tulle, iron and glass in “Cactus” by Daniel Merkowitz-Bustos and the almost-three dimensional effect of Chee Keong Kung’s painting “Heavy Fuel Daiquiri III (Dispersion No. 40).”

Sham also was captivated by the two- and three-dimensional effects of Julie Wills’ installation “Midheaven.” The work combines welded steel, sandpaper, vinyl, tumbleweed and a tree branch with mixed-media on paper.

The installation incorporates celestial references to constellations that may be seen at one of the Earth’s poles, but not the other, Wills said. The artist added she loves the romantic notion of separated lovers viewing the same moon.

The jurors selected only a few works in common. One was “Socket Colony,” an organic-looking mixed-media work by Milan Warner. The three-dimensional artwork, which combines silicone, twine, paint, dye and adhesive, resembles a collection of open shells or perhaps the beaks of expectant birds waiting to be fed.

The artist said her goal is to connect people by triggering strong sensations.

“It’s innately human to seek to understand and be understood,” Warner said. Another work both jurors liked was “Furs,” an acrylic painting by Maremi Andreozzi that shows two well-dressed women conversing in a fog-shrouded forest. The women’s faces are black silhouettes, leaving viewers to imagine their features and expressions and concentrate on the artwork’s other details.

The artist said her inspiration for the painting was the fashion plates of the Edwardian era, who often made theatrical gestures. The faux landscape in the background also is reminiscent of that time period and “looks like something out of a Disney movie, perhaps ‘Snow White,’” Andreozzi said.

Treanor, who specializes in historical artworks, said she gravitated toward the exhibit submissions she liked and tried not to overthink the process.

“I had so much fun,” Treanor said of choosing the works. “I have no regrets. I still love each and every one of them.”

“(Not) Strictly Painting” runs through Nov. 13 at MPA, located upstairs at the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave. Works displayed in MPA’s Atrium Gallery will be open to the public during the community center’s operating hours. The arts organization’s Emerson Gallery will be open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. To allow for social-distancing, only six visitors will be allowed in the gallery at once.

Non-profit MPA next year will mark its 60th anniversary. For more information on the organization and its exhibits, visit or call (703) 790-1953.

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