Rosemary Luckett’s personality and political views imbue her pen-and-ink drawings, and it doesn’t require a detective to determine where she stands on environmental degradation.
In “The Picnic’s Over,” the Manassas-area artist shows a nude man and woman with oversized bodies and small heads enjoying a snack of red strawberries falling from the sky. The couple sits on a bed of raised forks, with a cake plate between them topped by an automobile wheel. The couple’s blindfolds symbolize their unwitting and careless destruction of the natural world.
“We’re creating all these beautiful products like computers and washing machines and we purchase them in a blind way without thinking about the ramifications of doing these things,” Luckett said.
Luckett’s exhibit, “Altered Terrain,” lines the walls of the Ramp Gallery of the McLean Project for the Arts (MPA), located at the McLean Community Center. The exhibit is one of three that opened Jan. 17 and will run through March 2.
Luckett grew up on a farm in central Idaho, where she contemplated life while working in the fields, and later majored in biology at what is now the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kan. She now is president of Touchstone Gallery in Washington, D.C., and teaches “Collage: The Art of Transformation” and “Sculpture from Scrap” at the Art League School in Alexandria.
The artist began her “Altered Terrain” series five years ago in order to maintain a positive frame of mind.
“I had to do it,” Luckett said. “When I look around and see mass destruction and mass extinction of animals, it’s easy to get depressed.”
She chose to work in pen-and-ink to better render fine details and rarely adds more than one color to any of her works, saying this greatly increases the complexity of the drawings.
Many of her environmental artworks feature rubber ducks, which normally are associated with carefree childhood. Luckett contrasts this with the experience of real animals, such as ducks and frogs, which are being wiped out by pollution.
In “Coaled-Coaled Heart,” Luckett shows a man whose body is composed of bones, plus a ramshackle house and coal truck carrying a blackened human heart. The man’s head is topped with a coal-cutting machine, from which hang nooses.
Luckett also provides detailed environmental information in the side notes that accompany some of her works.
“They’re just wonderful drawings, tremendously creative,” said MPA exhibitions director Nancy Sausser. “She has an incredible imagination.”
MPA also is displaying interpretive works by three painters in “Small Stories,” an exhibit in its Emerson Gallery.
Many of artist Matthew Mann’s works feature lush green fields crisscrossed by rivers, with incongruous items such as fire in the foreground.
Mann renders his subjects – be they flowers, leaves, drapes or a bird’s nest – with almost trompe de l’oeil accuracy, while his juxtaposition of those elements against unusual backgrounds recalls Surrealism.
Mann’s “Rainbow of Blood” shows a scarlet rainbow arching over the artist’s familiar green fields, with a sandstone cliff in the foreground and two headless bodies and a chopped-off tree.
Gregory Ferrand’s paintings focus more on people, who frequently show a sense of uneasiness or foreboding.
In his “Honeymooning,” a stylishly dressed young couple anxiously read a map while perched high about a blue sea with white boats and green mountains in the background.
Ferrand’s series “Solitaire” features eight black-and-white paintings of men and women with coiffures that appear to date from the 1930s or ’40s. Below each portrait subject is an oval-shaped color scene with action ranging from a birthday party, dance and series of masks to a couple skinny-dipping.
The most dramatic of Ferrand’s paintings is “Explosion! If only they knew what they know now,” which shows a frightened young woman being led to an old DC-3 aircraft by a group of men in suits. Dark thunderclouds billow in the background, heightening the sense of urgency.
In contrast with Ferrand’s stylized human dramas are artist Nora Sturges’ smaller, darker paintings depicting simplified, people-free scenes.
The artist’s “Houses” shows a group of tiny dwellings on a desolate landscape, while her “Moon Bounce” places that colorful carnival attraction next to a dumpster in a dreary parking lot, the background taken up by a bland red-brick building accented with security cameras.
Finally, MPA’s Atrium Gallery is displaying “GOLDRUSHed,” a series of oil-and-gold-leaf abstract works by Thomas Xenakis.
While these glittering works are not as message-laden as the other paintings in MPA’s current exhibits, they feature pleasing color combinations, interesting compositions and elements that either protrude out from the canvas or delve more deeply into it.
The McLean Project for the Arts, located at 1234 Ingleside Ave. in McLean, is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (703) 790-1953 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (703) 790-1953 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit www.mpaart.org.