Most of the time, the best way to see superstars at Strathmore is to go to the Music Center and buy a ticket. This winter, though, a pair of famous faces can be found—for free—on the gallery walls of Strathmore’s Mansion, surrounded by an unprecedented display of…glitter!
“I think that there’s some appeal in both the appearance of Edgar Allan Poe with his ‘moody disposition,’ and in William Shakespeare’s ‘refinement,’” said Lesley Lundgren, Strathmore’s exhibition manager, naming the stars of “Poe & Puck,” who loom large in the Mansion as part of the 27th annual Strathmore Juried Exhibition. “I think many artists took their inspiration there.”
Which was certainly something the jury—Lundgren and Adah Rose Bitterbaum, owner and curator of Adah Rose Gallery in Kensington—were hoping for, although the exhibit reveals a great deal more about Shakespeare and Poe than their appearances.
“Not only were portraits submitted,” explained Strathmore’s visual arts coordinator Gabrielle Tillenburg, “but work inspired not just by literature but by the time period the artists lived in (antique media like tintypes, vintage accoutrements like corsets). That was really exciting as well.”
Tillenburg said the scope of the entries “went beyond the literature and into the lives of the authors. Indeed, the winner of Best-in-Show honors, Alla Kanareykina, offered a masterful image rendered in needle felting, using textures and patterns that hinted at the destructive nature of Poe’s life and the macabre tones of his art even as they reflected his familiar brooding face.
Lundgren said that in order to judge entries, she had to get up to speed on both the Bard of Avon and the author of “The Raven.” A longtime Shakespeare aficionado, she happily visited D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Library in preparation, and read and listened to the works of Poe.
“And artist statements were crucial,” she added. “Because we turn to what the artists tell us, especially if the work is abstract, and we received a number of fine abstract works.
“For Adah Rose Bitterbaum–I think, as a gallery owner who is really spot-on when she sees talent–it was probably the same: reacquainting herself with Shakespeare and Poe and then looking at the work for the qualities that make it a fine representation.”
The expression “All that glitters is not gold” may not be a fine representation of Shakespeare—he used it in “The Merchant of Venice,” although he probably didn’t invent it—but it’s an irresistible segue when moving between galleries at Strathmore. That’s because “Infinite Glitter” by local emerging artist Jordann Wine sparkles just next door to all these thoughtful Shakespeares and somber Poes, refracting the winter light into thrilling tessellations.
“This show is just one of the most remarkable we’ve presented in the Invitational Gallery,” said Tillenburg, who programs the gallery. “Jordann Wine is elevating a very unexpected medium, glitter, to such a sophisticated level—I think people are surprised when they come into that room, and they see what she’s been able to do.”
Wine, who grew up in Bethesda, said she’s “been making art since I was about 9 years old.” Now 30, she remembers catching fireflies outside the Mansion as a kid. Back then, she said, she wasn’t much of a glitter-user. Even now, she understands the ambivalence the substance evokes. “People love it and they hate it,” she said of glitter. “They think of it as something kids use; very rarely would one imagine that it could be elevated and sophisticated.”
Not that it’s her job to convince anyone otherwise. “My goal wasn’t initially to elevate glitter,” said Wine. “Though it definitely is elegant! My goal was to show that the way light reflects off things is very interesting.”
Glass, rhinestones, crystals: Wine is fascinated by the theory of why human beings are drawn to all that glitters. “There’s this innate calling, this unconscious interest of humans in reflective things,” she explained. “Because what we need for survival is water, and water is reflective.”
Recreating reflective energy is at the core of her work, and “glitter” doesn’t fully describe the nature of what she does. For Wine, there’s a sense of balance to her art—along with a sense of pushing the envelope.
“It’s becoming really interesting to see how far I can push it,” she said. “Over the years it’s really evolved and grown: I’ve found I can mix glitter, it works very similarly to pigment in paint—you can saturate, lighten it, darken it; there’s even a transparency to it. Glitter adds intensity, dimension and texture, and I feel like I have a lot left to explore.”
Which leads to another convenient segue: Visitors to “Poe & Puck” and “Infinite Glitter” who want to continue to explore the themes they discover there can partake of several related programs without leaving the Strathmore campus. Educational programming in February includes Shakespeare for the Young’s interactive puppet show, “The Tiniest Tempest;” a Make It/Take It session with Strathmore curator Harriet Lesser called “Altered Books;” Edgar Allen Poe’s “Nevermore” in concert, and Pocket Change Theatre Company’s “The Poe Show: Once Upon a Midnight Cheery.”
“I think one of the advantages of working at an arts organization that has several different disciplines is that you have a wealth of resources to do combination programming or to program across the disciplines,” Lundgren explained.
And, Tillenburg added, “We’re really showing how the work of these two authors can influence all sorts of different forms of art.”
“Poe & Puck: 27th annual Strathmore Juried Exhibition” and “Infinite Glitter” are on view at The Mansion at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, through Sunday, March 4. Gallery hours are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Visit www.strathmore.org or call 301-581-5100. Learn more about these exhibitions on CultureSpotMC here.