Heloisa Escudero takes time to meditate. The multidisciplinary artist – collage, painting, sculpture, performance art and more – isn’t the type who goes in for long, deep sessions.
“I do short meditations, from 10 to 20 minutes,” she said. “I don’t do long, extended ones because if you’re going to face doing a long extended one and you have like a lot of things to do in a day, then, yeah, sure, you meditated, but then you’re going to be stressed out because you just spent so much time doing it.” So, she’s pragmatic about setting parameters for her spiritual and meditative needs.
Escudero is also a museum exhibit designer, another area of her life where she needs a healthy dose of pragmatism. Most recently, she’s been working behind the scenes to lay out and hang “Meditations and Epiphanies: Otherworldly Devices in Painting,” the newest show at the Betty Mae Kramer Gallery in the Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza.
The intimate show, curated by Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell, features the distinctive works of four artists. There are the brightly colored, psychedelic circular canvases that artist Kelly Posey calls “Petri Dishes.” Painter Judith Benderson’s works look like starbursts, comets and asteroids burning brightly on inky black backgrounds. J. Jordan Bruns’ canvases balance intricate molecular-like structures with sweeping swaths of paint, improvisational drips, splotches and patches of yellows, oranges, blues and whites. Terry Sitz’s works are, perhaps the most representational — a female nude, or a modernist portrait, rendered with bright blue and orange acrylics sharing the frame with fragments from newspapers, packages and the like.
Bryant-Greenwell curated the exhibit to explore the works of four Montgomery County-based artists who use painting to develop heavily abstracted realities. The show celebrates the beauty of the imagination through color, texture and form in a way only brush-in-hand painting can, according to Bryant-Greenwell, who concludes this exhibition presents the wonder of hidden insights in ethereal designs.
It was Escudero’s job to take these four disparate artistic voices and find a way to let them hang gracefully – even meditatively – together in the modest 1,200-square-foot gallery, a mostly quiet haven in the Silver Spring Arts and Entertainment District, a stone’s throw from shops, restaurants and movie theaters.
“I tried to have a fluid flow … where one piece doesn’t clash with the others,” she explained, noting that she also works behind the scenes at D.C.’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where she packs, unpacks and helps to hang art. “Kayleigh [the curator] picked a lot of pieces,” Escudero said. “I had to take some of them out because they wouldn’t fit the gallery. I’m that kind of person who thinks that pieces have to breathe and have space between one another.” She also was mindful about when pieces of art from different artists might clash aesthetically. “I also try to be fair to each of the artists. Because it’s a group show, and you don’t want one to have more space than the others.”
But most important, Escudero emphasized, is finding a balance among the pieces.
She encountered a few problems, namely what she calls “the ugly wall,” which contains light switches, the room’s thermostat and other necessities that are not conducive to hanging art. Yet, “the ugly wall” turned out to be perfect for hanging Posey’s eight circular petri-dish like canvases.
“I decided to hang them in a way that looks like biology, thinking about them as natural elements. So it’s very fluid. I didn’t put them in a row or a grid. They’re in their own space floating on the wall … sort bouncing off each other, and moving, moving on a wall.”
When Escudero designed and hung the exhibit, she said, “I was trying to think of that wall in terms of epiphany and balance. For example, I tried to balance all the artwork because when I think of epiphany, and I think of meditation, it is something that stays with me and [those ideas] belong together. Everything is, in a sense, equal and well-leveled. When I was putting up the artwork, I was trying to level everything out and not to have some works filling half a wall, while other works were not given much space.”
“Basically,” she continued, putting this exhibit together, “I came to have an epiphany: you come to these ideas, they come together, and it flows right at the moment. And for a moment, it’s often somewhat chaotic, but it all works together in the end.”
“Meditations and Epiphanies: Otherworldly Devices in Painting,” through Jan. 31 in the Betty Mae Kramer Gallery & Music Room, Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visit www.bettymaekramergallery.com.