18 March 2013

Lori Anne Boocks at the Sitar Arts Center

Narrative painter Lori Anne Boocks is currently exhibiting 14 paintings at Sitar Arts Center in Washington, D.C. in a solo show titled Narratives and Numbers through 19 April 2013.

1. Is this your first solo show?

No, but I have only had just a few up until this year. This is a really busy year for me, with four solos in a 12-month span. I hope people do not get tired of me inviting them to receptions!

2. Where is it being held? How would you describe the venue? What are the opening and closing dates? Have you shown in this venue before? 

This exhibit will be held at Sitar Arts Center, from 11 March 2013 through 19 April 2013.  I have never shown there before.

The exhibit space consists of white walls in a triangular shape. Instead of the paintings facing each other in a square, they taper in. I like that when you walk through, they almost make you look. 

Sitar’s focus is arts education for kids from low-income households. Volunteers teach music, dance, drama, creative writing, digital art and visual arts classes. When I went there to meet with Loretta Thompson, director of program operations, about show details, the place was bustling! Apart from engaging kids in every classroom in wonderful projects, the center organizes a scavenger hunt at the culminating art receptions, so families can take their interaction with the art one step further. 

3. What is the show's title? Why did you choose this title?

This show is called Narratives and Numbers. I use words and numbers in my paintings so I wanted to reference writing and storytelling in my title. When creating a painting, I often reflect on stories from my past and use them as inspiration. When using numbers as subject matter, I try to make them represent something unexpected. I like telling stories through numbers. Plus, I liked the alliteration.

4. How many pieces are in the show? Is there a theme that ties them together? What media are you working in?

There are 14 pieces in a variety of sizes, all in acrylic and charcoal on canvas. Besides sharing text as the subject, the pieces tell stories through color and shape. When putting together the proposal for the show, I took into account that children might make up the majority of viewers. I hope they think up their own stories about the pieces too.

5. Where are you exhibiting next?

Starting 10 April 2013, I will be in a three-person show called Remembrance with Oletha DeVane and Nina Chung Dwyer at BlackRock Center for the Arts in my own backyard, Germantown, Maryland. This show runs until 27 April 2013.

6. Choose one piece from the show and describe it in depth, including its process and meaning. 

One of my favorite new pieces is Back in Memphis Again. It is my usual charcoal and acrylic on canvas, 24 by 22 inches. 

After I laid a basic ground on the surface with my hands, I thought about Thomas Wolfe's title, You Can’t Go Home Again, and how, in my experience, you really can. Things may be different, and you may be different, but where you have been makes up who you are for better or worse. 

While letting the washes of color dry and after removing some layers with a cloth to give the piece a bit of history, I passed by my daughter’s band stuff and saw a logo for Memphis Guitars. I thought about Elvis and aging and blue suede shoes and how easily suede can scuff. 

I added the words "never go back to Memphis she said, never going back" in charcoal, then drew squares in charcoal and sealed the charcoal with a matte medium to stabilize it. After that dried, I painted the blue squares and scarred them with my fingernails in gloves and dripped water down the canvas. Then I smoothed over the surface with a cloth, which pulled some of the pigment away from the lines of water. After that layer dried, I put on a final wash of brown-black with a brush, burnished some of it off with cloth and sealed all layers with a mix of water and gloss varnish. 

Of course, the subject/narrator of this particular piece does end up in Memphis again. We can only guess at how, but I can feel the push-pull, the "I belong, yet I don’t anymore" feeling that creates tension for her.

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