MAA Gallery in Westfield Wheaton
Thanks to the generosity of Westfield, MAA is fortunate to have had its MAA Gallery store in the Westfield Wheaton shopping plaza for almost 6 years.
Unfortunately for us, another organization has taken over our former space and the MAA Gallery closed–September 21 was its last open day.
The location was on the second floor close to the Costco entrance, next to Nando’s Peri-Peri restaurant, and across from Panera. It was open seven days/week: Monday through Saturday, 11 am to 8 pm; Sunday, 11 am to 7 pm.
September MAA Gallery Show: Featured Artist, Sandy Cepaitis
Show Dates: August 30, 2016-September 21, 2016 (This was the final show at this location)
Reception: September 11, 2016 1-5 p.m.
Sandy Cepaitis was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She completed her BS in Education at the University of Dayton, then she returned to Pennsylvania, where she taught kindergarten and pre-K for five years. She married in 1973 and moved to Kensington, where she still resides. She and her husband had two children and Cepaitis continued her career as a teacher at the National Cathedral’s Beauvoir Early Education school. She retired after a 26 year career she loved but had begun in part, “…because there were not a lot of options for women.” Lack of options aside, she engaged fully in her teaching. “I am the kind of person who throws myself into something completely.” The look of pleasure on her face as she talks of her teaching days says it all. It was at the end of her teaching career that she finally had time to take a watercolor class that sparked her second career—that as an artist. Always a creative person, Sandy stated that before this class, she had never painted. “Over the years, my creativity has found various outlets…knitting, crafts, cooking, photography, gardening, but I have found that painting best allows me to express my love of nature.” Since early adulthood, she had had a desire to paint, but it was only after her children were grown and she had retired from teaching that she finally took her first watercolor class. The artist began taking watercolor classes with Firouzeh Sadeghi, who was teaching classes for Montgomery County at the time. About thirteen years ago Sandy joined MAA. At her first meeting she was persuaded to be the Membership Chair. She grinned and noted, “…not what you expect to do when you first join a group!” (This writer would like to note here that it was meeting the vivacious Cepaitis at the Paint the Town show that convinced her to join MAA about one year later.) Sandy is currently a member of the Washington Metropolitan Artists’ Society and Montgomery Art Association.
Sandy finds the impressionist paintings of Cassatt, Monet, and Renoir to be among her greatest inspiration. She says, “I am drawn to the Impressionists even though my paintings are so different. They resonate because of the feeling they capture on the canvas.” One thing these artists all have in common is an enormous sense of light, a light that glows from within rather than an outside source despite the fact that the subjects are so often outdoors. Cepaitis tends to focus on landscapes and still life subjects. “I love to do still life because of my garden. [The painter is an avid gardener.] I like to have flowers in my house and love to photograph flowers.” She worked for a company called Yankee Clippers, pruning some of the most beautiful gardens in the Washington area. Her extensive travels to the Cayman Islands, Florida, and New England have been frequent sources of inspiration. This is another area she obviously shares with the impressionist painters. They too were showcasing the places they went and lived, such as Renoir’s and Cassatt’s scenes, set in homes of friends and acquaintances or on the banks of the Seine, or Monet’s depictions of his gardens. Something else they share is a sense of the ephemeral. In the case of Cepaitis, it is her sharing a moment of viewing a canal that makes my own memories of an enticing city in the lagoon come flooding vividly back. A large pale blue vase filled with red echinacea and black eyed Susans seem to have just come from outdoors. A tiny hummingbird, a wing frozen in a beat, pulls sweet nectar from a bloom so close in color that the bird, for just a moment, blends into the flowers he sips from. The artist has continued to hone her ability to let her colors—warm reds and greens, slightly cooler blues—speak about the emotions she chooses to share.
Cepaitis sees herself still targeting subjects she loves. The artist states she doesn’t have any lofty goals, she “wants to continue to enjoy life with my husband, children, and grandchildren, and to spend more time painting.” These may not be what many think are lofty goals, but as long as they let us keep sharing her special views of the world she lives in, I personally think they are perfect ones. — Judith Levine
August MAA Gallery Show: Featured Artist, Patricia DurJava
Patricia DurJava’s work filled the MAA Gallery’s Featured Artist space in August. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, where she received her BS and an MS, she raised three sons while teaching high school French and Spanish. Though she took no art classes at university, she did take classes elsewhere, her first one being at the ripe old age of ten. Though she had done work in oils, once she started taking watercolor classes, she switched to watercolor and has never looked back. And it was in Cleveland that, “… [I] developed [my] life-long passion for drawing and painting. As a member of the Lakewood Art League and particularly under the tutelage of Fred Leach, AWA, [I] developed as a watercolorist.” After graduate studies in Mexico, she added people, nature scenes, and flowers to her repertoire. DurJava didn’t stop there, attending classes at the Savannah School of Art and Design, the Omega Institute in New York, and taking as many workshops offered by the Ohio Watercolor Society as she could. It is due to this last group that so many homes in Ohio now have her plein aire flower paintings gracing their walls. Never one to sit around, she spent 2000-2002 in Senegal with the Peace Corps “… where pen drawings recorded my activities in small business development.” On her return to the United States, the artist decided to relocate to Montgomery County, Maryland, where she resumed her teaching career, and naturally, continued painting. She chose to remain in this area after she retired in 1971. DurJava says “As a Resident Artist at Washington ArtWorks, [I am] in a stage of artistic fusion and expansion. [My] experience and training in drawing, watercolor, and acrylics have led [me] to a point at which [I am] growing both as a colorist and as a creative being in the rich environment of the ArtWorks.”
Cleveland is home to many fine art organizations, including the Cleveland Ballet, the Cleveland Orchestra, and many well-known art galleries. It is home to American Greeting Cards, which provides an income to many watercolorists, including her teacher, noted painter Fred Leach (1924-2006). His influence on how she uses her paints is obvious in the loose brush strokes and the soft colors of her landscapes. After she moved to Maryland, she continued to take classes. A collage class taught her about cutting and adding other media to her watercolors, plus she had now added other water media including acrylics. “There is no map. With a long process of often crazily applying acrylic paint and matte medium to tissue paper, then selecting, tearing, and applying to canvas from a limited palette, the results are often stunning and surprising (even to me).… I don’t draw out a painting before I start. When I start, I don’t know where I will end up.” That is a scary thing to do but it has freed her to let her artwork lead the way to where it will go. And the places it has gone are indeed stunning. Her other works are more traditional in style. What fascinated me was that almost all of them have a sense of movement, a sense that the subjects are disturbed by the wind. Her Trees by Ocean (pictured above) lets the viewer feel the strong breeze as the trees strain to the left. In her whimsical composition Pas de Deux, both the man and the stork struggle while fighting the wind as they share their improbable dance. DurJava’s beautiful, creative mind shines through each work, keeping what might have been nice landscapes and flower paintings fresh and alive and making you look back again and again.
It was not a surprise that she named Mary Cassatt among her favorite painters “…because she captures personality.” DurJava also believes she was unknowingly influenced by Georgia O’Keefe, which can be seen by the way the artist makes her flowers with clean edged, translucent colors. Exposed to painter Frieda Kahlo and muralist Diego Rivera’s work, she finds the vibrant colors and sense of life in their work exciting. Both use the traditions and culture of Mexico and its vivacious landscapes to form the basis of their work. Glass artist Dale Chihuly, founder of the Pilchuck Glass School, and the Impressionist school finished off her list. Comparisons bring to light the conjunction of the depiction of light and movement all these makers share. The artist says, “[It is] the ability to be representational but loose.” I would add that it is also the ability to make works that remain potent and -vigorous.
“I expect to still be evolving as an artist as time goes on. I don’t know where I’ll be. I [do] feel connected to this area.” DurJava wants to travel more; for example she specifically mentioned she want to experience Spain. She will most likely continue to be active in the Friends of the Yellow Barn, the Artist Angle in -Frederick, and MAA, which she joined in 2015. Her last statement to me during the interview was, “Do what you love every day.” Sounds like an excellent plan to me. — Judith Levine
July MAA Gallery Show: Featured Artist, Lis Zadravec
Interview by Judith Levine
The July Gallery show opened Tuesday, June 28 and ran through Sunday, July 31. The “Meet the Artist” opening reception was on Sunday, July 10, 1 to 5 pm.
Lis Zadravec was July’s Featured Artist. Born and raised in Chevy Chase, Zadravec has an unusual and diverse background. She studied at American University (1977), Montgomery College (1980), and the Corcoran School of Art (1980-82), which is why she went to Kensington’s Bethesda Beauty Academy (1978-79) and became a Licensed Cosmetologist in 1979. The cosmetology studies did serve an ulterior motive. She was more fascinated by make-up than hair and wanted to be able to do that. She has done make-up at Neiman-Marcus and for runway shows, ballet, and photographers. The study of the anatomy of head and hands has served her well, as did the study of faces. She was fascinated by stage make-up and wanted to be able to do that. She has done make-up on Broadway and in local theaters.
Her studies at the Corcoran were actually her second time attending that school. At age four, “I told my mother I was going to be an artist.” She was enrolled shortly after with a local artist and by the age of ten was enrolled in the Corcoran’s Children’s Art Program. Her going into the arts was not totally unexpected, as her father is a writer, her mother a poet, and her sister an award-winning playwright. One of her daughters is studying ballet. The older daughter, who has a love of historical theater, is in college. “My daughters, at last being old enough to be well down their own paths … understand their mother’s need to finally pursue her art.”
Despite having been drawing and painting her entire life, Zadravec is no different than just about every other artist, we don’t make our entire living from our artwork. “Artists always have dual careers.” She currently teaches at least three days a week at various sites.
While the artist used to work in oils, she now is working almost exclusively in colored pencil and watercolors. “Executing colored pencil work takes so long to do that it has to be priced at oil paint prices … the likelihood of someone buying a portrait of someone who is not a family member [is not high] … but I am striving for the excellence. … The better I get known, the more people are likely to buy a portrait of someone they don’t know, for the story they connect with, and I see that beginning to happen. Having a poet for a mother started me down this road. What other art but poetry strives for excellence without thought of financial gain?”
What caused the switch was a class with Bill Newman, now retired Dean of Painting at the Corcoran. “He introduced me to the work of Jody Mussoff … when she came to speak at the Corcoran … whose 1980’s inspired graphic characters [were my] first brush with colored pencils. But the switch to using them entirely came many years later.” Mussoff, whose portrait works are in major collections around the United States, works in a very representational style. Zadravec has clearly been influenced by the clean, precise technique as well as the use of semi-opaque application of layers of color.
Zadravec has also taken portraiture and drawing classes with Edwin Ahlstrom at Montgomery College. When asked about favorite artists, Zadravec mentioned Sargent, Degas, the Wyeth family (N.C., Jamie, and Andrew) and most specially, Mary Cassatt. The common denominator for her is their ability to draw and a love of the human figure. With Cassatt, she says, “My subjects are almost all females, as were hers. Her drawing was excellent.” The artist loves the way that Cassatt was able to paint women and children doing everyday tasks without becoming maudlin, no easy task. All of her favorite artists tell stories and, “All of my pictures are storytelling.”
“As I get older I find I am more and more impressed with the ability to draw well.” Zadravec sees this as the basis for good paintings in any medium. It is quite obvious that she takes this to heart in her fanciful paintings. Without actually seeing the bones and muscles, you know that they are lurking just under the surface of her figures. Like Degas, she gives the viewer a sense of having just caught the subject in a moment of a much larger movement.
When she studied oil painting, she learned the Jaques Maroger technique, which included the Maroger formula as a drying and glazing agent. (Maroger’s medium is one part litharge or lead white, combined by cooking with three to four parts raw linseed oil, and three to four parts water. This medium is now mostly unavailable because of its cancer-causing lead content. Zadravec has come up with her own non-toxic version.) The medium allows her to use multiple very thin layers without having to wait long periods for the oils to dry. The technique itself allows an artist to use a “… heavy hand and wax-based pencils to achieve the transparency of oils.” She has successfully adapted this to the way she applies her pencil layers to achieve the transparency of watercolor and “… the glowing effect of light and flesh, like the old masters.” She has also been able to do this with her watercolors, which she sometimes mixes gouache into.
Another thing Zadravec enjoys is presenting her images in a manner that gives the observer a sense of being very close. “The challenge and patience of mixed media [such as watercolor and gouache], [plus] I like to get up close …” drive many of her images … “Manipulating the perspective is both a necessity for this size and a way of drawing the viewer in.” The artist likes to work on large sheets of Canson Mi-Teintes paper, around 19” by 25”. The pencils she employs are made by Prismacolor and Bruynzeel.
At some point, Zadravec wants to write a book. “I think I would like to have a book of my own … written and illustrated by me. I don’t think I will ever not teach, I love it, it’s part of who I am … but I would like to rely less and less on it for income.” In the meantime, she focuses on her three days that she currently teaches, continuing to homeschool her younger daughter, and finding ways to increase her sales while maintaining her integrity as an artist, just like most of MAA’s members seek to do. “Though colored pencil work has not been accepted into [many] shows and competitions, it is a … portable medium, and becoming more and more popular and accepted in recent years.”
I hope you really enjoyed your July Featured Artist, Lis Zadravec! — Judith Levine