I visited the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, last week. Traveling solo, I got to see everything I wanted to see, and because it was a Friday, traffic in-house was light.
Clearly, most of the artists do not spend all their time in their galleries/shops, which tells me they are still obliged to be making/selling art elsewhere. Some need equipment they cannot store in the TFAA. For example, hand-weaver Heasoon Rhee reported a need to work on a second, much larger, heavier, and noisier jacquard loom at home. Other TFAA artists go out to shop for supplies, visit corporate clients, or need a day off. Nevertheless, there were enough actively working artists present to make my visit there well worthwhile.
Photos are not generally, for obvious reasons, permitted within the Torpedo Factory. Instead of photos, I share with you here the names and links of the artists whose work impressed me most, along with a brief comment about why I liked what they are doing:
There’s an art jeweler in my family, so I’m accustomed to seeing and appreciating beautiful workmanship with carefully selected gemstones, but I found the addition of finely-worked cloisonné added much to the pieces produced by Holly Hague. There’s always a risk of looking overdone, that is, too much cloisonné for the gemstone, but Holly’s jewelry, I thought, balanced the stones and the art of enameling well. What do you think? (Comments welcome below.)
Along similar lines was the work of weaver/glassworker Ruth Gowell. I found Ruth’s work stunning and reminiscent of a time when I hoped to work with the Kitengela Glass Factory many years ago to combine patchwork quilting and glass. The possibilities are, of course, endless, but Ruth’s work is a nearly perfect combination of the two media. It’s often hard to tell, in her Glass & Fiber Wall Art, where fiber leaves off and glass begins. Ruth does quite remarkable work—and her craftsmanship is impeccable!
I was generally disappointed in the fiber arts section of the Torpedo Factory because it was so small! One relatively tiny gallery held the works of multiple fiber artists, each of whom should probably have their own space—economics at work, I suppose.
I was pleased, however, to see the work of artists whose names I know, like Cindy Grisdela and Eileen Doughty (an old friend from SAQA), as well as the kawandi technique expressed by Linda Warschoff. Now, we’re talking MY language! Funny, though—my impression was that at least some work was underpriced; you should get it at these low prices while you can!
Photographer Irina Rosovsky’s interior landscapes impressed me because I know those places intimately from my own Spirit Works. Her images depict foggy landscapes with forms barely recognizable. There’s a consistency to the work on display that revealed the artist’s search through her mind.
As for paintings, there was a wide range of styles and media, as we might expect in such a venue, but one artist whose work really stood out for me was Mina Oka Hanig. Mina is painting patchwork—and it’s gorgeous!
Art quilter and Juried Artist Member of SAQA, Katie Pasquini-Masopust (not part of the Torpedo Factory) does something similar, but her work is very different. Although Katie has a background in painting, she seems to come at the work more from the quilting side, whereas Mina’s work seems to flow from the painterly angle. For me, it’s interesting that both artists find their voices with paint and patches.
Other artists at the Torpedo Factory whose work I want to mention as noteworthy to my way of thinking include:
Lesley Clarke for encaustic as well as other paintings
Sally Veach for paintings
Guido R. Zanni for fluid acrylics (if you like this kind of thing)
Cindy Lowther for tapestry and other hand weavings
Carol Takov for interesting stone mosaics
Last, but certainly not least, I want to mention the kinetic glass art of Alison Sigethy whose work has to be seen to be appreciated. Okay, I know it’s reminiscent of lava lamps, but Alison’s pieces have so much more to say. Kinetic work of any kind draws us in like a magnet, whether it’s good or bad, but these seemingly underwater scenes of delicate glass imagery offer much, much more. The rich colors and delicate structures of glass forms within each Sea Core are mesmerizing.
The photos on these and other Torpedo Factory artists’ websites do not do the work justice. If you are in the D.C. area with a few hours of time on your hands, don’t miss seeing the art up close and personal. If you have space in your home or office and a bit of loose cash to spend, you can easily go home a proud owner of one of these amazing artists’ works.
Special Tip from Dena:
Give your patchwork quilts added painterly and kinetic qualities with these special artists' materials: acrylic fabric paint, glittering crystal beads, and shiny, light-reflective metallic threads.
Mostly, I post on Facebook to tell you about my travels and life experiences, point out people and things that I want to tell you about, and keep you updated on what's happening in my life as an art quilter.