The most cloudlike formations are by Linda Colsh and Sookkyung Park. Colsh’s “Fog and Veil” is a clump of two-sided, fan-shaped pieces of stained paper, partly painted and screen-printed with text in various languages; the phrases and numbers evoke the experiences of migrants, refugees and exiles. Park’s “Blooming” assemblages dangle multicolored streamers amid mists of paper circles, evoking kites but also jellyfish.
Michael Gessner’s paper, wood and wire constructions also suggest biomorphic forms, emulating leaves, wings and insects. One piece adds another element: blue light that glows from underneath, yielding rich purple shadows. Kristina Penhoet’s elaborate wool-fiber twist, “Out of Bounds,” is dyed red and purple, colors that underscore the work’s resemblance to an internal organ.
Penhoet also contributed the least engineered piece, “Parting Ways,” a simple but lovely array of white-wool tufts. This reliance on a material’s natural qualities is in strong contrast to the style of YunKyoung Cho, who uses quilted fabrics to depict such everyday objects as a computer and a Starbucks cup. While most of these artists make work that appears soft and even vaporous, Cho playfully uses linen, silk and yarn to imitate plastic and metal.
The trees that Ronni Jolles constructs are made merely of paper but are so robust that they sometimes grow beyond frames that can’t quite contain them. “Trees on the Edge: Artwork in Layered Paper,” also at McLean Project for the Arts, is a set of landscapes dominated by the strong verticals of trunks and the soft horizontals of birch bark’s black stripes.
The suburban Maryland artist overlays scraps of torn paper into 3D vignettes, adding color with acrylic paint. In this show’s works, tree trunks are out front, and backgrounds such as the pink-patched sky of “Winter Light” are literally behind them. The actual distance between top and bottom is shallow but effectively suggests much greater depths. Jolles’s intricate compositions draw the eye both inward and upward.
In the Round: Dimensional Fiber Works and Ronni Jolles: Trees on the Edge: Artwork in Layered Paper Through Feb. 18 at McLean Project for the Arts, 1234 Ingleside Ave., McLean.
If the complexly overlapping shadows cast by Terence Hannum’s wall-mounted flower sculptures look a little ominous, that’s entirely appropriate. The Baltimore artist’s Lost Origins Gallery show, “Perfume Our Burial,” depicts plants that can render people sick, stoned or dead. Among the potentially murderous or mind-altering flora are datura, oleander, narcissus and pennyroyal.
There’s a playful aspect to Hannum’s blossoms, which are 3D printed and usually made of pristine white plastic, although one includes bronze filament. They’re presented as an homage to the 1978 version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” a movie in which interloping extraterrestrials take the form of flowering pods. But there’s nothing cartoonish about the artworks, whether sculptural or painted.
The painted works are small oils that, according to Hannum’s statement, are inspired by the style of northern European still lifes. They’re mostly monochromatic close-ups on black backdrops, often on round canvases, and possess a severity that does recall Dutch masters. Yet they’re high-contrast and low-depth, as if the images have been distorted by some sort of photographic process. The result is eerie and a bit woozy. It’s as if just looking at these flowers is enough to elicit an unsettling chemical reaction.
Terence Hannum: Perfume Our Burial Through Feb. 20 at Lost Origins Gallery, 3110 Mount Pleasant St. NW.
In her radiant abstract paintings, Saya Behnam uses pigment derived from organic substances and incorporates such natural materials as gold leaf, henna powder and saffron threads. The Iran-born Virginia artist ventures further into the wild with “The Cycle of Nature and Time,” her installation at the Torpedo Factory’s Studio 229. This monument to dormant nature is made primarily of dried plants and flowers.
The piece’s main feature is a hanging funnel of desiccated flora suspended over a golden half orb surrounded by more lifeless foliage, arranged with stones and ashes in a rough circle on the floor. Garlands of dried plants drip down two walls, flanking the central assemblage. Visible in the suspended cluster, if not easily discerned, are parts of disassembled clocks, representing a mechanical reading of chronology.
While a clock counts time as endlessly ongoing, Behnam’s fundamental outlook is cyclical. The installation’s goal is “to contemplate the winter season as a time for regeneration,” her statement notes. In a house or an art gallery, dried flowers are merely decorative. In forests and fields, they decompose to nurture new life.
Saya Behnam: The Cycle of Nature and Time Through Feb. 12 at Studio 229, Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union St., Alexandria.
Baltimore’s Schaun Champion is an experienced commercial photographer whose elegant portraits for such publications as The Washington Post and the New York Times presaged her show at the Silva Gallery x Latela Curatorial. The brown-skinned subjects of “Monuments and Black Bouquets” are not celebrities, but Champion’s pictures give them presence and weight.
That is particularly true of the “Monuments” sequence — six studies of a nearly nude man partly wrapped in a maroon robe. He strikes epic poses, some against a black backdrop and others outdoors, as if he’s auditioning for a role as a public sculpture. Equally dramatic is the show’s only black-and-white photo, in which a man, also barely clothed, is frozen in a balletic mid-leap.
The “Black Bouquets” series roots people, mostly women and usually in close-up, amid lush flowers and leaves. Like “Monuments,” the pictures highlight lustrous skin tones. Yet Champion also includes the three pictures of “Being,” which depict a head and shoulders entirely shrouded in blue cloth. These anti-portraits aren’t monuments, but are just as intriguing in their clandestine way.
Schaun Champion: Monuments and Black Bouquets Through Feb. 12 at the Silva Gallery x Latela Curatorial, 1630 Columbia Rd. NW.
A caption in an earlier version of this story incorrectly used the pronoun “his” in reference to Baltimore photographer Schaun Champion. The story has been corrected.