Imagine abandoned or found objects in a whole new light, or the human body twisted, dressed or disguised to tell a story you never could have imagined. Visual artists create these types of experiences that provoke thought, discussion and sometimes controversy with their inventive, out-of-the-box concepts and creations. Here’s an update on the rising stars who are making a splash in the DC visual arts scene.
Evocative, intriguing, sometimes oddly disturbing but always thought-provoking, the works of performance artist and art curator Eames Armstrong are so inventive and diverse that even her point of view has its own point of view. Armstrong’s performance art tends to play out through the use of the human body, light and clear plastic sheeting in intriguing, slightly bizarre performances that grab your attention. The artist’s pastel-colored mixed-media drawings exude a fresh, upbeat vibe in a mix of contemporary impressionism. A recurring theme of disembodied limbs is oddly geometrically pleasing and juxtaposed against soft, pastel backgrounds. Armstrong has earned a prominent position in the DC visual arts scene and has served as performance art coordinator of the Soapbox performance art series at Hillyer Art Space, and chief curator of the SuperNOVA Performance Art Festival in Rosslyn. She is also the founder and director of Aether Art Projects. Whether competing in D.C.’s SynchroSwim—a performance art swimming competition—or creating entertaining human installations, Eames Armstrong has the type of talent that in order to understand its reasoning, one must simply stop trying to altogether.
Dan Gray is a visual artist whose sculptures twist and turn with a geometric precision that transforms an average visual plane into a visual delight. In Gray’s work, there is a theme of vertical or horizontal spirals composed of perfectly interlocked linear pieces as if the inner workings of an industrial-age machine or the skeleton of some fantastical prehistoric creature were extracted for all to see. Pops of pastel colors often punctuate these creations which are composed from objects as simple as wooden fence posts. The artist is also a gifted painter and combines watercolor, oil, acrylic and print to create intriguing scenes.
Dubbed, “The Governor of U Street,” Sheldon Scott is “one to watch.” Scott is a performance artist, storyteller, actor, writer and monologist who got his start performing the spoken word at Busboys and Poets. Although performing in art galleries is perfectly fine, Scott feels that audiences for those venues are limited. He wants to break down those conventions and bring the party to the people. As a result, Scott is co-founder of Animals & Fire—a platform to support and promote performance artistry and performance art literacy in the District. Along with co-founder Armando Lopez-Bircann, Animals & Fire selects and curates featured artists who conduct performances as well as a five-day workshop. Upon the conclusion of the workshop, attendees deliver an ensemble performance. The ultimate goal is to increase artists’ exposure, connect them with audiences and encourage a sense of community among DC performance artists.
Forest Z. Allread
Through the use of colorful string, performance artist Forest Z. Allread creates intriguing installations that stoke one’s curiosity. These web-like structures are usually paired with everyday objects like a wooden crate or cigar box. A Corcoran College of Art + Design graduate, Allread recently showed these unique string installations in a solo exhibit called “Cabinets of Curiosity” at Transformer—an artist-centered organization that highlights the works of exceptional DC-based emerging artists. Allread’s string installations are site-specific. The artist also creates works utilizing everyday objects and challenges the viewer to question how they perceive these often mundane items.