By Mark Jenkins October 31
The name “Sylvania” might suggest that Anna Beeke has found a realm untouched by human activity, but her photographs at Cross MacKenzie Gallery aren’t of virgin forests. Paved roads, the effects of logging and even an oddly placed satellite dish are visible in these pictures of the Pacific Northwest. (Beeke doesn’t identify the exact locations.) A few shots include paintings of foliage. In one, towering firs are echoed by ones painted on the side of a massive metal tank, a tribute from industry to nature.
Among these photos, recently collected in a book, are some that focus on mist, moss or diffused sunlight. (One is titled “Lux Dei,” the light of God.) But the Brooklynite who was born in the District often includes some sort of visual wink. The tree in “Bonsai” resembles one of those tiny Japanese ornamentals, but the presence of a small human figure indicates that the tree is much too big to fit in a pot. Traffic lights on a two-lane road provide two orbs of artificial green within a forest of emerald. Wherever Sylvania is, it’s not remote from the human urge to mimic, organize and control.
Also at the gallery, “Intersections” is a small selection of photos by Léa Eouzan. The Corsican works in parts of Europe that have more dry crags and fewer lush woodlands than in Beeke’s landscapes. Both photographers have an eye for the human presence, as Eouzan demonstrates with a picture of a car abandoned in a seemingly unreachable spot on the side of rocky summit. She’s drawn to dilapidated houses so old that they almost look to be natural phenomena; one of them sits forlornly in a woods, with a string of high-rises just beyond the greenery. The trees appear to draw a hard line between the natural and the built, but both Eouzan’s and Beeke’s pictures show that man is forever infiltrating Sylvania.
Artist Patrick Dougherty’s house-size structure of woven saplings, across the street from the Greater Reston Arts Center, is slowly withering in the sun, wind and rain. Bringing such a process inside is impossible, but “Ephemeral” gives it a try. The materials in this 27-artist Washington Sculptors Group exhibition include tree stumps, grapevines and milkweed fluff, as well as various manmade disposables.