“Gregory Ferrand gives you life as you know it: raw, powerful and up close. His paintings are about people as we see them, not as they see themselves. Sometimes you laugh. Sometimes you squirm. These are not realist renderings, but he stops short of caricature. However distorted, the individual is not lost in the stark, sometimes harsh portraits.”
I wrote that in 2006. But now his intentions are not as raw. His power is more searching. Complex. He is still exploring emotions, but using universal questions like, Why? When? What’s it about? These are questions that get lost in time.
Each painting could be the first chapter of a novel. He begins with a quite ordinary scene, one so unremarkably commonplace that it dances on the thin edge of trite. But wait; there is something exquisitely abstruse about it. Hmmm. Curious undertones become apparent. And the titles don’t clarify; they’re more intrigue than explanation – clues with embedded questions. Like any really good storyteller, Gregory Ferrand finds that narrow passageway into your curiosity, and it begins to grow and expand. You want more of the story.
Gregory grew up in northern Virginia, Alexandria, and took art classes at Virginia Commonwealth University, mostly sculpture. He began making videos and graduated with a degree in English and film in 1997.
Gregory then went to South America to teach, and was surrounded by art. He was immediately attracted to muralists like Rivera, Siqueiros, and Orozco – captured by their social and political dialogs and soaring emotions. He turned to painting.
What are his stories about? Is it alienation? The desperate reach for connections? Sure. Deep down, we know all about isolation. We all have stories to tell.
His solo show this month, “It IS You (and me too),” is at the Adah Rose Gallery. www.gferrand.com
Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
Storytelling in art goes back to the caves and probably beyond. Those first pictures and other graphic symbols were not graffiti or decoration, they had a purpose, they thundered with emotion and conceptions.
Later, art was used to elevate and celebrate rulers. From the Chinese to the Egyptians to the Mayans, it was about the glory of the rulers and their conquests. Western Christian art told the stories of the Bible to people who couldn’t read … to connect the experiences and beliefs of the saints to their own lives.
Eventually art became its own reason for being, turning from religious and royal narratives as its only purpose. But storytelling wasn’t abandoned. Down through the centuries, artists have teased you with visual questions, like Jan van Eyck’s “The Arnolfini Marriage,” and you wanted to know more. Almost everything by Bosch raised a hundred questions. The same can be said of Delacroix. Goya captured you with paintings like “Third of May” and “Duel with Clubs.” Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Stream” is a novel in itself. With Balthasar Balthus, everything was a question, including Balthus.
Gregory Ferrand is one of those artists with a need to connect, visually and psychologically – to bring you in as an actor in the narrative. You’re free to bring your own interpretations, but you can’t help but wonder what’s going on. When did this happen and what does it mean?
In fact, with all these painters you can get so locked into mysteries that their powers of observation can be overlooked. The quality of the painting, like the strength of compositions, distribution of focal points, and use of color as a supporting cast, can be taken for granted. It’s true of all master storytellers, visual and literary. You can get lost in the story and may not fully appreciate the art.
At the Galleries
Adah Rose Gallery
3766 Howard Ave.
Nov. 16-Jan. 6
Opening reception: Sat., Nov. 18, 6-8 p.m.
Gregory Ferrand paints intrigue. “It IS You (and me too)” is about alienation, the barriers we construct to keep ourselves in or others out. It is also about painting. He focuses on light and color to get a feeling of the “ebb and flow” of the human dynamic through the composition. It has to be natural. He paints in acrylics “back to forward.” The background comes first, then he sets his main characters in front. His color is not exhibitionist but more controlled. Gregory Ferrand has a “need,” visually and psychologically, to find common ground. And you will.
Single Artist Exhibitions
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
The Hill Center fall show is actually a collection of solo shows – six in all. There is a good variety of styles and media: oil painting, photography, monoprints, and collage.
French artist Jonathan Bessaci, in “Maps,” selectively cuts maps and rearranges the pieces into portraits and figurative works. He integrates rivers, highways, lakes, parks, and even oceans into elements of the images. He builds multiple levels, with a piece of glass between each to create a sense of depth.
Rachael Bohlander is a Washington, DC, lawyer and artist. In “Art of Empowerment,” she expresses her interest in social justice issues based on photographs taken in DC and while traveling. She utilizes “found” materials like newspapers and recycled artwork.
Karen Edgett is a long-time resident of Capitol Hill and creative director of an advertising agency. In “Truth,” she seeks the truths – “what is not yet known” – embedded in a painting.
Michael Ford is a filmmaker who recorded everyday community life in Mississippi in his documentary “Homeplace” in 1975. His exhibit “Homeplace” features photographs taken between 1970 and 2010.
Judith Peck is an “allegorical figurative artist” who paints haunting metaphors and ever-questioning realities, embedded with “gessoed plaster shards.” She features an individual model to “travel life’s broken path.”
Scott Warren travels the world professionally, visiting all the great museums and bringing those exposures into his own paintings – “an important part of who I am.” “Worldviews” is a composite collection of those experiences. www.hillcenterdc.org
Crystal City Underground
Reception: Fri., Nov. 3, 5-8 p.m.
In this combined show, Karen Cohen, photojournalist and award-winning photographer, exhibits “PHANTASIZE: digital dreamscapes, mystic muses and imaginary places.”
Also, the Focus Gallery will feature the group show “There’s No Place Like Home,” sponsored by the DC Metro-Washington Chapter of the Colored Pencil Society of America. All of the artists use colored pencils as the primary medium to illustrate “thoughts of home.”
“One House Project”
901 New York Ave. NW
Opening reception: Fri., Nov. 3, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
“One House Project” is a collaborative art installation of the work of some 220 DC-area artists under the leadership of Art Watch DC, a group initially convened by artists Ellyn Weiss and Jackie Hoysted. Each artist has created a panel, 12 inches square, that commemorates an ancestor who came to this country voluntarily or involuntarily. www.touchstonegallery.com
A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim Magner can be reached at Artandthecity05@aol.com. His award-winning book, “A Haunting Beauty,” can be acquired through www.ahauntingbeauty.com.