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The acrylic paintings of Annapolis-based artist Betty Murchison detail the quotidian rituals of African American women and girls. Whether flirting, lounging or chatting, her subjects enjoy quiet, anticipatory moments before the action happens. Or maybe, these canvases suggest, this is the action. Certainly the young teen "Chloe," painted at an awkward and lonely moment, offers a picture of quiet turmoil. But even here, Murchison outfits the girl in a pretty dress that seems to calm the inner angst. In fact, clothes play a major role in this painter's pictures -- most of her subjects are outfitted in sharp if simple dresses, recalling a time when market excursions were events. While in a constricted world for women, these lives seem, through Murchison's eye, enviably charmed.

Everyday People

Two Exhibits at International Visions Accent Beauty of Ordinary Life by Natalie Koss

The International Visions Gallery is a neighborhood staple known for showcasing the works of local artists. Currently, International Visions is offering two exhibits: a brilliant collection of paintings from Washington, D.C., native and long-time local artist Bill Dorsey titled “Sightings” and a group exhibition of internationally inspired photographs by the new Photographer’s Cooperative.

Dorsey’s “Sightings” includes a series of oil paintings representing his reflections on nature and the environment. His intensely personal renderings represent Dorsey’s attempt to visually capture the splendor nature creates on a regular basis, such as a sunset or a rainstorm.

Born in Baltimore but a Washingtonian most of his life, Dorsey fell into painting when he ended up on the steps of the Howard University School of Fine Arts. Inspired by such artists as Lois Mailou Jones and James Porter, Dorsey has been working for more than 50 years as a commercial art designer, graphic designer and painter.

Dorsey’s paintings demonstrate the quixotic magnificence of nature, and he wants viewers to stop to enjoy it. “As an early morning runner,” said Dorsey, “my intense fascination for the ever-changing picture in the sky continues to pique and stimulate my creative urgings.”

With a mix of vivid colors and abstract imagery, Dorsey’s paintings persuade the viewer to appreciate the natural changes in the environment that are so often taken for granted. “With each and every minute bringing new hues and variations on the theme,” he said, “I find myself catapulted into a perpetual state of expectation and intrigue.”

In addition to “Sightings,” the Photographer’s Cooperative, a group of Washington-area image-makers, has its first exhibit at International Visions this month. The Photographer’s Cooperative comprises local, national and international photographers displaying ordinary life scenes from around the world.

“I wanted to spotlight photographers who were well-traveled to display international works to the D.C. community,” said Tim Davis, gallery director and owner.

Although many of these internationally inspired photos show the more mundane scenes of everyday life, they illustrate a certain revelry found within ordinary tasks that may otherwise seem tedious or irrelevant. For instance, Shannon Savage’s “Central Market, Hong Kong” depicts a customer casually walking by a street market, while Shawn Davis offers a photo of a pensive woman and her baby sitting in an African hut.

Although the photos are simple, the images tell a story that despite cultural differences, all people experience and share a similar human condition—whether caring for a child, attending a funeral, or going to the beach.

The collection also encourages each viewer to explore each photograph from their own perspective. Sonnie Mason, another featured photographer in the exhibit, displays two untitled photos of ice forms. At first glance, the forms could be anything—lava, water, algae or smoke. “I wanted to let people look at it and get their own meaning from it,” Mason said. “If you can suspend recognition patterns it becomes many things to different people.”

The Photographer’s Cooperative has, in some ways, set out to allow viewers to make their own conclusions about the meaning of the art and its subject matter. The group will begin regularly featuring exhibits, lecturers and workshops of both black-and-white and color photography.

Bill Dorsey’s “Sightings” and the Photographer’s Cooperative exhibits run through March 15 at International Visions—The Gallery, 2629 Connecticut Ave., NW. For more information, please call (202) 234-5112 or visit www.inter-visions.com.

Natalie Koss is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.

March, 2003

© 2003 The Washington Diplomat