Natalya B. Parris and Bonita Tabakin-Latterner, of Gaithersburg, are raising awareness about the natural environment this summer by participating in "Re/Using Our Re/Sources," a multimedia Women's Caucus for Art (WCA) juried exhibit at Sandy Spring Museum in Sandy Spring, Maryland, a 20-minute drive from Gaithersburg on the ICC.
"Since the venue is a historical museum, we wanted to continue its tradition of being a cultural, educational, art center for the community and protect it for future generations," said Parris, who is on the volunteer-run art committee at Sandy Spring Museum and who helped organize the show.
"Children and adults come here to learn about history, but they also have the opportunity to see the art exhibits, learn about the art and local artists. In this exhibit they get an environmental education and ideas about how to create recycled art with everyday items," she added.
WCA is a national organization founded 40 years ago with local chapters in most states. Its mission is to support women in the arts through forums, exhibits, leadership positions and social activism.
Parris joined after being invited as a guest speaker at the WCA's 2008 Annual Networking Day. At the time she was gallery director for the City of Gaithersburg presenting on what curators look for when choosing artists for exhibits at the Arts Barn, Kentlands Mansion, Activity Center at Bohrer Park and the City Hall Gallery. The event gave her an opportunity to talk about the Arts Barn and its community offerings of theater performances, art classes and workshops and to emphasize that Kentlands Mansion and the Activity Center provide rental space for business meetings, conferences and parties besides gallery space.
Since then, she has been an active member of the WCA's Washington, DC chapter, fomenting connections between arts-oriented entities. She was instrumental in bringing "Re/Using Our Re/Sources" to Montgomery County and the Sandy Spring Museum.
Parris's own piece in the show, "Love Birds," depicts two birds facing one another. She painted it specifically for this exhibit and this venue wanting to emphasize the connection between her signature Russian Folk Art style and the museum's folk goods and trades collections. Having held on to her Valentine's Day heart-shaped chocolate boxes since February, Parris recycled them to trace the underlay for her painting.
"Artists hold on to everything," she said pointing to assemblages of salvaged bike parts and other industrial materials in the exhibit.
When asked what city-led sustainable initiatives she admires most in Gaithersburg, Parris cites the Robertson Park Youth Center, a community facility and the first LEED-certifiable building in the city and a pioneer in the city's Green Buildings program.
Tabakin-Latterner also commends Gaithersburg's sustainable development policies.
"Community activities bring people together here," she said. "There are hubs of community involvement like Kentlands and downtown Gaithersburg."
She also supports the city's rule that dedicates funds to public art for every new building that goes up.
Her piece in the show, "Pristine Waters," celebrates the beauty of the environment, although much of her other work narrates the negative impact of human behavior on nature through mixed media painting and collage.
Co-President of the Women's Caucus for Art of Greater Washington, D.C. (WCA/DC), Cindy Renteria, of Derwood, cites the construction of the ICC as problematic in the area.
"Our neighborhood is right on top of the ICC, and they cut down a lot of trees. I am concerned about the deer," she said. Derwood also borders on Rock Creek Park, which recently faced the challenge of containing its outgrowth of deer population.
Her piece in the show, "Bend not Break," conveys nature's resilience through trees bending in the wind.
"It's about being strong, about being part of the earth. Native Americans say men are the sky, and women are the earth, but we are both. Everything is connected. We are the water. We are the trees," she said.
Renteria compared the WCA to a sisterhood and highlighted the opportunities for connections and leadership within the organization.
"You grow and learn to do different things. I never thought I would be co-president when I joined in 2006. And it's all happening at a national level. You have opportunities to interact with different chapters."
Featuring over 30 women artists, "Re/Using Our Re/Sources" is a collaboration between WCA/DC and the WCA's Philadelphia chapter and is curated by Dr. Barbara Wolanin, a founding member, former WCA/DC president and WCA board director.
The Philadelphia Chapter contributed to the exhibit and with four live performances and hands-on recycled jewelry-making workshops at the June 24 opening reception of the show. (See photos for more details.)
WCA/DC member since 2008, Tabakin-Latterner joked about how being a woman can affect your chances of getting into a juried exhibit.
"At least with this group you know that you didn't not get selected because you are a woman. The art world takes men more seriously because there are fewer of them in the arts," she said.
The exhibit runs through Sept. 9.
Gallery hours are:
Monday | Wednesday | Thursday - 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday | Sunday - noon - 4 p.m.
Tuesday | Friday - Closed