Art and the City

Artist Profile: Champneys Taylor


It’s the idea of an idea. The sense of a sense. Is it a flag? A sail? Yeah, sort of. Or Not. It could be about how the wind and sail are interacting. The only thing that matters is that it’s a place where Champneys Taylor wants to be. Peacefully.

The true subject is optical space. Seeing the spaces among the spaces. Seeing the pieces of thought settle themselves and then move to a new balance, assembling a fresh idea.

Champneys guarded the paintings at the Philips Collection for 14 years while he worked on his own. It was there that the visualization of his current series began to take shape. The Philips has the largest collection of Arthur Dove, the first American abstract painter. Dove described his works as not purely abstract, but “extractions from nature.” Champneys Taylor doesn’t try to replicate Dove, but “conveys the idea of Dove.” His subtle references to the natural world are similar providing the core imagining of each dreamscape.

Champneys, originally from Jacksonville, majored in art at North Florida University. It was his color sense that ultimately drew him to Washington in 1998, the home of the “color school.” Continuing his studies at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education, he received his MA in 2004. He is a co-founder of Decatur Blue, an artists’ collective, studio and gallery space in the Shaw neighborhood.

To Champneys Taylor, it’s a matter of associative thinking. No angst, no anxiety, just peacefully setting up the rules and playing them out—consolidating the ideas as they come. It’s simply the ethereal somewhere where he wants to be.

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art

Some years ago I tried to come up with a system of classifying art so I could better understand the painters I was profiling. As I was talking to Champneys Taylor, my mind was trying to place him in my rough and ready schematic.

Rather than a science, this is just a way of hanging curtain walls in art’s Big Tent. I group all the myriad academically identified “styles” into seven types of art—think Magnificent Seven. (Yeah, there is some overlap, but deal with it.)

  1. Decorative — Visually pleasing stuff…florals, patterns, still -life, scenes of antiquity…etc. Some abstracts. No moral or emotional challenges.
  2. Expected — Here, things look like they are supposed to. Portraits, landscapes and such. Realism, Photo-realism and Illustrative are the usual styles, but there are many ways to paint the expected.
  3. Unexpected — Ordinary things are altered with the juxtaposition of objects, places, colors, forms, and ideas. Think Fauves, Surrealism, Cubism, Pop. The artist is guide to another meaning of reality.
  4. Imaginative — Art that sails deep into your imagination to find a home. It asks more questions than it answers. Abstract Expressionism and Futurism are examples, but many artists like to make you think.
  5. Emotional — This stuff really grabs. It can be pleasant and lifting, but also jarring: a wakeup or a scream. The artist usually jumps out as an individual. Think Romanticism on one end and Expressionism and Art Brut on the other. Religious art can span the whole continuum.
  6. Conceptual — The message is the medium. It’s often for-or-against something—like war & peace. “Installations” are usually concept pieces, but most “Contemporary Art” dances on the head of a message.
  7. Great Art — This can include most of the other categories, but something allows it to soar into that majestic realm that hovers above the reach of merely skilled and gifted. The “old masters” played in this corner of the Big Tent and most artists would like an invitation.
At the Museums
Gustave Caillebotte
National Gallery of Art,

West Bld.
Seventh and Constitution NW
— Oct 4
Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894) is the unknown French Impressionist. If you haven’t seen his extensive and enthralling paintings, or viewed Paris in 1870s and 80s through his paintings, now’s your chance.
Invited into the impressionist conclaves by Edgar Degas in 1774, and by Auguste Renoir in 76, Caillebotte never reached their level of renown for a number of reasons. This exhibition explains it all, but your reward will be the 50 works that the NGA identifies as “…the most important and beloved paintings of Paris.”
But it is not all high hats and steel girders. Paintings like “Nude on a Couch” are downright erotic. This is the first major US exhibit of his work in 20 years, and it may be 20 before you get another chance. Don’t miss it.
Pleasure and Piety: The Art of Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638)
National Gallery of Art
West Bld.
Seventh and Constitution NW
— Oct 4
You can’t help but be astonished by Dutch painter Joachim Wtewael. His wildly expressive visual storytelling of both biblical and mythological subjects, and color treatments—many on copper plates—will knock your frown off. There are erotic naked damsels in distress and Technicolor dragons. There are also terrific portraits and genre scenes. Wtewael could do it all…wonderfully.
Regional Juried Exhibit
Hill Center Galleries
Old Naval Hospital
921 Penn. Ave. SE
— Sept. 29
This is a big show. More than 90 artists from the DC, Virginia, and Maryland area have been selected, featuring a wide array of mediums and subjects. Mark Leithauser, Senior Curator and Chief of Design, National Gallery of Art, juried the exhibition.
Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
545 Seventh St. SE
Sept 8 to 29.
Opening: Sat., Sept. 12, 5 to 7 p.m.
“Photonegative” presents the hand printed selenium toned, gelatin silver darkroom photographs of public sculpture by Joe Yablonsky. Joe is a CHAW teaching artist and photographer. This is not a documentation of mostly familiar sculptures and architectural features; this is photography as pure art. Don’t miss it.
“Wonderful Washington, DC”
American Painting Fine Art
5118 MacArthur Blvd. NW
— Sept 26
If you want true excellence in landscape and local landmark painting, the Washington Society of Landscape Painters provides it. Their summer show features over 20 of their members and a wide variety of styles and media with interpretations of the city and the surrounding
G.D. BEACH BREAK (flag 2).2015
FOR A.D. (sail).2015

A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim can be reached at Jim’s award-winning book, “A Haunting Beauty” can be acquired

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