Art and the City

Tom Bucci: Artist ‘Revisit’ Profile
Strolling on the DC Mall. Watercolor on Paper

“Tom Bucci paints the fragments of our existence: the Capitol dome in sunlight, a row of trees on Second Street, a Metro escalator or reflections in a window. Your mind registers the images as familiar even if they are from places you have never been. They connect you to what’s good about life – the foundation of culture and civilization.”

I wrote that 12 years ago. It’s still true, but the years have intensified the focus – the amplification of the fragments. It starts with Tom’s passion to look at the ordinary and make it “extra ordinary.” Extraordinary. 

Tom has narrowed his artistic intensity to watercolor painting and wants to eliminate all other distractions. It’s his desire to be the best he can be. It all comes together on paper. It’s his passion to arrange shadows and light, to work the pigments wet on wet so they flow together … to find new color sensations that lead to subconscious realities.

The subject is not important; it is the artistry of the finished picture that counts. He knows an artist can create art anywhere, from anything. At the same time he believes a painting should have a story to tell. He loves painting outdoors, plein air, because of the complexities of everyday life: the people, cars … even the telephone poles and wires. He wants to capture the character of a place or time. Mostly it is about the buildings. Tom was an architect at the University of Maryland School of Architecture, and his love of structures is a large part of everything he does. 

Here is something else that I wrote in 2003: “Take a few minutes to look at his work in sequence and you will notice that the images are becoming less structured and more about emotional reactions. He wants you to connect to his world of ideas – a world of questions as well as answers.” That is still true also.

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art

What I discovered in college, among other things, was watercolor painting. I could easily take rolled-up paper and paints up into the canyons near Tucson. But more than just paint, I could be a part of the canyon.

I would get there before dawn so I could witness the sun touch the upper canyon walls and set them on fire. A glow would fill the canyon. The light would slide down the red cliffs and the air would warm and the colors would spring to life. Giant saguaros of every shade of green would be first. The tall ones near the top would jump to life with the bees and cactus wrens. The ocotillo blossoms became rubies, sparkling over the slopes that lead down to the stream. There, the cottonwoods and manzanitas would stand up straight and spread out in the new day. Water rushing over boulders was the only sound.

There is no other way of truly capturing that whole symphony of color and movement than with watercolor. You can let your brush dance over the paper and let the colors soar. Let the sharp brights and darks follow the forms of the trees, boulders, and stone bridges as they move and reinvent themselves with light.

There are almost as many ways to use water-based paints as there are artists. Tom Bucci has sought out and acquired the finest watercolors and rag papers available. But even the best paints and paper can’t create by themselves. You need to look. See what is significant. Tom likes to focus on a center of interest. He leaves one area lighter and brighter to bring your eye to a certain place. You are drawn into the scene without really knowing why. He wants to tell a story, make it more interesting than the actual thing.

But then, that’s really the whole purpose of painting, isn’t it?

At the Galleries
“Appetite for Art”
Capitol Hill Art League
545 Seventh St. SE
April 15
This is the Capitol Hill Art League’s annual open-call juried exhibit, “Appetite for Art.” The challenge for the artists is to “interpret your art and food.” Both 2-D and 3-D works are included. The exhibit is in partnership with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. The jurors are Deirdre Ehlen MacWilliams and Stephen Cheung.
Capitol Hill Art League
545 Seventh St. SE
April 23-May 28
Opening: April 23, 5-7 p.m.
“Vertical” is the theme of the Capitol Hill Art League’s spring juried exhibit for member artists. Juror Marsha Steiger will speak at the opening, 5:30 p.m., and present awards to the prize-winning artists.
Hill Center Galleries  
Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
May 1
This is a terrific show with nine mostly local artists working in a variety of materials and styles, including Alan Braley’s latest series, “Tools and Things.” Rik Freeman’s joyous and powerfully energetic scenes of African-American folklife can make your eyes dance, if not your feet. The paintings and prints of Anna Demovidova are similarly powerful images of women, with mystical storytelling. The botanical prints of Andrea Ottesen, the “Every Day Objects” of Rindy O’Brien, and the Cuban life profiles and stories inherent in the photography of Shirley Fiske, Jonathan French, Kris Swanson, and Roy Mustelier make this a special show.
“Visual Meditations”
Foundry Gallery
2118 Eighth St. NW
April 2-May 1
Opening: April 2, 5-8 p.m.
Lindsay Mullen provides the background for your daydreams. You are welcome to provide the constituents and components of whatever journeys your subconscious mind might be on. She wants to draw you into a pause from the chaotic world to a universe less ravaged. Her paintings are a response to the atmosphere of the places she has lived, “drawing the viewer into a meditative space shot through with diffused light.” They aim to capture the fleeting moment that causes you to stop and contemplate: a visual timeout.
River Traffic, Pittsburgh. Watercolor on Paper
Manhattan Towers & Canyons. Watercolor on Paper
A Capitol Hill artist and writer, Jim Magner can be reached at His award-winning book, “A Haunting Beauty,” can be acquired

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