Thematic Artomatic


This year’s Artomatic (running from March 24 to May 6 in Crystal City) features the art of some 600 artists, each adorning their own parcel of wall, floor, and ceiling. As such, there are some 600 individual exhibits, some 600 artistic and curatorial visions.

Yet some themes emerge in the seven floors of art:

Music. In addition to the visual art on display, there are performing artists scheduled at different times on the various stages. Visitors can sit and watch the shows, or wander the floors with the live music in the background. But several pieces of visual art make reference to music as well: photographs of concerts and dancing, sculptures made out of musical instruments. In one room, you can give scratched or unpopular records a final spin before artist Greg Benge applies paint to them.

Art from Artomatic 2017 by Sarah Chittenden, Jules Moore, Seemeen Hashem, Michelle Marin, Pandi Dacu, Michele Colburn, Margaret Jacobson, Christine Cardellino, Jennifer Droblyen, Bardia Saeedi, Tim Brown, Larry Brown, Dave Peterson, and Rosemary Gallick

Art from Artomatic 2017 by Sarah Chittenden, Jules Moore, Seemeen Hashem, Michelle Marin, Pandi Dacu, Michele Colburn, Margaret Jacobson, Christine Cardellino, Jennifer Droblyen, Bardia Saeedi, Tim Brown, Larry Brown, Dave Peterson, and Rosemary Gallick

Politics. Unsurprisingly, this year’s is a very political Artomatic. Caricatures of Donald Trump abound, as do posters and T-shirts from the resistance. Many artists have taken to their media to double down on the values they hold dear: inclusion, kindness, art, science, human rights, the environment – principles that are apolitical in theory but that are clearly being highlighted in the context of the current moment.

Space for visitor responses. What’s at stake for you? What are you doing at 5:01 (p.m. on a weekday)? What do you hope for? Draw a picture. These instructions, along with blank canvases and sticky notes, invite the viewer to add their own words or drawings to the mix.

Lights. This particular Artomatic is in an office building with actual offices (not just open floor plans for a sea of cubicles), which offer artists the opportunity to control the lighting in their spaces, allowing for a handful of installations that flicker or glow in darkened rooms. Appealing to visitors in a similar way as some as Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms, the works that play with light were among the favorites of me and some of the people I visited with.

Clothing. I saw glass dresses and a bridal gown symbolizing climate change; a bigot-proof vest and a trumpet spewing socks; a bra tree and pretty scarves and jewelry and fiber art. And along with the depictions of people with no clothes, there are a great many images of people wearing clothes, too.

Dogs and cats. I am not sure if this was a recurring theme or just one that I noticed and photographed ad nauseam. But I think it does make sense that as amateur artists display their best or newest work, there will be plenty of room for the paintings, sketches, photos, and stained glass of the most adorable creatures in their lives.

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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