‘Art in Congress’

I have often noticed the incredible exterior of the 19th-century house at the corner of Q and New Hampshire. It is every bit as grand on the inside as the outside and it houses the Woman’s National Democratic Club (1526 New Hampshire Ave.). There is currently a show there (through July 22) entitled “Art in Congress,” with works by members of the U.S. Congress and their families. Everyone can cheer the inclusion of Representative Barney Frank’s partner, Jim Ready, who has a large photograph, “Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009.” It depicts the view of the crowd attending the Obama inauguration in epic manner.

The works in the show contain some surprises, including the thought that Senator Diane Feinstein of California could quit her day job and launch a respectable career as a floral artist. Though she is needed in the Senate, her lovely “Autumn Bouquet” would be welcome to anyone needing some quiet color affirmation. And Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona displays some very strong graphic gifts in his “Long Day of Legislating,” drawn with a Sharpie. One can feel the tension of April 28, 2007 in his jagged linear qualities.

A surprise is also the sumi-e brush painting on rice paper by Representative Jim McDermott, of Washington. He has been classically trained in the sumi-e technique, and his “Mountain Bamboo” brings its auspicious freshness to the show. On a totally different note, Representative Dina Titus of Nevada shows her book cover for “Bombs in the Backyard: Atomic Testing.” It is appropriately grim.

Erin Kelly, daughter of Representative Betsy Markey of Colorado, is a gifted photographer. She has a diverse body of work that shows a wide range of styles. Representative Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii is represented by a technically accomplished clay sculpture entitled “Tokyo Dango” that includes cherry tree twigs. There is a bit of ikebana in the piece; it is bold, but in a graceful way.

There is a poem by Representative Diane E. Watson of California entitled “Aunt Gert.” Poems should be found more often on the wall. And California Congressman Mike Thompson has a very skillfully done “Drake Hunting Decoy” made of redwood, oil, and glass, used for duck hunting in the Pacific Flyway of California.

Suzanne Finney of the Woman’s National Democratic Club’s Arts Committee accompanied me through the show. I asked her in the spirit of bipartisanship if any Republicans were invited, and she smiled in response.

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