Cross MacKenzie’s Last Picture Shows on Book Hill

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Rebecca Cross. Photo by Patrick G. Ryan.

In the front room of Cross MacKenzie Gallery, at 1675 Wisconsin Ave. in Georgetown, is a lime-green tangle of a ceramic sculpture on a pedestal: “Spirulina” by Tyler Lotz. Named for the beneficial microalgae that some add to smoothies, it is the conversation-starting centerpiece of the gallery’s current “Best Of” retrospective, featuring more than a dozen mostly large, mostly bright-colored contemporary paintings and photographs.

Cross MacKenzie will mount just one more show at its bay-windowed Book Hill location, a solo exhibition of new “Night Paintings” by Canadian artist and entrepreneur Patrick Bermingham. Co-owners Rebecca Cross and her husband, architectural, aerial and fine-art photographer Maxwell MacKenzie, are relocating the gallery to their new home in Hillsboro, Virginia.

They have received an offer on the Wisconsin Avenue building, which they purchased from gallerist Margaret Hiner, who ran Hiner Contemporary in the first-floor space from 2011 to 2014. Cross expects the building’s new use to be a “creative endeavor,” in keeping with the cluster of galleries in the surrounding blocks.

Cross and MacKenzie, who lived on Garfield Street for more than 30 years, launched their business, then called Cross MacKenzie Ceramic Art, in Canal Square on M Street in 2006. The gallery — which maintains a specialty in sculptural ceramics, displayed on shelving in the rear — relocated to Dupont Circle before returning to Georgetown.

While looking to move to the country, the couple “didn’t want to go out Route 66,” says Cross, pleased to note that “the hill right behind us is West Virginia.” Having renovated a number of houses, they weren’t discouraged by the “wreck” they found on 10 acres in Hillsboro, a 1787 farmhouse that had been on the market for four years. One of several outbuildings will become the gallery and another will serve as MacKenzie’s studio.

They and their newly renovated, art-filled Loudoun County home were featured in an article, “Country Life,” illustrated with MacKenzie’s photos, in the November/December issue of Washington Maryland Virginia Home & Design.

The new gallery space will be open by appointment and invitation, also serving as a base for art fair participation. Cross plans to host an inaugural event in June, with future events such as wine tastings, picnics and hikes (the Appalachian Trail passes nearby).

This business model was already in place in Georgetown. “There’s not so much foot traffic,” says Cross. “We invite people to come.” Interior designers bring their clients by, and she works with D.C. art consultants such as Amy Kuhnert and Page Evans. The Book Hill galleries coordinate on fall and spring art walks and, in addition to openings, several — including Cross MacKenzie and Addison/Ripley — have hosted artist talks.

Saying that she wants to “be a little bit freer,” with a new grandchild in Los Angeles, Cross also expresses some regret at leaving “an area where people have beautiful homes and they have resources and they know that art is important.”

It’s also frustrating for her to leave when the Glover House, with more than 200 apartments, will open up the road at 2101 Wisconsin Ave. (she has sold some art for the building’s public spaces) and half of Amazon’s HQ2 will be moving in “over the bridge.”

“All those people are going to be putting in new houses and new interiors,” she says. “I’m going to miss that little wave.”

Cross got to know Bermingham, whose paintings she will show from March 15 through mid-April, while studying steel sculpture at Saint Martin’s School of Art (now Central Saint Martins) in London. Earlier, she graduated from Bennington College, where MacKenzie was a fellow student. She spent six years in London, including a stint as an assistant to big-name sculptor Anthony Caro, also getting a master’s degree in painting from the Royal College of Art.

While she doesn’t have “a stable” of artists, there are about nine artists that she has shown repeatedly. The most well-known is Walter McConnell, a professor at Alfred University in upstate New York, who creates stupa-like installations of unfired clay components that he later disassembles and fires. Starting in May, Cross plans to show work by McConnell and Bermingham at the Palazzo Bembo during the Venice Biennale.

In the past, she has exhibited at Art Southampton in the Hamptons and other fairs. After she gets settled in Hillsboro, Cross expects to be at the LA Art Show in February of 2020 (convenient to her film-editor son Alex and the new grandchild) and possibly at one of the Miami shows. And there is a new fair in Philadelphia, where her other son, Augustus Cross, a painter, recently moved.

Will she show his work? “He doesn’t want to show with me,” she says, laughing. “I’m too small.”

The “Best Of” show at Cross MacKenzie Gallery. Center: “Spirulina” by Tyler Lotz. Photo by Patrick G. Ryan.
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