Friday, March 4, 2011

Artwalking to Beat the Crowds

My favorite new trend of the moment? Galleries that do a preview reception the night before First Fridays.

As devoted as I am to my neighborhood free-for-all artwalk, I'd be the first to admit that the crowds can be prohibitive for actually seeing the shows.

Add in the multitude of musical performances, eating options (Captain Slappy's hot dog cart, the Boca Taco truck and starting tomorrow, the Pizza Tonight pizza oven) and before you know it, you've missed half the gallery openings.

Which is why I am thrilled to be able to check out new shows in the relative peace of a Thursday night. The crowds so far (it's only my second month doing this) have been delightful, full of the art-interested, artists themselves and those looking to buy art.

Tonight's adventure began at Ghostprint Gallery, inevitably one of the most crowded on a First Friday (surely a testament to the excellent shows they hang) but calm and low-key tonight. With a glass of wine in hand, I slowly made my way through Lacey McKinney's "What's In a Face."

The works, all of women who were friends of the artist, were decidedly painterly, displaying a thickness of pigment and even modulated drips coming off the figures and faces. My favorite, of a face, shoulder and forearm, had a monumental quality that was almost sculptural. I coveted it, knowing I couldn't afford it.

The other gallery jumping on the civilized Thursday bandwagon was Quirk Gallery, so I made that my next stop. The place had a decent-sized group of people checking out Sarah Masters' show "The Ways That I See It," with two and three-dimensional mixed media works.

There were Lucite boxes with colorful feathers and eggs, paintings of nests, and sculptural pieces. The way I see it, Sarah has a fascination with all things bird-related; it was a most interesting show.

Leaving Quirk, I was sorry that more galleries weren't open given the relaxed vibe and opportunity to linger available to art lovers tonight. I hope this is something that catches on and offers people another reason to come downtown besides on First Fridays.

From the Wards to the Slip, I drove eastward to meet a friend at Bistro Bobette. She'd been out if town for business and pleasure for the past few weeks and wanted to share her stories with me. I wanted to listen. We both wanted to eat and drink.

Arriving first, I was introduced to the only other bar sitter, yet another resident of Vistas on the James. Considering how many residents of the riverfront high-rises I've met at Bobette now, I'm not entirely convinced that they were built with functioning kitchens.

The first requirement for an evening of girl talk was the Domaine Baron Sauvignon Blanc, so a bottle was ordered and both menus considered once my friend arrived.

I decided on one from the bar menu (that superior housemade hot dog) and one from the regular menu (salad of iceburg lettuce, smoked bacon. tomatoes and bleu cheese vinaigrette). My friend did her best to drive the kitchen crazy with a special order salad, which they graciously accommodated.

I don't need to rave about that hot dog again, having devoted most of a post to it already, here, but I will say it was every bit as good the second time around.

My salad arrived with strips of perfectly cooked bacon atop the lettuce mounds and I think we can agree that anything that comes under multiple strips of bacon has a place in my heart (and stomach). The bottle of wine was emptied and more was ordered.

We were in a French restaurant, so how could the subject of Picasso not come up? When I mentioned the absinthe drip at Amuse, Chef Francis' eyes lit up; of course a Parisian would be familiar with such a thing.

I shared the pleasure of my experiences with both the show and the drip, prompting him to plan a visit. Tomorrow. I'd like to think that his enthusiasm was as much about the art as the absinthe, but I've also been called a Pollyanna on more than a few occasions.

From Parisian absinthe bars to Charm City, we ended up discussing a new restaurant in Baltimore that a former D.C. employee of the Chef's has just opened. A crazy Belgian, so guess what he specializes in? I do so love my mussels.

This was particularly relevant because a) my friend's paramour lives in Baltimore and she'll be up there next weekend and b) I have a trip planned there shortly (but not to see my sister who lives there, so we're keeping this trip on the down low).

What lovely information to drop in our laps tonight. A short phone call later and the chef of the new place was thrilled to hear he would soon have out-of-town visitors courtesy of Chef Francis.
Is this a small world or what?

It is a part of the pleasure of this town that I can go out for food and inevitably end up with something more. Perhaps that's where the Pollyanna thing comes from.

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