Art And The City


A fantastic bird-like creature from ancient origins slides through the silky crimson haze. It is grandly feathered with the immortal dreams, visions and traditions of countless generations of Indonesian artists.

Seahorses and seashells, octopi and mermaids, butterflies and flowers and frogs with umbrellas dance in circles or flow in rhythms through currents of time. Faces not particularly human or demon can leap out of a fantasy of patterns—hypnotizing patterns.

“The Living Tree” – Painting on Silk – photo Nico Gozal

Nico Gozal can make you dream. He can make you smile. He can make you startle. He can also make you think. His more personal interpretation of the changing world, like “Living Tree,” puts humans in the composition—in an unsettling ultimate destination.

Nico paints on China Silk and uses Senellier Fabric Dyes in both flat and bas relief applications. It is a technique he learned working with a renowned silk painter for eight years. Before that, he discovered fashion design at the Budihardjo School of Fashion in his native Jakarta and at the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Tampa, Florida.

He moved to the DC area in 2018 and is quickly becoming an integral member of the Washington art world.

To emulate the native batik forms with brilliant colors, Nico is dedicated to exploring his technique. He experiments with alcohol and water to marble the silk, and Gutta, the “resist” usually applied in a fine line as the outline of the design. It can also be applied as a highlight after the silk painting has been finished.

“Garuda”- Painting on Silk – Photo: Nico Goza’

But whether a particular work is whimsical or nautical, traditional or personal, there is always full-hearted emotion imbedded in the lush and delightful images.

You can see his work this month at the Hill Center (See: At the Galleries) or at

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
Nico Gozal (See: Artist Profile) paints fun and joyous things: seahorses, flowers,  leaping dolphins and octopi doing the rumba. He also puts us people in the natural environment with sailboats, hot air balloons and the like. But Nico also sees the unhappy changes taking place in the world and delves into the “darker” consequences of the human daily experience.

Artists have long had to deal with the savage parts of life—the all-consuming life-feeding-on-death nature of nature and the Cain and Abel conflicts of mankind. But they usually had to put their personal qualms aside and paint pretty pictures, or dress their despair as dogma.

“Aquastrian “ – Painting on Silk – Photo: Nico Gozal

The current exhibit at the American Visual Art Museum (See: At the Museums) lets the artists loose on the bad stuff affecting the planet—natural and man made. To me, the loudest alarm is plastics. In less than one lifetime we have exploded from zero to millions of tons a year.

Is that scary or what? But it’s so damn useful, you say. It can be molded into any form—in any dimension—in all the cheery colors you could possibly crave. And it’s cheap. So, how did humans ever survive without it? 

But wait! We didn’t consider the impact on the natural world. It’s not biodegradable. It doesn’t just fade away like old soldiers. It doesn’t return nutrients to the soil like wood or cotton or even leather. Or bodies.

Studies of degradable substitutes are in place, but it may be too little too late. How can we collect or dissolve the billion tons already out there? This is an emergency without easy answers. Any?

“Mandrill”- by Johanna Burke. 2016. Fiberglass figure adorned with dried natural plants, glass beads, wooden beads. Courtesy of Bergdorf Goodman. Photo by Dan MacMahon

Is art part of the answer? Beauty? Maybe, maybe not, but aesthetics may be our only hope. If the art of Dire Warning doesn’t work, at least we’ll have pretty pictures.

At the Museums

The Secret Life of Earth.
Alive! Alert!
The American Visionary Art Museum
800 Key Hwy., Baltimore, MD. 21230

This special exhibit takes on the grand, all-consuming, throw-away world we live in. Of all the garbage we pile on the land or dump in the ocean, plastic may be the most devastating.

That petroleum-based miracle was introduced only in the 1940s but has pushed and poked itself into every nook and cranny of human existence. We manufactured more plastic in the first ten years of this century than we did in the previous 60 combined. Next year, more than 300 million tons will be produced worldwide. More than 180 species of animals have been known to ingest plastic debris, including birds, fish, turtles and marine mammals.

So what can artists do? Well, art can at least remind us of what we have to lose—how precious all life is. And the art at the AVAM exhibit does that, but you have to go see it. You have to look, really look, at the magic of art and the magic of life. Green Monkeys by Joanna Burke makes the case, stunningly, that we have to keep the world and its critters alive.

Live Dangerously
National Museum of Women in the Arts
1250 New York Ave. NW
Sept. 19–Jan. 20

In “Live Dangerously” Twelve photographers position figures in “natural surroundings to suggest provocative narratives.” It features the “ground-breaking work of Ana Mendieta and the installation of all 100 large-scale photographs in Janaina Tschäpe’s series “100 Little Deaths.”

NMWA is also celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women’s right to vote. Check the website for special programs and events.

At the Galleries

Solo Exhibitions
Hill Center Galleries
921 Pennsylvania Ave., SE
– Dec. 1

Alan Braley (multimedia), Nico Gozal (paintings on silk), Tara Hamilton (watercolor paintings), Warren Jackson (watercolor paintings), Khanh Nguyen (acrylic paintings), John L. Pacheco (oil paintings).

Migrant Quilt Project
The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
545 7th St, SE
– Dec 7, Recep: Sat. Nov. 9, 5-6:30 

The Migrant Quilt Project is a collaborative effort to commemorate migrants who died in the Southern Arizona desert. Materials used in the quilts were collected at migrant layup sites. You can also see the project at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 212 East Capitol St., NE.