"Reinventing Norman Rockwell"
By Anne Kenderdine
Special to The Washington Post's OnWashington
"Reprinted with permission from the Washington Post.com"

From the looks of the city's galleries this summer, Norman Rockwell fever seems to be sweeping Washington.

The Fraser Gallery's show, the third exhibit in three months to honor the American master, culled 16 contemporary submissions inspired by Rockwell's work. The gallery annually organizes a juried show based on the theme of a easily recognizable artistic style, such as Pablo Picasso or Frida Kahlo.

"The tide was definitely turning," said gallery director and co-owner Catriona Fraser, who selected Rockwell to coincide with the exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In the past, she said, Rockwell had not received critical attention because "a lot of academic people think he's not an artist; he's just an illustrator."

In paintings, drawings, etchings and mixed-media works, the Fraser exhibitors either created Rockwell portraits or used his subject matter or style. A graphite drawing by D.C. artist Guy Mondo evokes Rockwell's painting of a skinny boy lifting weights in front of a mirror. Mondo's teen is still thin, swimming in baggy clothes, but this boy struggles to become what he is not by hoisting two handguns.

"It captured the essence of the guidelines of the competition," Fraser said. "It's inspired by Rockwell, but it's twisted, it's modern ... chilling, really."

Fraser calls Rockwell's work "fantasy," romanticized landscapes that ignored the discrimination and violence that existed outside of his canvases. Contemporary artists are more likely to depict images of societal conflicts, she said.

"I think that's why artists today have a problem, because ... [they are] trying to show the reality of life today," Fraser said.

Meet artists Mondo, Penny Hauffe of Leesburg and Arlington residents Barbara Januszkiewicz and Gerard de la Cruz at the exhibit's opening reception on Aug. 18, 2000.

2000 The Washington Post Company

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