Metro Weekly

Spotlight: Athenaeum Gallery’s ‘Doodles of These Times’

The new online drawing series expresses the ongoing pandemic through casual doodles

Athenaeum Gallery, doodles of these times, drawing, art
The Athenaeum Gallery: Doodles of These Times — Lucy King; Heike Gramckow; Ellyn Weiss

In normal times, the Athenaeum Gallery in Old Town Alexandria is “dedicated to showing excellent artwork made by artists in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia,” says the gallery’s director Twig Murray.

Of course, there’s nothing normal about the time of COVID-19, when it has become far more important to “maintain social and physical distance” from certain types of “idiots.”

At least that’s the offhanded way visual artist Patrick Seig has captured the moment in “Dunce Caps of 2020,” included in a new online drawing series launched by Murray and featured on the Athenaeum’s website and social media.

Anyone can submit a doodle to be considered for Doodles of These Times, a rotating series that Murray emphasizes is intended to be casual, with doodled images as reflexive as they are reflective.

“It’s not supposed to be a judgment about anything. It’s not supposed to be a gallery of fine art,” Murray says. “It’s just supposed to be our way of presenting what people are going through right now as expressed visually.”

The series of scribbles is intended to run until whenever the pandemic wanes and the public can return to the Athenaeum’s physical space, which Murray describes as “a gorgeous building built as a bank in 1852 [with] huge soaring ceilings and big windows.” The Greek revival structure now functions as a dramatic and stately site for high-quality art exhibitions as well as the occasional special event.

Next up in the space — hopefully — will be the venue’s fall Invitational, which is being restructured for 2020 as an “open call” exhibition of more serious artworks also reflecting the contemporary zeitgeist.

An artist herself, Murray expects today’s “forced isolation [may have] a beneficial effect on artists’ creativity. I am hoping for what surprised people by this? Is there a silver lining in any regard?”

The Athenaeum, currently closed to the public, is located at 201 Prince St. in Alexandria. Visit www.nvfaa.org.

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