Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: “Woodcuts” at The Athenaeum

Joan Mayfield and Ruth Trevarrow both rely on wood to create their individual and magnificent works of art.

Horizon — Joan Mayfield

Over the years, sculptor Joan Mayfield has created artworks in which the source materials, primarily woodcuts, are presented in their original condition, without being painted or treated — helping to emphasize the wood’s sometimes subtle beauty that otherwise may go unnoticed, such as a rust stain on a shingle or an old banister showing various colors of peeling paint.

Much of her recent works have been inspired by materials found near her summer house in coastal Maine, although it was the time spent during her formative years exploring the mountains of Montana with her grandmother that served as the impetus for her lifetime passion for making art derived from nature and the natural world.

Printmaker Ruth Trevarrow, meanwhile, has focused on capturing the details of tree rings — carving exact replicas of a tree’s outline and then creating hundreds of rings interpreting and documenting the life of a particular tree, with stencils inspired by everything from sycamore bark to pieces of mulch.

The initial spark for Trevarrow’s artistic foray into trees ignited one day when she noticed that one of the big elm trees that once stood proudly across the street from downtown D.C.’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library had been cut down, inspiring her to create a detailed drawing of the stump.

Over time, the two LGBTQ artists with strong local ties came to realize the strong degree of affinity between their individual artistic approaches as well as their output. Both are driven by an innate sense of attention to detail when it comes to their chosen materials and medium as well as to their natural surroundings in general — all of which is on full display in a joint mixed-media exhibition of their work at Alexandria’s Athenaeum.


Home to the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association, the stately Greek revival building in Old Town serves as a stunning backdrop for their show, Woodcuts. Ultimately, the artworks on display, as the gallery puts it, “ask the viewer to consider how a natural material, such as wood, can be malleable and therefore evolve and transform due to how we as humans choose to work with it, see it, and value it.”

On display through Sunday, Nov. 13, ending with a closing Artist Talk at 2 p.m. The Athenaeum is at 201 Prince St. in Alexandria. Visit or call 703-548-0035.

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