Art Commentary: Elizabeth Casqueiro’s ‘Entrances and Exits” by Heather Harvey

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The paintings in Elizabeth Casqueiro’s new exhibition straddle and combine abstraction with realism. Her imagery nearly comes into focus, only to dissolve and shift into various alternate readings. Brightly saturated colors and vivid painterly strokes seem jubilant and humorous in moments, then soften into quiet passages and muted colors, then shift again into dark, brooding, more sinister marks. These divergent painting strategies allow multiple storylines and moods to co-exist on one canvas.

Entrance and Exit

The multilayered, fluctuating quality may grow out of Casqueiro’s biography. She has lived most of her adult life in the United States, but her birth and formative years unfolded in the authoritarian malaise of post-world war Portugal. As a child she was deeply drawn to the promise and excitement of American culture. Imported pulp fiction and comic books offered her a heady mix of hope, heroism, drama, risk, and romance. This gave young Elizabeth what she calls her first “early glimpse of an outside world,” beyond home, neighborhood, country, culture, and the confines of her own mind. Many decades later and a fraught American political landscape have added new layers of complexity to the narratives of her youth.

In some paintings Casqueiro draws mainly from superhero stories. She breaks compositions down into smaller areas loosely suggestive of comic book panels. Unclear dramas unfold with flashes of superheroes, villains, and good (hopefully) conquering evil. Other paintings allude more to theater, drama, and the stage as metaphors for life. Casqueiro is particularly interested in the tension between private, inner life versus social, communal life. She recognizes that many consider private inner life as more ‘authentic’ or ‘true,’ but Casqueiro doesn’t see it quite that way. For her, the social masks and personas we wear are as much a part of our identity as solitary periods spent with oneself.

Come On Batman

In her work Casqueiro mines both the heroic exuberance of childhood and the complex absurdities of adulthood. Childhood becomes more complicated then we typically give it credit for, and adults not so different from their younger counterparts. Superheroes and dramatic personas perhaps reflect our ego’s need for respite and protection from the barrages of reality. They create a barrier between delicate interior experience and pressing external demands.

Elizabeth Casqueiro’s solo exhibition Entrances and Exits is open April 14 through July 15, 2018 at the Academy Art Museum. Reception: April 20th 5:30-7pm and Artist Talk: May 4th at 5:30 pm. For more information on Elizabeth Casqueiro’s work see https://www.elizabethcasqueiro.com

Heather Harvey is an artist living in Easton, MD and Associate Professor and Chair of the Art and Art History Department at Washington College.

Mid-Shore Arts: A Quick View of ‘Beginnings’ at the Massoni

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With fourteen artists making up the Massoni Gallery’s spring show in Chestertown entitled Beginnings, it’s pretty hard for the Spy, or anyone else for the matter, to adequately capture in words the brilliance of the new work these gifted masters on display.

We, therefore, found it helpful to once again use images and video to give our readers just a small sense of the collective magic of the art displayed to encourage visitors to drop by the High Street gallery for their own inspection to see the work of James Tatum, Elizabeth Casqueiro, Deborah Weiss, Heidi Fowler, Joe Karlik, Susan Hostetler, Blake Conroy, Katherine Allen, Marc Castelli, Alessandra Manzotti, Elizabeth DaCosta Ahern, Larry Schroth, Vicco Von Voss, and Katherine Cox.

Beginnings will close on May 4th

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information on Massoni Art please go here

 

The AAM @ 60 with Ben Simons and Anke Van Wagenberg

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There are just a handful of cultural and educational institutions that unite the five counties of the Mid-Shore of Maryland.  Those that come to mind immediately are such legendary schools as Washington College, UM’s Horn Point Labs, and Chesapeake College as well as those that celebrate our cultural heritage like the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and the Sultana Educational Foundation.

But there is only one organization that has been successfully uniting the region’s centuries-old love affair with fine arts, and that would be the Academy Art Museum. And that remarkable center for art education and exhibitions hits an impressive milestone this year as it reaches its 60th year of existence and there is good reason to celebrate that fact.

Founded by local artists and collectors, the Academy has grown from relatively modest roots to a superb example of what a regional arts institution powerhouse can be.  Now with literally hundreds of classes, lectures, field trips, and, of course, world-class art exhibitions taking place every year, the AAM has rapidly becoming known nationally as the “small but mighty” art center.

When any institution of this caliber reaches 60 years, it is almost mandated that it take stock of its accomplishments to share with its members, donors, and the general public, what it has been able to achieve since it opened its doors. That it indeed the case with the Academy this year as it offers special programming and art exhibitions to celebrate this remarkable achievement.

It also was an excellent time to review the museum’s permanent collection with the intention of showcasing the very best of the best for visitors to enjoy the extraordinary diversity of visual art, sculpture and photography the AAM has secured through the generous donations of art collectors, many of them local, or through the wise and selective use of their modest annual acquisition funds.

The Spy sat down with AAM director Ben Simons and chief curator Anke Van Wagenberg this week to talk about the museum’s artwork and the difficult task of selecting 120 of the most significant examples from a total of 1,500 works which will be shown in two major exhibitions during the year.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum’s Diamond Exhibition Project please go here

 

Mid-Shore Arts: Listening to the Earth Art of Stewardship at RiverArts by Mary McCoy

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An egret stalks through the dark water of a marsh in Karen Klinedinst’s iPhoneography print “The Scout.” With its painterly touches and eerie glow, it’s strange and dreamlike, and it gets immediately under your skin. As environmental artists and the curators of this year’s annual “The Art of Stewardship” show at RiverArts, Howard and I chose the theme “Listening to the Earth” to encourage artwork and poetry that, like Klinedinst’s, is inspired by paying close attention to the world around us. What we were looking for is the kind of honed awareness that germinates an open, honest understanding of our situation and responsibilities as part of the community of this earth.

Karen Klinedinst’s iPhoneography print “The Scout.

Does art have the power to effect change? It’s hard to forget an image like “The Scout.” It’s achingly beautiful, yet there’s death everywhere. Rotting vegetation and the skeletons of trees are part and parcel of this intricate and delicate environment. A marsh is a fertile place where fish and crabs spawn and egrets find abundant food, yet stay on high alert lest they, in turn, become dinner for an eagle or raccoon. The strength of Klinedinst’s image is that it takes in and reveals the wholeness of this place. The making of a powerful painting or a poem requires a journey into attentive awareness. It’s a fascinating and nourishing process not only for the artist but for viewers as well, if they, too, approach it with similar open, inquisitive mindfulness

Kate McGraw’s poem, “A Boy and his Dandelion,” may seem at first to be chiefly about a child’s sense of wonder at seeing the flower’s seeds fly into the air, but it’s much more. McGraw summons the thrust of the wind and the scents radiating from the boy’s warm body, skillfully pulling us into the physicality of the moment. She uses words to paint the gossamer, glinting fragility of the tufted seeds and the mystery of where they are going, complete with a hint of their procreative objective. The boy himself imagines them as paratroopers, bravely adventuring into unknown places, and with this, a tingle arises in the back of the mind. This is a primitive urge—to ascribe intention to inanimate objects, to think of them as having aspirations and emotions, in short, as having consciousness.

What leaps to mind is the beliefs of indigenous people in tree spirits, water spirits and the like. These are people who live intimately with the land, aware of its every mood and cycle and the intricacy of the relationships of its plants and animals. Like Klinedinst’s egret, they are wholly dependent on their environment. Far from being quaint and naïve, might their superstitions have a certain wisdom? If we think of animals and plants as having consciousness, however different from our own, we might pay more attention to the ways they live and how their interactions and well-being affect our own survival. Such an approach would develop empathy for species besides our own and encourage a developing understanding of the interdependence of all life on earth.

There’s a prickly sensation of taut vitality emanating from the antler forms in William Willis’s large painting. They feel alive and

Who’s Afraid of the Dark by William Willis

sentient. Behind them are half-hidden forms, perhaps an animal hide stretched to dry, a bowl, a doorway, an abstracted tree—layers of activity and history giving witness to Willis’s search to find vital force in his subject matter. There’s something almost scary about this painting which Willis acknowledges with the title “Who’s Afraid of the Dark.”

It’s actually quite unnerving to think that nature is alive and aware of us and that humans are by no means in control. Gary Irby succinctly calls up the creepy feeling of an animal watching from the shadows with the piercing eyes and bristling sticks of his sculpture “Nature’s Watching.” But even more powerfully, this work mischievously prods at the sense of guilt and looming doom that lurks in all of us in these days of runaway fossil fuel extraction, snowballing pollution and escalating climate change.

You might think that art and poetry about earth stewardship would tend to scold our profligate ways—or weep over them, but few of the works in this show could be classified as “protest art.” The closest are Irby’s “Nature’s Watching” and his ceramic pot with two talking heads conspicuously facing in opposite directions with the title “Discussing Selling our Environment.” Also in the running is Rebecca Clark’s “Oblivion” with its beach-goer blandly cocooned behind sunglasses and earbuds, oblivious to the devastations of storm and fire raging behind her.

Most of the show’s works are focused on exploring and celebrating the breadth of the subject: earth and its ecology. There are whales, domestic birds, wild birds, wild animals (deer, lions, elephants), insects, Eastern Shore waterscapes, and Antarctic ice. There is the vastness of huge clouded skies and the intimacy of a ladybug stalking aphids on a fragile flower.

Curiously, with the exception of Anita Kusick’s lush fields of flowers in “Gathering (Pike Farms – Conserved by Peconic Land Trust),” none of the works are about farming. Farmers are the principle stewards of land on the Eastern Shore, and it’s heartening to see more and more of them transitioning their land to organic from “conventional” farming (that is, planting Roundup-ready GMO crops managed with glyphosate and other chemicals). Likewise, it’s cheering to witness the widespread use of cover crops and forested shorelines to keep farm runoff out of waterways and to note the reintroduction of diverse crops and animal husbandry. Supported by a host of government programs, farmers are making a difference, as are hunters and organizations such as Ducks Unlimited that work to reestablish healthy habitats for wildlife.

“Nature’s Watching” by Gary Irby

In the call for submissions, we said “Art should bristle with energy and keep tugging at your thoughts.” It’s only when art has this kind of power to stimulate thought and encourage further investigation that it can trigger change for the better. The sense of childlike wonder that so many of these poems and artworks evoke is crucial in reshaping of our attitudes, and the edgy sense of danger in several of them acts as a much-needed spur to work for sustainable ways to live harmoniously with our earth.

If we fail in this, it’s serious. Life on earth will likely continue, though predications are that numerous species, including humans, will have disappeared and insects will be dominant. Quilter Christine Kamon chose to accompany her graceful “Dragonflies” with a quote from writer and artist Clive Barker that posits an idyllic future time when all traces of humans and our activities will be long gone and dragonflies and hummingbirds will flit in a golden afternoon. It’s a beautiful scene but one we’d like to postpone as long as possible.

Mary McCoy is an artist and writer who has the good fortune to live beside an old steamboat wharf on the Chester River. She is a former art critic for the Washington Post and several art publications. She enjoys kayaking the river and walking her family farm where she collects ideas and materials for the environmental art she creates, often in collaboration with her husband Howard. They have exhibited their work in the U.S., Ireland, Wales and New Zealand.

Recommended reading:
David Abram’s Becoming Animal
David Hinton’s Hunger Mountain
Andy Goldsworthy’s Time

 

Exhibition Dates: April 4 – 25
RiverArts 
315 High Street, Suite 106
Chestertown, MD 21620 United States

The Beauty of Making a Mosaic with KCHS Students

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There’s a lot of cutting glass this week at Kent County High School. That’s glass, with a “g.”

Throughout the week students have been cutting and gluing pieces of colored glass, mirror, and other material together to complete a complex glass mosaic with the hope of expressing a sense of place in their personal lives and the greater culture and beauty of the natural environment of Kent County.

The 6’ x 10’ mosaic, with a central tree motif with roots and branching limbs, is surrounded by clusters of images symbolizing elements that invigorate life on our part of the Eastern Shore. A blue crab, the white sails of Sultana, a winding river are just a few of the images that appear in the glinting formation.

“The roots of the tree represent our rich past, and the branches express our sense of all the possibilities life offers,” Spencer said.

The project idea was discussed two years ago by KCHS Fine Arts Department Chair and Visual Arts Teacher Stephanie Spencer and art advocate Tom McHugh during a period when the school system was enduring systemic changes in the county and looking for programs to underscore the positive. Never losing sight of wanting the project to happen, Spencer sought and received a state grant to cover half the cost. Along with fundraising help from Sultana’s “Evening With the Arts” and other school groups, the mosaic was finally greenlighted.

Sue Stockman and Stephanie Spencer and students

Spencer looked to practicing artist and arts advocate Sue Stockman to oversee the project. Stockman, an accomplished artist in her own right, has overseen over two-dozen mosaic projects throughout the state from Baltimore’s inner city to rural Talbot County and St. Michaels high schools, and to each, she brings a special sensibility of inclusion, equality, and respect of each other. She knows first-hand the therapeutic quality and joy of collaborative artistic endeavors having worked on mosaic projects in schools where students have suffered trauma from violence. The creative projects also give the students a space to come together and share in a mutual accomplishment far away from the white-noise of social media and anxiety of 24/7 news cycles.

“We start each session talking about our lives and the project. Everyone gets to speak as we try to create a culture of kindness so that we can begin to work together helping and encouraging each other along the way,” Stockman says. “I’m passionate about wanting to bring a sense of aesthetics into schools, to cut through some of the institutional coldness of them.”

As students circled the mosaic—another way of including everyone in the creative effort—they clipped and cut the jigsaw pieces of glass needed to follow Stockman’s underlying design. Each student was drawn to different aspects of the design, but all took part in the overall drive to complete it.

Well into its sixth day Thursday, the image was almost complete, but work was still needed to meet their 8 pm deadline and help, they hoped, would arrive from community members answering their invitation.

The mosaic will eventually be placed on the exterior of the building as a sparkling example of what can be accomplished by students unified by a common artistic goal. Hopefully, they will carry the spirit of collaboration with them.

The project was funded through the support of the Maryland State Arts Council and the Kent County Arts Council.

Spy Review: Finding Family “On Golden Pond” by Peter Heck

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“On Golden Pond” Cast & Crew Kneeling – Pat Fee & Kathy Jones Standing – Steve Atkinson, Paul Briggs, Nita Wieczoreck,, Brian McGunigle,, Bonnie Hill, Jeff Daly, Doug Kaufmann, Heather Oland, John Crook, Meg Lenher      Photo by Jane Jewell

“On Golden Pond,” now playing at Church Hill Theatre, is the story of an old married couple enjoying a vacation at their Maine summer home. It’s a poignant family story with characters who love one another but need to negotiate rough spots and deal with ghosts from their past.

The play by Ernest Thompson is probably most familiar from the 1981 film version in which the lead parts were played by Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda, with Jane Fonda as their daughter. Jane Fonda acquired the film rights to the play, seeing it as an ideal vehicle for her and her father, for whom it was his last appearance on-screen. Henry Fonda and Hepburn both won Oscars for their performances – his first, her fourth.

Thompson’s theatrical version, which premiered in 1979, featured Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen and ran for 382 performances; Craig Anderson directed. The Church Hill production is directed by Bonnie Hill.

The plot revolves around Norman and Ethel Thayer, who arrive at their country house in April, finding it in need of repairs. It becomes evident early that Norman is beginning to lose his short-term memory. Although he is retired from a position as an English professor, he makes a production of searching for jobs in the local paper – one gets the impression he is doing it to tease Ethel, who has evidently had to put up with such behavior more than once in the past. Later, Charlie, the mailman – whom they’ve known since he was a teenager – drops by and, over a cup of coffee, reminisces about the Thayer’s daughter Chelsea, on whom he had a crush when they were both young. And as it happens, he brings a letter from Chelsea, who promises to visit later that summer, bringing her new boyfriend Bill and his young son Billy.

Chelsea introduces young Billy to her parents Ethel and Norman.      Photo by Steve Atkinson

The plot revolves around the relationships between the central couple and the various visitors who come to their lakeside home. Norman’s sometimes prickly exterior is balanced by Ethel’s ability to smooth things over and jolly him along. Chelsea, on the other hand, still nurses resentment over the way her father treated her when she was growing up. Chelsea’s new boyfriend Bill refuses to get drawn into the mind games Norman plays with everyone. On the other hand, young Billy, who stays with the Thayers while Chelsea and Bill vacation in Europe, soon finds himself adapting to the older couple’s ways and the country lifestyle.  Billy loves going fishing with Norman — and teaching the older man the latest teenage slang.

In the Church Hill production, Brian McGunigle and Nita Wieczoreck are cast as the central characters. McGunigle, who is making his CHT debut as Norman, has numerous credits with the Tred Avon Players, including “A Man of No Importance,” and with Shore Shakespeare, including “Macbeth” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He makes the lead character–whose biting wit and cynical worldview might make him unpleasant company in real life–sympathetic and in the end, quite likable.

Wieczoreck is familiar to CHT audiences from numerous appearances in everything from musicals and comedies to dramatic roles, including “Is He Dead?” and “Oliver,” as well as backstage work, especially in costuming. She is warm and outgoing in the role of Ethel, putting up with her husband’s cranky side while showing concern for his lapses of memory; a good choice for the role. A particularly fun scene is where she and her daughter join in singing the songs of the summer camp on Golden Pond that they both attended as young girls.

Ethel and Norman listen to the loons and watch the sunset on Golden Pond      Photo by Jane Jewell

Paul Briggs, who is establishing himself as a versatile character actor both at CHT and the Garfield, takes the role of Charlie the mailman, a local institution. He does a fine Down East accent, and effectively shows a character who is neither bright nor a deep thinker without stereotyping him as a local yokel.

Heather Oland, another CHT regular, has also appeared with Shore Shakespeare, most recently as Helena in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She gives a strong performance as Chelsea, conveying both the warmth she feels for her mother and the tensions with her father. She calls her father “Norman” not “dad” while always calling her mother “Mommy.” While the role is less central than the two parents, it brings together several of the play’s key themes, and Oland’s performance makes the emotional connections clear.

Jeff Daly, takes the role of Bill Ray, Chelsea’s new boyfriend – a California dentist with a son from a previous marriage. The character is a bit reserved, not really hitting it off with Norman. The tension between the two is a prime example of the competitive stance Norman seems to bring to every relationship, whether in Monopoly games with Ethel, fishing with young Billy, or his entire relationship with Chelsea.

Norman and Billy prepare for a day of fishing on the lake while Ethel looks on.   Photo by Steve Atkinson

The role of Billy Ray Jr. is played by John Crook, a veteran of CHT’s Green Room Gang summer theater camp. His experience shows itself in a solid performance. He captures the young boy’s varying moods, from his initial boredom at the idea of spending the summer with two elderly people to his eventual enthusiastic joining Norman in competition over who can catch the biggest fish.

The setting for the play – a single room in the Thayer’s summer home – is quite appealing. The audience can see through the windows as characters enter and leave by the front door, and the lighting of the sky outside the windows evokes the mood of scenes with great effect. And close observers may notice a photo of Hepburn to one side of the living room. Kudos to Earl Lewin for the design, Carmen Grasso and Tom Rhodes for the construction, and Doug Kaufmann for the lighting design. The soundtrack by Patrick Fee – with a recurring motif of loon calls – adds to the overall mood, as well.

Mock-up of the set made by Earl Lewin         Photo by Jane Jewell

“On Golden Pond” will naturally appeal to older audiences, many of whom will see echoes of their own lives in the main characters’ relationships.  But younger people will also relate to this story of growing up and growing old.  “On Golden Pond” resonates with anyone who has fond memories of a summer spent at the lake or beach or had a special time with grandparents. A warm, nostalgic play with a fine director and cast to bring out the emotional nuances of the script,  this is a production any theater-lover will want to see.

The play will continue for two more weekends, through April 22. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 for adults, with a $5 discount for CHT members; admission for students is $10. For reservations, call 410-556-5003 or visit the theater website, www.churchilltheatre.org.

Norman and Charlie the postman and Ethel      Photo by Jane Jewell

Young Billy teaches Norman the latest teen-age slang and explains “suck face.” Photo by Steve Atkinson

Norman calls the operator.      Photo by Jane Jewell

Mid-Shore Arts: The 2018 Winners of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition

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One of the great little gems of the classical music scene on the Mid-Shore is the biannual Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition. Since 2004, this program brings some of the best young talents in the world to the Eastern Shore for a weekend of performance to the delight of appreciative audiences but also to receive critical feedback from experts on performance and technique.

That competition took place over the last few days, and the Spy found a way to interview the two winners who tied for the Gold Medalist award this year after they finished brunch at Hanna and Peter Woicke’s lovely home in St. Michaels on Sunday morning.

We talk to members of the Merz Trio and Trio St. Bernard about their performance as well as some of the feedback they received from the judges.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: Chesapeake Music’s Pleasure of Competition with Anne Moran & Bob Burger

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While it is true that the vast majority of program offerings produced by Chesapeake Music every year has been devoted to the pleasure of its Mid-Shore audiences, for many years now it has also offered one of the most prestigious music competitions in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Continuing a tradition that began in in 2004, five world-class ensembles will once again compete this weekend for one of the country’s largest chamber music prizes at the 2018 Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition.

And two of the volunteer leaders that make make this event happen every year couldn’t be more pleased with this remarkable track record.

Volunteer chair Bob Burger, along with assistant chair Anne Moran, talked to the Spy last week about what it means to the talented musicians that travel from around the country to Talbot County. They also discuss the enormous volunteer effort it takes to coordinate the use of five performance venues, supervise the judging, and finally the presentation of awards, all in the span of about 24 hours.

This year promises to be quite remarkable and includes District 5 of Washington, DC; Merz Trio of New York City, NY; Sapphirus Quartet of Ann Arbor, MI; Ajax Quartet of Denver, CO; and Trio St. Bernard of Taos, NM. The average age of an ensemble must be under 31, and some have included members as young as 21. The finalists will compete for the Lerman Gold Prize of $10,000 and the Silver Prize of $5,000. This biennial Competition is sponsored by Chesapeake Music. The audience attending the Competition on April 7 will also have an opportunity to judge each ensemble at the end of each concert. The winner of that judging will receive the Audience Choice Award, announced along with the Gold and Silver Prizes at the end of the evening.

Free public concerts will be held on Sunday, April 8 and will include Ajax Quartet at 1:00 p.m. at Temple B’nai Israel in Easton; Sapphirus Quartet at 2:00 p.m. at Church of the Holy Trinity in Oxford; District 5 at 3 p.m. at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Easton; and Merz Trio at 4 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church in Cambridge.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. 

Tickets to the Chamber Music Competition are $12 per person and free to students. Tickets will be sold at the door at the Avalon Theatre on April 7, 2018, beginning no later than 12:30 p.m. The program starts at 1:00 p.m. For further information, visit here  or call the Chesapeake Music office at 410-819-0380. The Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition is underwritten by the Talbot County Arts Council, the Maryland State Arts Council, and private benefactors.

Mid-Shore Art: All the President’s Chess Pieces

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It is typically the experience for those who visit The Trippe Gallery (Trippe-Hilderbrandt) in Easton to find a remarkable showcase of some of the best artists and photographers in the Mid-Atlantic region. But occasionally, Nanny Trippe, the owner, takes a slight diversion from that pattern and shows off a little bit of the more eclectic and fun side of the art world.

That is indeed the case with Trippe’s decision to display Jessica Destefano’s remarkable bronze chess set of the primary Watergate figures from the Nixon era. Includes are thirty bronze sculpted pieces standing four inches high and weighing over a pound each.

This timing of this artwork might be seen by many as somewhat clairvoyant given that Washington and the rest of America are now watching as a new legal chess game takes form between President Donald Trump and Special counsel Robert S. Mueller thirty-five years after a break in at the Watergate complex took place.

The Spy captured a few images to share, but we encourage all to drop by the Trippe to get a firsthand look.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about the Trippe Gallery please go here