It's all a matter of perspective, as any artist will tell you. Two local artists, Tony Lagarto. and Zade Ramsey, bring their unusual perspective to a show now installed at the Dupont Italian Kitchen bar, Windows.
Lagarto, a member of Triangle Artists Group, has paid attention to the local statuary, and he has noticed that some of the sculptures are erotically suggestive. Others seem to comment playfully on . their surroundings. .
A photographer and computer graphic artist, Lagarto photographs the statues, and then manipulates them using computer software.
The perfect dessert: Tony Lagarto suggests serving Betty Ford's
Rum Cake, from "Betty Crocked."
Zade Ramsey's painting, Consent, is like "a frozen photograph
you can see in your mind."
Tony Lagarto's Military Instruction is a photograph modified on
the computer. "I think he's showing how to hold his sword,"
Lagarto says. The statue is in Lafayette Square.
A statue in the northwest comer of Lafayette Square, for instance, purports to represent "Military Instruction." It depicts one nude figure apparently showing another how best to hold his sword. In Lagarto's version, the figures take on a decidedly lavender hue.
"I thought it was pretty suggestive, so I made it Tinky Winky purple," Lagarto says.
Most of his statue images are from the metropolitan Washington area, though a statue in Venice caught Lagarto's eye from the rear with a fetchingly undraped derriere.
Lagarto has called his series of photographs Pygmalion '99, in honor of the legendary Greek sculptor who fell in love with a statue. Ten images from this series are on view at Windows, along with three playful images of American first ladies applied to imaginary product packages.
There's Jackie O's, the breakfast cereal "with pink marshmallow pillbox hats," but the funniest of these is a package for Betty Ford's Rum Cake Mix from the "Betty Crocked" company.
He had to convince himself, Lagarto says, that his computer-generated work is really art. He compares this work to photographs, which encountered some initial resistance in artistic circles, where paintings were sacrosanct.
"The computer is like the camerait's another tool," Lagarto says. "Some day it will lose the stigma that's attached to it."
One of Lagarto's future projects, he says, may be a "Men of D.C." calendar with a twist - his version will show close-ups of body parts from statues.
Like Lagarto, Ramsey is a member of TAG, but it's probably a contrasting blend of eroticism and humor in his work that made Lagarto, who curated the show at Windows, invite Ramsey to join him.
Eight paintings by Ramsey are on display in the show, seven of them from a series of erotic portraits that Ramsey has dubbed his "Blue Series."
These paintings are located in a dream space, where the sacred takes on a sinister cast, and where memory intersects with the realm of fantasy.
"You're out at a club and you see the perfect, ideal man," Ramsey says. "You remember him later, but the light is different, and you lose some details. In a way, thev're like frozen photographs in your mind. We can shut our eyes and see them."
You can open your eyes and see them in Ramsey's paintings. Only one of these paintings at Windows, Consent, shows a pair of menthe others show a single figureand it is perhaps the most beautiful. The sacred, dreamlike, ritualistic aspects are accentuated.
He works from his own photographs of his models, Ramsey says.
"I have to photograph them in high contrast light to make it come out correctly," he says. "It's actually hard to do it right."
The impulse behind these paintings is unmistakably erotic. Ramsey says he tends to paint the men to whom he is attracted.
"It helps if I find that person attractive," he says. "It drives me. I think that's always true. Picasso seemed to have a romantic relationship with many of his models."
The other painting in the show, Here's Lucy, is a portrait of Lucille Ball and of a pet bird, also named Lucy, that had belonged to Ramsey. It was executed in a much more "pop" style than the erotic portraits.
"I've got two styles," Ramsey says. "My cartoony style is satiric; the other style is more erotic, more private."
Art work by Zade Ramsey and Tony Lagarto will be on view at Windows, the bar above Dupont Italian Kitchen, 1637 17th St. NW, through July 15.