Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
TO JANUARY 4
New Zealand painter Peter Waddell moved to Washington because of his love for the city’s Colonial, Federal, and neoclassical buildings. Now he has consummated an affair with one of them: the Octagon. This 1801 house usually serves as a space for exhibits about other buildings, but this show makes the structure itself the subject. Working in a style that suggests American naive art, Waddell celebrates the house in paintings that are both historical and fanciful. (One depicts an early Washington where the Octagon, the President’s House, and the Capitol are the only structures, and others use the faces of contemporary Octagon employees to stand in for some of the house’s original inhabitants, the Tayloes.) These frequently small-scale canvases aren’t Waddell’s most sweeping work, but they gain resonance from their context and company. Some paintings hang in the rooms they depict, while others open up what would have been secret spaces in the Tayloes’ time: Visit the recently restored basement, for example, and you’ll find paintings of the family’s slaves. At the Octagon, 1799 New York Ave. NW. $3. (202) 628-3221; Waddell discusses the exhibit at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Hammer Auditorium, 17th & New York Ave. NW. $20. For reservations call (202) 639-1770. (Mark Jenkins)