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When local printmaker Georgia Deal is faced with the manipulative politics of certain prominent national figures, she fights back with stencils and some handmade paper. “What happened after [9/11] has just been, to me, outrageous,” says Deal. “My work reflects the loss, on a personal level, in our communities. It’s the aftermath of being continually lied to.”
The aftermath has Deal engaging in some manipulation of her own. In a process she calls “fictionalized interpretation,” the 54-year-old University Park resident pulls images from diverse sources—old engravings, street signs, the Internet—then multiplies and manipulates them in print works that tell a narrative of post-9/11 America.
Her latest show, “Evade, Elude, Escape,” is currently on view at Flashpoint. “It’s about the polarities of being trapped and anxious,” she says, “and the human desire to be free and innocent—the desire to ignore it and escape it and deny it.”
The collection of 19 mixed-media prints presents an alternately charming and haunting vision of the present. Deal’s prints are filled with simple, iconic graphics that trigger powerful—and often ominous—cultural memories. Her airplanes evoke airline safety card illustrations; her bullet icon seems lifted from a rifle’s instructional booklet. In one print, a ballerina twirls amid a child’s game of jacks and a steady stream of bullets;
in another, the shadow of a bird takes flight beneath a sky of cookie-cutter airplanes.
“Images of travel used to have wonderful, romantic meanings,” Deal explains. “Now, I work across from the White House, and when a suitcase is left outside…it’s horrific. Airplanes overhead have now become frightening.”
Such loaded political artwork is a departure for the longtime printmaker. “I remember 10 years ago, I didn’t want to address [politics]. Living in Washington, that’s our local news. I wanted to move away from it,” says Deal. “But now, it might just be being middle-aged, but I’m so much more aware of the betrayal.”
Deal’s been working in the Washington area off and on for 30 years; she moved here in 1977 after receiving her MFA in printmaking from the University of Georgia. Currently, she chairs the Corcoran College of Art & Design’s Printmaking Department, where she’s witnessed a dramatic shift in the printmaking world. “When I was educated, it was cryptic. It was not as accessible, and there was all this mythology that I found very nauseating,” she says. “Now, it can be so low-tech and so accessible and straightforward…it’s more direct again and more honest.”
Today, it’s not just skilled printmakers such as Deal who can use the medium as a form of expression. “That’s really the origins of printmaking: To get art to the masses, to get it to the people,” says Deal. “It doesn’t have to be sophisticated….Who’s never cut up a potato, dipped it in paint, and made a print?”
“Evade, Elude, Escape” is on view from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Gallery at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW. Free. (202) 315-1310.