"Untitled" by Claudia Smigrod
"Untitled" by Claudia Smigrod; Courtesy of American University

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Local artist Claudia Smigrod specializes in camera-less photography, documenting a wide range of found objects using various mixes of chemicals and lighting on photosensitive paper. Her works, which often suggest X-rays, are relentlessly inquisitive. In some, Smigrod captures the refracted light of translucent vases, or the eerie, diaphanous shadows of children’s clothing. In others, Smigrod cleverly superimposes the front and back of a single printed page from a book or magazine, delighting in happenstance pairings of text and image. In two series, Smigrod channels Barbara Kruger by layering boldly lettered catchphrases over reversed images of either household objects or reproductions of Italian Renaissance paintings. However, Smigrod’s simplest portrayals are her finest. One series toys with sparkling, circular shapes that suggest galaxies or jewels; another turns humble, botanical specimens into dramatic works limned in black and rust. Another photographic exhibit on view at the American University Museum—featuring work by fellow D.C. artist Chan Chao—is more enigmatic, using Chao’s signature fashion-influenced portraits to assert equivalencies between peacekeeping troops in Cyprus, and people incarcerated for cocaine trafficking in Peru. While at the museum, don’t miss two works in other exhibits now on view: Jae Ko’s towering, wavelike, rolled-paper wall installation in Fields and Formations: A Survey of Mid-Atlantic Abstraction, and Christiane Baumgartner’s series of five large woodcuts based on old television stills, in Positive Fragmentation: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation. Paper Lights is on display through May 22 at the Katzen Arts Center at American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW. american.edu. Free. Proof of vax required.