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When Art Is in the Cards

Bethesda, Potomac artists participate in the Washington, D.C. Playing Card Project.

Let 52 artists loose designing a deck of cards and what do you get? In the case of the Washington, D.C. Playing Card Project, a fantastic assortment of cards showing the artists’ creativity and cleverness, and for some, the flavor of the nation’s capital.

Lucky you, you can see the original art for many of those cards at the Art Deck-O exhibit at Touchstone Gallery in the District this month. 

The Washington, D.C. Deck is the third in a series begun by Dione Goyette of Art in Hand ™; Charlotte, NC and Portland, OR are the other cities being shuffled so far.

“I currently live in Charlotte and wanted to do a large city that was drivable, so it was going to be either New York or Washington." Goyette said. "I’d just visited Washington with our family, so that was my first pick.” 

The Washington deck is the first one Goyette did primarily by invitation rather than a call to artists. She researched District-area artists for three weeks online and in books and magazines. Once the 54 artists she chose decided to participate, they got to pick first come, first served their top three choices of playing card. The artists didn’t know each other necessarily or work together. While she really wanted them to be local artists, said Goyette, their card didn’t necessarily have to be D.C.-themed, though she’s glad some are.

“I love the blend of different genres and styles and how it turned out,” Goyette said.

Among the Bethesda artists featured in the exhibit are Pauline Siple, who chose a uniquely Washington theme for her "Two of Diamonds;" Karen Deans, whose "Four of Hearts" appears to be broken-hearted; Jennifer Bishop, whose "Seven of Hearts" is a representational painting of people on the escalator in Metro Center station; and JoAnn Clayton, whose "Seven of Spades" is a colorful, psychedelic bulls-eye image.

Siple’s original art (framed  13” x 17”) was acrylic on paper. 

She said she started layering with red and white mainly because the two of Diamonds is red and white, adding, "It kind of went with red, white and blue … At first I thought about doing more diamond shapes and abstracting them, then I decided that wasn’t very recognizable as something part of D.C.” 

Siple ended up putting the Capitol and the White House atop one another, joined at the base, that connection echoing broadly a diamond shape, with swirls of white on red and little diamonds in the background. 

Tory Cowles of Potomac, who was recently awarded Torpedo Factory Artist of the Year award, painted the "Four of Clubs," a 5’ x 4’ canvas.

“I’m an abstract painter, so I just start getting paint on the canvas and responding to what’s there," Cowles explained. "To me colors talk to each other; they’re more interesting in juxtaposition than by themselves.”

The numbers are made of fabric attached to the painting.

“What I’m thrilled with about the project and the way it’s played out is that it’s multifaceted, so it really helps to promote local artists, and also becomes a revenue stream for the artists who get a special rate to sell them themselves,” Goyette said.

In addition to being for sale at Touchstone Gallery during the exhibit, on the Art in Hands website and through participating artists, the decks are currently available at The Phillips Collection, National Building Museum, Chocolate Moose and Gallery Plan B in Washington, D.C., A Show of Hands in Alexandria, and some Smithsonian museum shops.

Art Deck-O is on exhibit through July 29 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. The opening reception is Friday, July 8, from 6–8:30 p.m.

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, we attributed "Seven of Hearts" to artist JoAnn Clayton. The correction identifies two separate artists with specific piece of work. We regret the error.

Mercy Fork July 11, 2011 at 06:11 PM
You wrote: "Among the Bethesda artists featured in the exhibit are Pauline Siple, who chose a uniquely Washington theme for her "Two of Diamonds;" Karen Deans, whose "Four of Hearts" appears to be broken-hearted; and JoAnn Clayton, whose "Seven of Hearts" is a colorful, psychedelic bulls-eye image." Correction: The creator of "Seven of Hearts" is Bethesda artist Jennifer Bishop, and it's a representational painting of people on the escalator in Metro Center station. JoAnn Clayton's colorful swirl is the seven of spades. Thank you for writing about the show and the card deck project!
Kathleen Bryan July 12, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Mercy, thank you for your comment and your excellent "eye." I made the correction. Our apologies to these fine artists.

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