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Featured image:Markele Donial Cullins, >>>>>, 2016, Digital photography, 16 x 25 in.

Washington Project for the Arts is taking over Uline arena to show off the insane amount of talent D.C. has to offer, all while raising money to ensure that contemporary art has a place in the District. If you care about D.C.’s art scene (0r are looking to decorate a brand new apartment / up your collecting game) this is not an event to be missed. In anticipation of this sweet sweet party, we hit up some of the artists who will be in attendance to talk about the work they’ll be auctioning off, what the D.C. artist community means to them, and the best pranks they’ve ever pulled (April 1st is around the corner! We all have to be prepared).

Tickets to the gala are on sale now (and we recommend you grab them before they’re gone forever).

Artwork credit:Roberto Visani, The King is Not Dead, 2016, Mixed media on paper 38 x 40 in.

What is the most important object in your studio?

Markele Cullins: My laptop! I use it a lot for Photoshop, research, and inspiration.
Shané K. Gooding: Vision Board (and my stash of gummy bears).
Andrea Limauro: Two things: Music (Reggae or 90’s grunge music–depending on my mood) and a palette knife.
Josh Sender: My studio is my laptop, so can my most important object be the studio itself? It’s maybe even the most important object in my life – which definitely cuts two ways.
Dana Maier: I have a few pen nibs used by the great cartoonist Richard Thompson, who sadly passed away last July. I was torn between using them and creating a makeshift desk shrine for them. But I just couldn’t resist using them. Fortunately his friends told me he would’ve preferred that.
Danny Simmons: My workbench, where my oil paints, powdered pigment, brushes, and recently various fabrics are. It’s a messy place but it functions for me because after years I know where to find just what I’m looking for.
Roberto Visani: My cordless drill.  It’s the most useful tool I use in creating sculpture.
Lindsay Pichaske: A small potato-shaped piece of clay with an eyeball sculpted onto it (image attached) wrapped in string. It was a little test piece I made while in graduate school. At the time, I was trying to pare my studio practice down and was asking the question “what is the bare minimum you can have in a form to suggest the idea of sentiency or life?” This little blob was the answer! I almost threw it away, but on a whim started wrapping it in pink string instead, and found that it came to life and started looking like a small being. This process of wrapping also led to the intricate surface coverings I do today.

Andrea Limauro, Burial Grounds I and II, 2017 | $4,000 Acrylic paint, gold leaf, paper collage, gypsum plaster, resin, glue 24 x 48 in.

Which artists have had the biggest impact on your practice?

Markele Cullins: Fred Wilson, Hank Willis Thomas, Ana Mendieta, Kerry James Marshall, and Ebony G. Patterson.
Shané K. Gooding: Maya Angelou, Kerry James Marshall, Gordon Parks, Adrian Piper, Bill Viola, Martin Puryear, Leonardo Drew …
Andrea Limauro: Gustav Klimt is the first artist I fell in love with as a child. When I was 15 I saw his massive paintings in Vienna, Austria, and that was one of my earliest formative art experiences.  I often still see his influence in my paintings.  At the same time I really like pop art, bold colors, and the idea of plastic and consumerism as being both the subject and the material of contemporary art. Mixing Klimt’s romanticism with pop art is my daily creative struggle.
Josh Sender: Artists who have made a real point of not being concerned with production, but also don’t take their practice too seriously…yet do. I guess artists who are full of contradictions: David Horvitz, Alejandro Cesarco, and Luca Buvoli.
Dana Maier: Richard Thompson, Saul Steinberg, and B. Kliban have been my go-tos lately, inspiration-wise. And seeing Louise Bourgeois’ etching series He Disappeared Into Complete Silence at the Hirshhorn Museum many years back had a huge impact on me when I was still figuring out what kind of artist I wanted to be, though I only half-realized it at the time.
Danny Simmons: Over the years many many artists have had profound impact on my work but if I had to single one out, it would be Wifedo Lam. His highly spiritual abstractions took modern art to a place that incorporated a deep satisfying peek into an ancestral mystical magical landscape.
Roberto Visani: David Hammons and Jimmie Durham.
Lindsay Pichaske: Kiki Smith, Daisy Youngblood, and Liza Lou.

Lindsay Pichaske, The Fawn, 2015, Low-fire ceramic, molted chicken and rooster feathers, flocking, paint, 40 x 21 x 9 in.

Tell me something surprising about the work you will exhibit.

Markele Cullins: This piece includes two of my family members and it’s all based on a series that explores the ways esoteric practices are passed down in communities of colors as a tool of resistance.
Shané K. Gooding: I’m interested in how materiality is emerging in my work and how it punctuates the themes of identity, memory, and representation I often explore.
Andrea Limauro: For Burial Ground I and Burial Ground II, I used six different materials: acrylic paint, gold leaf, copper leaf, gypsum plaster, paper collage, and epoxy resin. However, it is the unusual use of some of the acrylic paint that I am most excited about. The bold patches of color on the canvases are acrylic paint that I painted on plastic sheets, let dry, and then peeled off and glued onto the surface as if they were paper collage material rather than liquid paint. The result is a highly textured painting with a lot of depth and the color patches that pop. This is a technique that I was inspired to use after reading about Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes’ use of dry paint, although her work, unlike mine, is very geometrical and studied.
Josh Sender: I started a website called http://exhibitionspac.es as a resource to help artists fabricate documentation by providing an image database of thousands of press-ready empty gallery spaces. The question of circulation is at the core of a lot of art production now, and I want exhibitionspac.es to be a part of that conversation. The works I am exhibiting in the WPA Auction are from the series ‘New Work’. They are gestural distortions within the spaces I’ve collected for exhibitionspac.es.
Dana Maier: I can personally relate to six of the 23 panels in Adams Morgan Bingo. Not telling which ones, though.
Danny Simmons: It represents a relatively new direction of using ethnic and abstract textiles with patterns that accentuate my brushwork. This technique produces a textured and intricate relationship between fabric and paint that melds into a seamless transition between the two.
Roberto Visani: The work is about hunting for meaning.  A figure is embedded in the landscape.  This is parallel to how we become enmeshed in our surroundings.
Lindsay Pichaske: I made it when my now toddler son was only 5 months old. In a way, it’s an animal representation of him. A young, strong, and magical creature!

Danny Simmons, Flora, 2017, Fabric, oil, ink, on paper 22 x 30 in.

What do you value most about living/working in proximity to Washington DC (as an artist)?

Markele Cullins: The community.
Andrea Limauro: Washington, DC is a great city to be an artist in. It is culturally vibrant, international, highly educated, and has a (potentially) strong market. The artist community is small enough that it is easily navigable while large enough to be interesting and full of surprises.  Its many galleries, museums, and other organizations provide constant inspiration.  However, as the seat of the most powerful government in the world (and especially under the current administration), Washington’s art scene should be edgier and more socially involved. But it is not. Unfortunately, it still plays second base to other cities when it comes to political art, which is baffling. DC should be a magnet and a Mecca for political artists.
Josh Sender: DC is like Baltimore’s older sibling, and it’s great to have these two very differently supportive cities working together.
Dana Maier: An incredibly supportive artist community.
Roberto Visani: My brother was living in D.C. in the late ’90’s and I would drive down from NYC to visit.  It was much edgier then.  I liked the mix of institutional and street culture.
Lindsay Pichaske: I love the Smithsonian museums. I love spending time in the Natural History Museum and doing research for my sculptures. I loved going there as a child, and still love going there to research the taxidermy. I actually think going there as a child heavily influenced my decision to become a figurative artist.

Josh Sender, New Work iv, 2016, Digital Object, Edition of 5 28 x 40 in.

Why is WPA — and organizations like it — important?

Markele Cullins: They are essential. They are dedicated to supporting, uplifting and empowering artists at any level of their careers and without organizations like them it is difficult for both artists and the community to grow.
Shané K. Gooding: Until one is a known and respected artist, the professional commitment to make creative works is an arduous—not because of lack of talent or skill but due to a lack of connections, exposure and resources. WPA and organizations like it give artists the physical space, the community support, the exposure and at times, that push for artists to continue when they want to veer off the road.
Andrea Limauro: WPA is a cultural gem for the capital. When in 2014 I decided to start showing my art in galleries, I turned to WPA as a compass to guide me through this intimidating and unknown world.  WPA made it really easy to navigate the gallery scene, the calls for artists and getting to know curators, gallerists and fellow artists. Since becoming a member I have been invited by galleries and curators throughout the region because they found my work on the WPA website. I can’t imagine how I would I would have had any success without WPA’s support.
Josh Sender: WPA’s focus on being propelled by artists, not by artist’s artworks, is not something you see a lot. Especially as the tension between funding and artists is being strained by the new government, it’s inspiring to have the WPA continue to drive artist’s voices forward.
Dana Maier: I think supporting the arts in a city is so much more than just handing out checks. It’s giving artists space, helping them network, being an educational resource, all sorts of things that don’t necessarily require money. I think WPA is one of the organizations in DC that truly gets this.
Danny Simmons: WPA and other artist-centric nonprofits are the lifeline to opportunity, information, connection, and validation for working artists. These organizations help create the atmosphere where artistic creativity is able to flourish.
Roberto Visani: WPA and other like-minded organizations serve as incubators for art, where the public and artists are brought together in a much more intimate way than through traditional museum and commercial gallery settings.

Dana Jeri Maier, Adams Morgan Bingo, 2016, Pen and ink, watercolor 14 x 12 in.

What is your most memorable April Fools joke/prank?

Markele Cullins: My most memorable April Fools prank is when I tried to prank a teacher in grade school by putting a fake bug on her desk. She was completely unfazed by it!
Shané K. Gooding: Probably something involving a whoopee cushion but then again I have two older brothers so that was a constant.
Andrea Limauro: I’m going to borrow my answer from my friend Justina because I can’t beat the prank she pulled on her children. On April 1st, two years ago, Justina, then a successful cake chef in Takoma Park, snuck some chocolate ganache in a clean diaper and pretended it was the one she had just taken off her youngest child.  She then reached in with her fingers and started eating out of it front of her three panicked and bewildered children. This prank will live with her family for a long, long time.
Josh Sender: Oh gosh, I’ve never devised an April Fools prank – at least purposely. Producing what amounts to ‘fake’ art objects online, some consider my art practice a long-term prank, which is something I’ve always resisted. But maybe I’ve accidentally pranked someone on April 1st but I’ve just been blissfully unaware!
Roberto Visani: Probably the time when I was in college and I went to put my shoes on and discovered them filled with shaving cream.
Lindsay Pichaske: A snuck into my bedroom and turned everything upside down.  I was in the studio until very late that night and when I got home I thought I was going crazy!

Shané K. Gooding, What Do You Know, 2015, Archival digital inkjet print 30 x 40 in.