‘Crossing the Distance’ unites cultures, creativity in Gaithersburg -- Gazette.Net


Young Maryland artists who began collaborating last fall with their peers in Afghanistan will both present their work at an opening reception Friday for their joint multi-media exhibit called “Crossing the Distance.”

The reception from 7 to 9 p.m. at the VisArts center in Rockville will be a chance to see the exhibit of drawings, paintings, videos and sculpture and talk to participating artists and VisArts curator and exhibit coordinator Susan Main, who lives in Gaithersburg.

‘Crossing the Distance’

Opening reception

When: 7-9 p.m. Friday

Where: VisArts, 155 Gibbs St., Rockville

Tickets: Free

For information: 301-315-8200; visartsatrockville.org

The exhibit, featuring works by close to 20 participants separated by nine time zones, will close March 31 and then travel to the Queen’s Palace in Kabul.

“Artists are hard to organize, anyway, and this was even harder because of the different time zones and language barriers,” said participant Alex D’Agostino of Baltimore, a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

But D’Agostino said he was able to communicate with fellow artist Mohmad Mahdi Hassanzada in Kabul, sometimes at 4 a.m., by exchanging ideas and information about their work on Facebook.

In the exhibit are two of Hassanzada’s surreal paintings that show blank eyes. The darkness of the piece got D’Agostino thinking about artistic freedom, resulting in a series of stream-of-consciousness drawings as well as a paper mache American flag that he used in a performance piece.

D’Agostino said the difficulties were worth it because of the inspiration each artist drew from the other, a connection that he hopes to continue with Hassanzada, possibly through a shared blog.

It’s about “expanding a dialogue into a full-blown and beautiful friendship,” D’Agostino said.

The cross-cultural project was initiated by Main, who also teaches at MICA. About two years ago, she began collaborating with artist and professor Rahraw Omarzad, who co-founded the nonprofit Center for Contemporary Arts Afghanistan in Kabul with his wife, artist Manezha Hewad, in 2004.

Omarzad’s intent was to develop a contemporary art scene in Afghanistan, which does not currently have one, that is focused on modern artistic techniques and freedom of expression.

The exhibit includes video images shot in Baltimore and Kabul that, thanks to a software program, randomly interact with each other on a screen.

Although separated by a vast distance, the two places are nonetheless affected by one another, said Main.

Another three-dimensional piece hanging from the ceiling evokes the Catholic and Muslim religious traditions.

The exhibit is about “artists talking to artists and making a contribution by absorbing each other’s work,” Main said.