Dana Ellyn   www.danaellyn.com
Edgy paintings with political and social themes by Washington DC artist Dana Ellyn.

"31 Days in July"

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24 Hour Mural Painting
July 21st - 22nd at the Warehouse
as part of the Capital Fringe Festival
Click on image on left visit James Calder's
entire photo gallery from July 21st:
View James Calder Photo Gallery


Dana and Matt were interviewd by DC North Magazine as they painted.
View as PDF file
Ward 2 News Report  
by: Susan Ruether    

Local Artists Fringe Ward 2 in 24 Hours of Color

Perched on a ladder fixing the face of Jesus, Dana Ellyn avoided the blazing sun in the late afternoon as shade fell on the bright orange wall she detailed. It made sense, after all, that she and fellow artist Matt Sesow begin their round-the-clock mural painting session at 3 p.m. so as to avoid having their sweat drip into the bottles and boxes of paint below.

Not that such a thing would have been frowned upon; it was a 24-hour act of painting associated with the Capital Fringe Festival. This year, the first-annual festival brought together hundreds of artists for over 400 shows in eleven days: a mind boggling range of performances, some experimental and others on the verge of wacky. Unlike the theatre performances however, the mural will become a permanent part of the 7th Street landscape, though Ellyn and Sesow expected their mural to be a work in progress even after they finished. "We expect that people will write on itâ that's fine" Sesow commented. "We know it will change"

After coming to terms with the scale of the project and the texture of hundreds of staples jammed into the wooden storefront, the artists began their work with house-paint and acrylics. Describing the painting as “free and looserâ than the studio work they are used to, each of the painters filled the space with large figures. "Picasso and Diego Rivera rip-offs" Sesow commented of his half of the mural. The painting, after just three hours, depicted large scale artists and laborers, a figure of Jesus looking down on the current state of affairs and a lady voyeur sipping a drink in the corner.  

Before the artists got there, you might say the wall Ellyn and Sesow covered (a long-abandoned storefront adjacent to the Warehouse Theatre) had their names on it. When Fringe festival director, Julianne Brienza, thought of the idea of the mural, she and Warehouse co-director, Molly Rupert, immediately chose the duo - local painters and a couple - who had showed work at the Warehouse.

The Warehouse served as home base for the festival this year, hosting a majority of productions and events.

"We're not used to being watched as we paint" Sesow commented in regards to on-lookers. "People always think the painting is done, no matter the stage" he said. Not soon after, a man stopped to ask if they would paint around the corner of the building. Sesow also admitted that the painting might be "influenced by working at 2 a.m. after a few beers." Yet at the beginning stages, the figures are clear and deliberate, and the colors are bold.

The history of the Fringe Festival dates back to 1947, when eight uninvited performance groups arrived at the exclusive Edinburgh International Festival and staged a series of guerilla performances. Cities across the US have adopted the tradition, with DC as the 76th location to make space for the peculiar and particular in local art.

"Besides art-o-matic, the Fringe Festival is really the only grass-roots venue for support of the visual arts [in DC]," commented Sesow, who now supports himself entirely through the sale of his paintings. He describes DC as a "gallery-centric city, where you have to sign an uber-contract and give up your soul to sell a painting for 50 percent [of the profit]." Both artists say that venues like the Fringe allow artists to show and sell directly to patrons which ultimately benefits artistic production in the city. Ellyn and Sesow painted well into the wee morning hours for free this time, however, to "enjoy the process of making art . . . it's fun to support the Fringe" Sesow commented.

Matt Sesow will hold an open studio on Aug. 5 from Noon- 6 p.m., www.sesow.com, 202-319-1459. Dana Ellyn will hold her open studio on Aug. 12 from Noon - 6 p.m., www.danaellyn.com, 202-737-6161. For more Capital Fringe Festival details, visit www.capfringe.org


Dana Ellyn and Matt Sesow painted a mural on the outside wall of the Warehouse Downtown Arts Complex
(at 7th & L Street, NW)
as part of the Capital Fringe Festival.

They began painting at 3pm on July 21st and finish on July 22nd (with a break during the wee-hours of the night/morning). As the sun came up, they were putting the finishing touches on their mural.

More info about Capital Fringe Festival:

More info about the Warehouse:

More info about Matt Sesow:

In the Washington Post:
click here