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"Freak House Art"
Two Person show with Russel U. Richards
Warehouse - Washington, DC - October 2006

Creepy peepies
Wicked-good "Freak House"

By Robin Tierney
Special to The Examiner
The madness of modern life compels people to vent to friends, fire off e-mails and let loose the occasional primal scream. Dana Ellyn picks up a paintbrush.

"My paintings are often fueled by the news," Ellyn says, referencing her angst-laden July series. Inspiration also comes from personal issues, such as frustration over the current gallery rage for abstract art that has marginalized figurative works. "So, on occasion I'll take a title of an abstract painting and reinterpret it," she says. For example, she whipped up "Blackout" the day before hanging works for "Freak House," the new exhibition at Warehouse. This spur-of-the-moment acrylic zooms in on a woman lying prostrate, spirit drained, her fixed gaze suggestive of being trapped by a haunting memory.

Four years ago, Ellyn ditched corporate life to paint every day, honing her gift for exposing the quirks of human nature. Big eyes, big heads, bright colors - but forget benign caricatures; these perversely engaging characters command attention and response. "Silly Rabbit" rescripts Bambi as a horror tale - a sample of Ellyn's grip-you-by-theeyeballs, character-infused representational style. Along with a loose collective of non-art-school visionaries including Matt Sesow, the Penn Quarter native's putting a new face - make that faces - on the D.C.- Baltimore art scene.

Also populating "Freak Show" are bizarre bustling scenarios from Russell Richards. Vaguely reminiscent of ancient pictographs - look for "Outcast" - and Maurice Sendak's sophisticated-spooky illustrations, here's a twisted adults-only twist on "Where the Wild Things Are." Mesmerizingly macabre humans, animals and monsters animate Richards's intricate works, which reflect the Charlottesville artist's expertise in collagraph and monotype printmaking. Remarkable works include "God Save Me from Monsters" - a large lenticular hologram in which the picture morphs when tilted. "I love to watch people rocking back and forth to see the image magically change," Richards says. Wicked fun, these un-pretty yet alluring figures will haunt you long past Halloween.

Through Oct. 31
Venue: Warehouse ARTS, 1017- 1021 Seventh St. NW
Tix: Free
Info: 202- 462-6331; warehouse theater.com
Turn up the fear factor: In an adjoining space, Warehouse's Freak House production will scare guests with three stories of shock through Tuesday night. $15

Image of the Examiner Paper - October 28, 2006