On the surface, Washington DC may seem to be all about politics and lawmaking, but the true backbone of this city is arts and culture. There’s art everywhere you look: under-the-radar museums, murals and street art, performance venues, art galleries and beyond. And while it’s great to see and enjoy their pieces, it’s nice to know who the local artists are behind all that creativity. Here are five DC-based artists to know.
Fine artist and DC-native Maggie O’Neill is known for her pop-art, impressionist technicolor paintings of Washington DC landmarks and its most famous residents. In 2012, she even had the honor of personally delivering a portrait to President Barack Obama. Her brightly colored pieces are often large in scale, guaranteeing to make a statement whether in restaurants and commercial spaces in DC, or as works of public art around the city. In addition to her paintings, Maggie is the co-founder of SWATCHROOM, a creative design firm specializing in hospitality design. She and her team have designed commercial spaces and private residences everywhere from New York to Dubai. She also is the founder of SUPERFIERCE, a national traveling art show that highlights and mentors female artists.
Painter Tom Hill credits his upbringing in the Washington DC area with his passion for activism; beginning with the civil rights, anti-poverty and anti-war movements, then followed by his alignment with LGBT, reproductive rights and HIV/AIDS movements as an adult. After seeking recovery from addiction in 1992, his artwork began to incorporate his activist experience, specifically supporting feminist and queer issues. His abstract and figurative paintings have a distinctly pop art feel, with bright acrylic colors, glitter and metalflake glazes that honor and celebrate the queer male body that is often suppressed by society.
Wayson R. Jones is a painter, musician and spoken word artist in Washington DC. While he began his career with poet Essex Hemphill as part of DC’s black gay and lesbian arts scene of the 1980s and ‘90s, most of his work today focuses on visual art. Most of his paintings fall into the category of abstract expressionism, with a focus on materiality. Instead of simply using acrylic paint, he prefers acrylic texture gels to provide more density, and occasionally you’ll see paper, feathers, sand or cut dreadlocks as materials used in his paintings. The majority of his paintings are in black, white and gray on paper, canvas or wood panels.
Born in Peru and now based in DC, Jorge Caceres began his training as an architect before dropping out to pursue the freedom that painting offered him. His artistry today is self-taught and contemporary abstract, working in the mediums of painting and drawing. Although he didn’t pursue architecture as a career choice, much of his work is still influenced by the geometric shapes found in both nature and architecture around the world. His latest pieces are a series of paintings inspired by Peru, including visits to Machu Picchu and Nazca, as well as the architecture, ceramics and textiles of his native country.
Although she studied printmaking and drawing while in art school, Rose Jaffe’s main mediums are brightly colored illustrations and portraits, and she even dabbles in ceramics and murals that are found across Washington DC. As a creative born and raised in the District, she believes that artists need to stay in the city and for that to happen, they must have access to affordable studio spaces. One way she furthers this mission is through The Stew, her art studio and creative space where she hosts exhibits by other artists, spoken word performances, workshops, potluck dinners and social justice-oriented events. Not to mention her works are also at local incubator-retailer Shop Made in DC in DC’s Golden Triangle.
Now through Fall 2019 you can find works from all of these artists as a part of the “One Voice,” art exhibition supporting the LGBTQ+ community at the Kimpton Carlyle Hotel Dupont Circle. The exhibition displays works from LGBT artists and allies in the hotel’s living room and rotating public art gallery space.