Holly Masri's "Gawker at the Jefferson Memorial" is on display at the Art League gallery in the Torpedo Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia until November 4. Rather than focus on the memorial building itself, which is nearly always depicted in photographs from the exterior, the artist has captured the experience of the Memorial. The painting conveys the monumental scale of the building by showing its huge marble columns from the inside. These columns extend upward out of the frame of the painting, giving a strong impression of their great size.
The central figure--the Gawker--is a senior citizen as revealed by his bucket hat and the sweater draped around his shoulders. He is apparently engrossed by something high up on the wall. As visitors to the memorial know, he is looking at (and reading) one of the three large panels that contain the writings of Jefferson engraved in stone. The gawker is oblivious to the other tourists as he gazes upward in an almost religious fervor.
The other figures in the painting are more typical visitors to the monument. Some are looking at other features of the building, perhaps the giant statue of Jefferson that neither the gawker nor the artist seem to notice. Other figures are arranging themselves for a group photograph. But the Gawker seems transported into a world of ideas and history, oblivious to his surroundings.
The artist skillfully suggests the thoughts and emotions aroused by a visit to the monument by a careful selection of images and details. If you look closely at the painting, you can feel the coolness of the air and hear the voices and footsteps echoing in the enclosed space. You may even hear the Gawker reading aloud the words of Jefferson.