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New McLean exhibitions spotlight creativity of the artists

3 exhibitions on display at McLean Project for the Arts' gallery

Three “Spring Solo Exhibitions” now on display at McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) feature modified books with sculptural elements, architectural designs bursting with translucent color and oil paintings that combine talismans with cloudy skies and multi-colored patterns.

Entering MPA’s upstairs facility at the McLean Community Center, visitors first will pass through the Atrium Gallery and encounter “Inner Gardens,” a colorful selection of mixed-media paintings by Abol Bahadori.

Born in Iran and trained as a graphic designer, Bahadori’s vibrantly colored paintings depict organic forms, including plants and fishes, interwoven into black-and-white perspective renderings of interiors.

“He is obviously interested in planes, atmosphere and transparency and is super into color,” said MPA exhibitions director Nancy Sausser. “I was attracted to the ways he was kind of creating new realities . . . It’s nature paired with geometry.”

Just inside MPA’s Emerson Gallery is “Return to the Library of L.E. Grothaus,” an installation of mixed-media works by Laura Grothaus that tells stories through artistically altered books.

“She’s carved out the innards of the books, taken out the words and created a visual sculpture,” Sausser said.

Some of the “book sculptures” have polymer-clay objects inside; one is accessorized with emerald-colored gloves that have fountain-pen tips on the fingers.

These artworks offer a lot of fodder to mentally unpack and the artist herself, who primarily has been a writer, physically deconstructs one her works in a video accompanying the exhibit. The show even has comfortable chair and coffee table to give the impression of a cozy reading nook.

In the Emerson Gallery’s main section is “Toys in the Hands of History,” a series of oil paintings by Cuban-born artist Osvaldo Mesa.

The artist, who grew up in Miami and now lives in Baltimore, is influenced by a multilayered background, Sausser said. Mesa started as a painter, then did installation work for years before returning to his true passion, she said.

Mesa’s paintings have a Surrealist feel and fairly burst with color, patterns and visual movement. Many of the works are dominated by gourd-shaped talismans, which are realistically shaded to appear three-dimensional, and the paintings often have several separate sections with different pictorial elements.

“He’s really prolific,” Sausser said. “These pieces were all done, like, in the last two and a half years . . . He’s a good painter and very original.”

MPA will have an in-person talk with the artists June 1 at 11 a.m., followed by a “Tea & Talk” event June 4 at 11 a.m.

Since the pandemic, when many artists lost exhibition opportunities, MPA twice has instated an open call for artists to take part in the group’s spring solo shows over a two-year period.

The organization received submissions from more than 180 artists this year and selected works by six, three of which are on display this year and three that will be exhibited next spring, Sausser said.

MPA’s galleries are located at the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Ave. To learn more about the exhibits and gallery hours, visit