La Maison Francaise, the cultural arm of the French embassy, currently hosts an exhibit by Washington-based artist Danielle Bensky, whose husband is a professor of French at Georgetown. The show,efFUSIONS, combines bronze sculpture and acrylic painting, unified by their muted tones and curving lines.

“It’s about the human spirit — the emotions — the hope and also the inner turmoil,” Bensky said of the collection.

Many of the sculptures portray abstract figures, struggling to reach upward from contorted positions. In particular, “Woman Not Falling” appears at first glance to be tipped on its side, with a flat base facing the viewer and the subject’s shoulders and knees touching the ground. However, one arm reaches upward, lifting the body to fight gravity’s pull. In many of the sculptures, the artist explores the conflict between the desire to reach upward and the forces dragging us down.

In the exhibit program, writer Michele Sarde describes Bensky’s work as a “[refusal] to admit the degradation of physical reality, an intrinsic assertion of our humanity.” One of the sculptures, “Spirit Ascending,” belongs to the same family as a piece the artist made for Lauinger Library. “Spirit Ascending” is modeled after a bird, and Bensky explained that the bird’s flight represents the notion that, “We are all aspiring.”

Wings also figure prominently in a sculpture titled “Beyond,” which was inspired by the ancient Greek sculpture “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” housed in the Louvre Museum of Paris. “Beyond” replicates the huge wings of “Winged Victory,” intended by the artist as a symbol of freedom. Bensky explained that she had initially included a head in her sculpture — the head of “Winged Victory” was lost and famously has never been recovered — but she finally removed it because it didn’t add anything to the work. The sculpture’s shape, expanding as it rises upward, makes a triumphant statement of hope. In this way, Bensky’s work, which has been displayed at the UNESCO headquarters and at various galleries in Paris, reflects the French revolutionary spirit.

Natural imagery is another motif throughout efFUSIONS’s collection of paintings and sculptures. The paintings “Vertige 2” and “Whirligig 5” and the sculpture “Seascape 2” share spiraling curves like those of a nautilus shell.

“I’m very much inspired by nature, but it’s imaginary,” Bensky said of this repeating element.

Like her human forms, the artist’s natural images are abstract, inviting a sense of whimsy into the collection. Bensky spoke of representing both the serious and the light-hearted in order to cover the full spectrum of human experience. Many of the nature-inspired pieces are very brightly colored. The bronze sculpture “Full Circle” is tinted a loud blue. Its title may be taken to represent the artist’s view of the range of human experience, from arduous to whimsical.

In addition to bringing lightness and color into the collection, the curving forms drawn from nature connect to the feminine character of the exhibit.

“The quintessentially human tends to express itself more and more in our time through the feminine, no longer woman-as-object … but woman creating,” Sarde wrote in the program.

La Maison Francaise is located at the Embassy of France, 4104 Reservoir Rd., just across from the Georgetown University Hospital. The exhibit is open to the public, but for security reasons, visitors must call in their names ahead of time and present photo identification at the gates of the embassy. Most of the pieces in efFUSIONS are available for sale, with prices ranging from $495 to $29,900. The exhibit ends on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *