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Where to see art gallery shows in the DC area

The simulated foods in IA&A at Hillyer’s “(The) Composed/Nocturne” look good enough for someone to eat. Not a human perhaps, but certainly a fly, like the one perched atop the remains of a lox and cream cheese bagel, or one of the wasps that colonized a partially melted popsicle. Judith Klausner has carefully crafted these and other scavengers from clay, pigment and other materials. Some of the Boston-area artist’s creations are in a tent, whose dark interior houses a bat and a possum examining a box of leftover Chinese food.

Klausner is an experienced model animal manufacturer who creates every element of her 3D vignettes from scratch. Her appreciation for scornful critters is not limited to mammals, insects and the trio of pigeons tearing apart a sandwich in a corner of the gallery. She also shows molds, fungi and sprouts sprouting from a withering potato. These are all valuable topics for Klausner, who emphasizes not only the cycle of regeneration, but also what her statement calls “small and often overlooked beauty.”

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The implications of the artist’s work are ecological, but also autobiographical. “As a disabled queer woman, I am drawn to things that are rejected or different,” she writes. “(De) Composed/Nocturne” is a miniature natural history museum for animals and processes that, no matter how essential to life, are thoughtlessly or deliberately ignored.

Another story of “otherness” is told in Deborah Grayson’s elegant woodcuts of black women, including one that titles her IA&A show “They Think of Love as a Reddening of the Earth Under the Sun.” Rendered in strong lines, the DC artist’s portraits are enhanced by evocative details and bold decorative patterns. Several photos show cotton buds, and one woman holds a human heart. The prints are based on photographs from the early 20th century, but made mythical by historical and geometric symbols.

Judith Klausner: (The) Composite/Nocturne And Deborah Grayson: They regard love as the earth turning red under the sun Until April 28 at IA&A in Hillyer, 9 Hillyer Court NW. athillyer.org. 202-338-0680.

The natural world is scrutinized and reimagined in the work of local artists Eric Celarier and Stuart Diekmeyer, who exhibit together at Portico Gallery. ‘Super Natural’ consists mainly of photographs and prints, but also contains some striking sculptures.

Insects, seed pods and cactus spikes are among the subjects of Diekmeyer’s tightly focused close-ups, whose shallow depth of field accentuates jagged details. These duotones convey all their information in black and white, but are enhanced by a yellow glow. As Diekmeyer focuses his camera on things that are clearly organic, the precise framing and golden accents give them a jewel-like quality.

Following the Japanese practice of gyotaku, which involves inking and printing fish, Celarier stacks discarded objects under silk and taps the surface with ink to create images. The piled objects are apparently man-made and often electronic, but the resulting images suggest an array of teeming microorganisms. The artist’s title for this series, ‘Biosphere’, is both ironic and visually appropriate.

Celarier has another use for industrial junk. He welds pieces of it together to make metal sculptures of imaginary crustaceans like the ‘Sawback’, topped with half of a rusted, serrated knife. If the artist cannot transform outdated tools into living beings, he can challenge viewers to think about a world increasingly burdened by things people have made, used and left behind.

Eric Celarier and Stuart Diekmeyer: Supernatural Through April 28 at Portico Gallery, 3807 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood. Portico3807.com. 202-487-8458.

Ellen Cornett illustrates existing texts in beautifully detailed pencil drawings. But her Artists & Makers show “Once Upon a Time, Words and Pictures” doesn’t always follow the script. The suburban Maryland resident often repeats the lullabies and fairy tales she tells. For example, her version of “The Fisherman and His Wife” omits the greedy husband of the man who encounters a bone that can grant wishes, leaving only two characters from the Brothers Grimm folktale.

In a playful touch, Cornett uses a single model, Harry Edgel, to pose for all human roles, both male and female. His participation bases the drawings on reality, but also gives them a theatrical quality. Cornett may not bring goats, yaks and other animals to her studio, but she renders them with no less precision in scenarios that gradually fill with creatures. In a comically chaotic sequence, a man and a mouse – the first to read a section of this newspaper – are overwhelmed by animal and human visitors.

That’s one of two stories, all in lush shades of gray. The other pair is vividly drawn with Prismacolor pencils, complemented by steel gray paint for the oceanic backgrounds in the fish story. The goal is to create “layered, ambiguous stories of transformation, artifice and disguise,” according to the artist’s statement. Artifice and transformation are not just Cornett’s themes; they are also her means of expression. With complicated series of pencil strokes she conjures up light, volume and shape, and therefore character.

Ellen Cornett: Once upon a time, words and pictures Through April 24 at Artists & Makers Studios, 11810 Parklawn Dr., Rockville. artistsandmakersstudios.com. 240-437-9573.

The prints in the American Poetry Museum’s “Transmutación” are spread across two walls and two styles, yet connected by common interests. Nando Álvarez’s large screen prints are defined by hard black lines, complemented by Day-Glo colours, while his smaller monoprints are soft and loose, with more muted tones. Both sets portray the faces of generally lonely individuals who appear to belong to the working class, as evidenced by details such as hard hats and heavy loads. The portraits evoke Ecuador, the artist’s birthplace, and the struggle.

Monoprints are made by painting with liquid pigments on a master, which is then pressed against paper once. Álvarez uses the technique to create a hazy mystery that suggests his subjects cannot be fully understood. This effect is reinforced by the fact that about half of the people he portrays wear masks, presumably as protection against Covid.

The bright pink and green hues that accentuate the black shapes in Álvarez’s screen prints are meant to evoke the posters promoting concerts in South America. Sami Miranda, the curator of the location, plays on this reference with poems inspired by the prints; the text is printed in multiple colors and fonts, so that each poem resembles a billboard. “What does it mean to be alone?” asks one of Miranda’s verses. The eyes of the people in Álvarez’s photos provide an answer.

Transmutación: Prints by Nando Álvarez in conversation with poems by Sami Miranda Through May 1 at the American Poetry Museum, 716 Monroe St. NE, Studio 25. apoetmuseum.org. 202-670-6252.