One of my favorite memories is of my parents taking me to the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria. I remember being really tired and cranky and hating my parents for not moving faster through the various studios full of paintings and sculpture. And then I remember going home for lunch instead of eating at one of the cool local restaurants, pubs, or ice cream shops.
This is my favorite memory because it’s so darn funny- the things we hate as kids sometimes become things that we love as adults.
Well, I’m a grown-up now and with no kids of my own to torture with meaningful art and culture, I self-inflict. Recently a group went to Old Town and we stopped at the Torpedo Factory. Instead of continuing the walk, several of us wandered up to the 2nd and 3rd floors and poked around the various studios of the painters, printmakers, sculptors and other artists in residence. Unfortunately the studio/shop with bags and jewelry in it was closed. Horror!
Jackie Ehle’s dog and cat paintings are really fantastic- broad strokes of color that call to mind Van Gogh. Or rather Van Dogh. She also does cats, horses and finny things.
Her smiling “Gray Dog (Hitchcock)” conveys the sun-dappled texture of a dog’s fur, the tongue-lolling joy of dogginess. Great stuff. I took a card to give to Karoline, who has an adorable chocolate lab who should definitely be immortalized in oil.
Matthew Johnston’s flowers are amazing. His sunflowers are so brilliant and gorgeous that I half expect bees to swarm out of nowhere. The colors he uses are all jewel tones- deep reds, blues, yellows. Then there’s the occasional beige sweater as in the diptych “Watching Him”, which features a couple- she in her sweater set, he in a suit perusing The Washington Post- on a blue couch with red striped pillows. A visual feast of opulence, a power couple in repose.
If you like your art with more of a sense of humor, check out Larry Morris, who pays homage to several of the more relevant artists of the 20th century. Whether he’s channeling Jeff Koons’ chrome bunnies or aping Picasso’s “Nude Descending Staircase” (left), Morris does it with a deadpan style. His figures are triangles, but not asexual- witness “The Kiss”. You may have already seen his work- he has pieces at Logan Airport, and parks in Silver Spring, MD.
The only way to follow up a morning of art gazing is brunch, so we trooped to Murphy’s. A “grand Irish pub” in Old Town and Va. Beach, Murphy’s has a Champagne Brunch for $8-$9 which includes an entree and a glass of champagne with $0.50 per refill of the bubbly. Everyone went for burgers or steak and eggs, because they were out of Crabcake Benedict and no one was brave enough to try the French toast.
I went for the Irish Country Breakfast, which really is a heart attack on a plate. Two eggs over easy, a pile of bacon, 2 greasy Irish bangers, a biscuit that separated itself into 2 halves like the parting of the Red Sea, and potatoes on the side. It was good, hearty, and not unlike something you’d get at any ol’ greasy spoon. Being the classy folks we are, we ordered oj and made mimosas. Yikes.
I’d go again, but for the draft house ale and a plate of fish’n’chips.
Not sure what kind of champagne it was, but like any redblooded hungry person I rarely turn down a free glass.
Afterwards, to satisfy the urge for sweet, we wandered to Pop’s for ice cream. The cinnamon-accented Aztec Chocolate was the perfect way to end the day. Better than that, it made me feel like a kid again, but in a good way.
The Torpedo Factory has evening events, including hors d’oeuvers and wine on Thursday evenings. There are also classes if you want to try dabbling in a little art of your own.
If accessories are more your speed, create some art of your own check on this site.
Murphy’s, at 713 King Street in Alexandria, has Smithwicks on tap. Why are you still reading this? Go. Now.
Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream is on 109 King St. in Alexandria, just as you get to the waterfront. Call them at 703-518-5374 to get a rundown of flavors.