“Coalesce” Middleburg Art Exhibition by Marta Staudinger

I am very excited to announce my exhibition at The Byrne Gallery in Middleburg, VA. This is a joint-exhibition featuring artist Christine Olmstead & myself. Some of you know Christine from her solo-exhibition at my own art gallery, Latela Art Gallery in Washington, DC this past July. Here’s a little bit more about the story on how we came together for this particular show & what you can expect to learn more about in our Artist TalK!


“COALESCE” on display at The Byrne Gallery in Middleburg, VA from October 4-November 4, 2018.

Opening Reception: October 13th 5-8pm (view Christine’s Reception RECAP).

Artist Talk: Saturday, October 20th 2-6pm.


Two Artists Coming Together

Christine & I met a year ago to discuss her solo exhibition at Latela Art Gallery. We had been following one another on social media for quite some time and to meet in personal felt very natural - it was a long time coming. I love when the roots of collaboration come from a genuine place and when both parties see the value in working with one another and are ready to actually split the work 50/50. That’s not always the case…

Even though we were planning her solo-exhibition about 8 months out, I received an inquiry for a corporate art commission and I proposed the client with a palette of about 10 artists portfolios. The artists selected to create two 6x4 foot paintings were Christine and I. It was during this commission process we began to see some of the synergy in our work. Once completing the project, there was a seed planted that we couldn’t ignore: what if we explored this visual narrative further? Bill Byrne, co-owner of The Byrne Gallery was present to install the artworks and also noticed this narrative which he too wanted to explore. It wasn’t long before The Byrne Gallery invited us to exhibit.

 This is an image from the installation of Christine’s Art for her solo-exhibition in my gallery. Some of her small framed works on paper sit on top of my works on paper. We were able to confirm then the synergy in the color palettes we pre-selected for our works before deciding on a very similar palette for the Coalesce Exhibition.

This is an image from the installation of Christine’s Art for her solo-exhibition in my gallery. Some of her small framed works on paper sit on top of my works on paper. We were able to confirm then the synergy in the color palettes we pre-selected for our works before deciding on a very similar palette for the Coalesce Exhibition.


What’s the Exhibition About?

It’s about synergy between two artists first and foremost. But within that, there are so many other dialogues to be explored.

Synergy - We limited our color palette (just as in our corporate commission) to be able to visually explore synergy between our works. This required a lot of communication on how we’d dilute, mix and treat pigments as well as how those equations respond on different materials. The materials we paint on for this show span between primed canvas, raw canvas, and paper.

Pre-planning - Christine and I visited the gallery in Middleburg at the beginning of this summer to record dimensions and plan out where works would be hung. This way, we were able to create site-specific works that spoke to one another.

Working within limitations whilst accepting the wabi sabi - There are moments we needed to break from or change some of our original plans for the show while we were in the creative process. This balance between sticking to a plan of limitations (color, size, material) and following the true path of the creative process is something interesting to explore in this exhibition.

Vulnerability - As artists it is a very vulnerable moment to share behind the scenes and underpinnings as they look nothing like the finished works. It’s even more vulnerable to share such as well as pigment mixing equations and texturization or blending techniques with another artist for fear that you’re main secrets could be used. Christine and I were able to do this and provide intimate insight into one another process without compromising our own aesthetic styles or that of the other artist.

Trust - The above vulnerability shared between Christine and I absolutely connects to trust, but also the trust from the Middleburg gallery owners Susan and Bill who had complete trust in the site-specific artwork Christine and I made for the exhibition. They trusted us so much so that they didn’t even see the finished pieces (nor request to see progress works they only saw our sketch of dimensions and artwork placement and color swatches) until the day we delivered for installation. This trust is something we believe shows our professionalism and ability to pull a large project together, a skillset very much needed in commissioning pieces for clients.

Below are some color swatches we shared with one another in the early summer as we began to prepare to create the paintings…


A Sneak Peek: the Coalesce Middleburg Art Exhibition

Please enjoy some photographs from the opening reception (click to enlarge).

Christine Olmstead & Marta Staudinger

Christine & Joel Olmstead + Adrian Vega & Marta Staudinger

Bill Byrne, Christine, Marta Staudinger, Susan Byrne

We hope you can take the time to visit Middleburg and our art exhibition before November 4th!

You may view all of my exhibited artworks on canvas, as well as works on paper. Alternatively, I have created additional blog posts explaining some of these artworks in more detail. You can also follow me on Instagram @martastaudinger.

Christine also has a blog post on the show, please take a read at her reflections. You can view her work on her website: www.christineolmstead.com and on Instagram @christineolmstead.


The Fifth Element by Marta Staudinger

 Marta Staudinger,  The Fifth Element , 4x7 ft., acrylic and mixed media on stretched canvas

Marta Staudinger, The Fifth Element, 4x7 ft., acrylic and mixed media on stretched canvas

I believe this to be my most powerful abstract painting to date mainly in the way I was forced to problem-solve during the creation of this piece.

Paintings usually appear to me as visualizations that I sketch down in the moment. Some of those sketches remain such, others move to canvas and usually take their own path something during the process to differ from the sketch. (Read: The Only Time I Created a Painting Exactly as I had Visualized It).

For this abstract painting, I decided to take the risk and try something new. I created a stain for the background that I left over night to dry. Stretching the canvas was a bitch after that due to all of the warping but what I found was beautiful movement from my own physical movement on the floor scrubbing the canvas the night before.


I then followed the movement to create shapes and bring a a story to live. I entitled this piece The Fifth Element, also the name of one of my favorite movies :) In this piece you’ll find representations of the four elements: fire, earth, air, and water. But to me, this story goes on. It is also a feminine story, with the fifth element in the world being life. And with life, we require the female to continue to reproduce this life. This seemed appropriate not just because of the current advances in this movement for the female… but also because I felt like Cinderella scrubbing the floor while I was staining this canvas. There was an exploration of the expected role of the woman in society as I created this piece. There was also this mysteriously beautiful sunlight coming into the studio the next morning when I came to observe my experience. The painting was so vibrant but still as it lay there - I couldn't tell whether I had violated her or brought her to life. Throughout the painting process I kept challenging that narrative: whether I was bringing something to life, whether it was speaking on its own, or whether I was interrupting it in some way...

Catalunya by Marta Staudinger

This is also a story of the only time I created a painting exactly as I had visualized it…. Enjoy:

I spent two weeks this past September lecturing in Barcelona for Smithsonian. This is something I do 3-4 times a year, however during this particular trip I pushed my lectures beyond my comfort zone.

I usually lecture on art and architecture, therefore my lectures in Catalonia usually focus on Gaudi and Catalan Modernism. I also present a lecture that reviews the urban expansion of the city of Barcelona from its first World Fair in 1888, to its second in 1929, and finally the expansion of the city as it prepared to host the Summer Olympics in 1992. In that lecture I also speak on some of its public art commissions and how it has moved from its Modernism history to become the contemporary mecca of art, design and architecture that it is today.

For this past trip, I needed to divide my lectures with a local art historian. I decided to let him do the Gaudi introduction, and instead, I would cover the History of Barcelona and Catalonia lecture. I’m pretty sharp on European history, particularly in Iberia. I also keep an extensive archive of notes from museum visits and guided tours I accompany with Smithsonian so I had a 5-year archive to rummage through. I however, had never previously laid out an official outline that ran through thousands of years of history specifically in Iberia with a focus on Catalonia. This assignment allowed me to finally prioritize that academic organization for myself.

It is important for me to curate my lectures to each Smithsonian trip. So that no lecture is ever the same even though I can recycle the same templates of information. For this circumstance, I knew that the last lecture of this trip (just after my history lecture) would be ‘Contemporary Catalonia’ with a focus on the current political situation. Therefore, my goal was to create a lecture that:

1) provided a factual historiography of Iberia with a focus on Catalonia,

2) include factual historical moments of Aragonese/Catalan culture that are part of today’s political argument for independence in their appropriate context,

3) provide an unbiased review of the points of interest for different levels of independence (cultural, fiscal, and full separation), so that my audience would leave with full historical information to be able to have an open-minded conversation about the current political situation.

I am proud to say this was much easier for me to compile together in a PowerPoint than I anticipated: those years of taking notes and organizing/archiving them well paid off. I can comfortably report I checked all of the goals I gave to myself except for one…

As I was creating this lecture, I became emotional due to what I know about the historical facts but also due to how I feel personally about the situation and what I have experienced. There are always going to be two sides to every story. And in politics, there are always going to be key points that are argued on both side with complete overlap and inability to understand the other side. As a visitor to this culture (I am not Catalan, nor Spanish), I at one point was neutral in my opinion on this topic. However, as an academic and someone who has lived in Barcelona and returns regularly, I admit I have grown to fall towards the side of independence for cultural and fiscal independence (this is very different from complete separation). For this reason, I can provide a historically factual summary of events, but I do have a bias that naturally comes forward.

I embraced my bias. Why? Well, first, I remember in my first art history classes thinking: Are we learning about Botticelli because he’s my professor’s favorite artist? Is it because his work has become a commercial icon for Florence and Italy so it’s historiography is more important now because its popular to tourism and contemporary “art culture”? Or is it because he was a favorite by the Medici family, and their opinion was one of the few that mattered? Either way, at some point, we introject our biases and opinions. I’d much rather learn from a professor who can clearly explain their interests with factual backing than just be taught the bare boned facts. I believe that allows for critical thinking: the biased lecturer is setting the stage for debate. It’s an open discussion field, rather than this one-sided exchange that’s more like input of information.

Second, I am an artist. I wear my heart on my sleeve and am rather transparent. I like deep conversation and not surface level exchange. Am I truly using myself as a vessel to serve if I hold back? Who am I as an artist and who am I communicating to? And how raw should I be in that communication? A receiver of information can always choose not to receive or to filter incoming information. That is their responsibility as the receiver. However, if I am placed in the position to give, and I have factual information that supports my dialogue, then I believe it’s my responsibility to release what I know.

I find this dialogue with myself so similar to what I contemplate as an artist on a regular basis. When I’m creating a painting, there is always a dialogue in my head that exchanges how I feel about my immediate, impulsive action onto the canvas in that moment versus predetermined ideas of how a composition should end up looking. There is an analytical process in my creative brainstorming. I see paintings, and sketch them. I then try to create them in the flesh when I’m back in the studio. Many times, there is a transformation process of the piece in that step: it never looks quite like the sketch or at some point I go off course and let the painting choose its own path. How much do I control as the artist versus let go and act purely as a vessel of some other communication? Am I entering this exchange with rules and predetermined outlines or am I allowing myself to interject and become a vessel not just of information and analytical sketches, but also of emotion?

I’m not sure I know a precise answer to any of these questions, but what I do know is that I am comfortable with my opinions as long as they are supported by fact and as long as I continue to commit as a scholar to learn more about those facts I rely on as well as remain open-minded to the next person’s point of view. Same concept as an artist, I have become comfortable with where myself as a vessel takes the direction of a creative project whether it be the curation for an exhibition or the completion of a particular painting or series of artworks. I need to trust other inner guides rather than just intellect and analytical practices. Or rather, I need to keep my chakras balanced to give each a turn in all of my aspects of life – as an artist and even as an academic.

After returning to DC from this trip, I saw a painting for Catalunya one night when I was lying in bed unable to sleep. I actually saw a series of paintings very vividly and challenged myself not to get out of bed to sketch them. I wanted to let go of any pressure (from myself) to document things to “get back to it later”. Rather, just let the visualization go and have its own existence…

This piece was the only painting that was still vividly depicted and at the front of my mind the next morning. A few elements were stirring on the forefront for me when I went into the studio the next day to create the painting:

- Still quite a bit of emotion about Catalonia fresh on my heart chakra from being there and stirring up these feelings in conversations about the political situation.

- I have been playing a lot with texture and wanted to push back on that element a bit to have a rather minimalistic piece that focused on the four red stripes of the Catalan flag.

- I wanted to paint those red stripes in a blood-like color that also came from the deep copper color palette I was using. Therefore, I mixed the copper to arrive at a similar rusty-blood red that Antoni Tàpies also uses in his artworks.

- I was interested in a simple and subtle but equally also powerful piece.

There are four red stripes on the Catalan flag which have been referred to regularly in the work of Antoni Tàpies as well as Catalan modernist architect Luís Domènech i Montaner. I will speak on my general interest in these Catalan nationalistic artists in another post.

 The Catalan flag or the   Senyera

The Catalan flag or the Senyera

 Different versions of the Senyera displayed in Barcelona during the 2017 independence referendum campaign

Different versions of the Senyera displayed in Barcelona during the 2017 independence referendum campaign

It is interesting to me that this is the only painting that manifested exactly how I initially visualized. It came to me as effortlessly during its conception as did its conceptual and visual mind map the night before. What you see is four separate fields:



6x4 ft.

On display: The Byrne Gallery

1) A blank and minimalistic background that is rather untouched,

2) A plain of texture that could be either water or terra– that is up to the viewer as I have used my signature bronze wash with elements of oxidized metal that appear turquoise therefore this field could be either element,

3) A texturized dark, grey cloud that hovers over this plain that appears to be lifting: it’s currently heavy, but there is a suggestion of positivity as it floats upward off of the canvas. An inspiration here is the nuvolsculpture Antoni Tàpies created for the roof of his foundation.

4) Four red columns that represent the four red stripes on the Catalan flag. These columns stand strong and soar into the sky. They’re painted in a very harsh, expressionistic manner in tribute to Antoni Tàpies. For this last element that connects the piece and is the focal conceptual element, I challenged myself to serve as a vessel for Antoni Tàpies to continue to vocalize his emotion in these visually deconstructed but yet powerful nationalistic representations.

I believe this to be one of the strongest pieces I’ve created thus far, and my first (kind of) political piece. I intend it to bring attention to its viewers about the current situation without my bias coming across as too harsh or heavy on the work. I do not believe it can stand without such dialogue attached to it, however, the interpretation of positivity moving through the piece I hope will encourage progressive change and dialogue across multiple political, cultural, and social conflicts currenting occupying the world.


Commissions for Corporate Art by Marta Staudinger

As an art consultant & curator, I understand the importance art selection plays in communicating the brand of a company. Are you a wallpaper client or a fine art client? (If you’re looking for cool wall paper to pop, I have a roll-a-dex of cool artists I can refer you to. If you’re looking to mass produce artwork, we are not the fit for one another)...

Having made branding decisions for my own companies, Latela Art + Curatorial Consultants and Latela Art Gallery, I understand how decorative items create the energy in a space. That effortless yet strategically planned energy is subconsciously communicated onto meeting guests and potential clients. What your lobby & offices communicate is very essential to your business branding, office culture + growth.

I look forward to hearing about business missions, current clientele and potential clientele to assist in the branding brainstorm process. My favorite corporate clients care about supporting local art as much has they care about quality + process.

The Commissioning Process in a Nutshell:

  COLOR-SWATCHING   For desired color palette selection.


For desired color palette selection.

  TEXTURE-SWATCHING   For examples of paint translucency, weight, & texture.


For examples of paint translucency, weight, & texture.

  ARTWORK MOCK-UP   A mini sketch of what's to come, which can also be placed in its location-to-be.


A mini sketch of what's to come, which can also be placed in its location-to-be.

  FINAL PRODUCTION   Customize work complete & installed in situ.


Customize work complete & installed in situ.

If my personal painting aesthetic doesn’t fit your brand, I can find you an artist who does via my consulting services.

I enjoy creating custom paintings. Commissioning a painting allows the commissioner & I to work together rather intimately. You share your inspiration and I walk you through my creative process. We then work together in partnership to create a customized work of art. Artworks aim to pull from inspiration decided in conversation however final artworks will always result in a mix of that unique moment in an artist’s creative practice in which paintings are created. 

Contact me if you’re interested to discuss custom art work.

Marta Staudinger speaks up about DC's Comprehensive Cultural Plan by Marta Staudinger

I was honored to share my voice in “Local Artists Respond to D.C.'s Comprehensive Cultural Plan: the District government has put forth a sweeping vision for promoting arts and culture in D.C., but some local artists aren’t sure it benefits them.” written by Stephanie Rudig and Matt Cohen for the Washington City Paper.

 Photo of Marta Staudinger by Darrow Montgomery for the Washington City Paper

Photo of Marta Staudinger by Darrow Montgomery for the Washington City Paper


Marta Staudinger

Curator, director, and founder of Latela Art Consultants & Gallery

Latela is a consulting service for buyers and local artists at various stages of their careers, as well as a gallery and community space. When she opened the space on the Brookland Arts Walk in late 2015, founder Marta Staudinger had to decide between a few different types of gallery models. She could become a nonprofit, but, she says, “I felt like this city didn’t need another gallery like that. There are a lot of really great nonprofits that are doing a great job.” She could take on the risk of a large business loan to get a sizable space and subsidize the gallery’s profits by charging showcased artists a membership fee, or make the space double as an event venue. “There’s nothing wrong with that,” she says, “but the events come first, the art comes second. I also didn’t want to charge artists.” 

“I think about a city where there could be 10 to 12 small galleries like Latela all across town that don’t need to charge for artists’ rent, don’t need to apply to grants, and don’t need to cloud their vision with event planning, who can just be commercial art galleries representing the local arts. But our city is not allowing that,” she says.  

A lack of focus on the arts as their own standalone industry is one of Staudinger’s frustrations with the Cultural Plan. “In the Plan, the language does not separate creative economy from the arts. They should be treated somewhat differently,” she says. “Creative economy” is a fairly nebulous term that’s used throughout the Cultural Plan, and it can encompass anything from fine arts to cooking to commercial architects to social media, depending on who’s defining it. 

If it’s true that the arts are inextricable from the larger economic view, Staudinger would at least like to see fine artists like the ones she represents benefit from some of the economic windfall. “If there’s an initiative from the Mayor’s office to help the art community and the art economy—not creative economy as a whole—why are they not doing something that’s connecting, for example, all the lobbyists they work with every day to the arts?” she asks. “I want to see them having a work of one of these local artists in their home or in their office.” 

“When I think about a Cultural Plan, I want something that’s itemized,” Staudinger says. She desires concrete actions that could be quickly implemented, like creating one live-in artist studio in every new residential development.

She also suggests that when important cultural spaces are lost, the city should provide a plan “that is going to give us two times the amount of space throughout the city in the next five years,” a variation on the idea of planting two trees for each cut down. 

Her vision for how the city can better support the arts comes down to a simple overarching idea: “When I think of cultural planning, I think of looking at a grid of the city. Where does stuff already exist? Where’s stuff being built, and how can we infiltrate those areas with more arts to make a nice ratio? I don’t think it could be that hard. Just give me a map.”