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The Conductor Envisioned by Britt Conley. On view from November 9 - December 8, 2020

On view at The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia, Building 10. Open to the public Friday-Sunday noon to 5pm or by appointment.  To make an appointment, contact Britt at

The Conductor Envisioned features visual personifications of 20 conductors.  Instead of following the exacting physical tempo motions, I wanted to capture the conductor’s personality and visualize their communication style by providing an iconic visual aesthetic, that personifies the energy, shape and philosophy of what they bring to their conducting.  Below the works is my overall artist statement for the show.  To see the individual write up for each artwork, click ‘read more’  on the images below.  The zoom reception for this exhibition will be on Saturday the 21st of November from 7:oo-8pm.

The Conductor Envisioned Artist Statement:
This is genuinely one of the most rewarding exhibitions I’ve worked through.  Researching the world of conducting has changed my listening life significantly.  My prior concert experience involved seeing the sounds and feeling the shapes and weights of the music.  Toggling back and forth between the beauty and aural quality of the current musicians and imagining what the composer envisioned is part of the joy of live performance.
That said, I’ll never listen to a concert the same way again.  Since researching dozens of master classes, rehearsals and concerts featuring these conductors, my eyes and ears have been opened further to the vast input of the conductor to the aural experience. After watching all of these talents conduct, I have heard so much variation in interpretation that I realized my lifetime of musical listening was lacking a very important piece.  I made the mistake of only imagining what the composer envisioned and what the musicians were bringing to the quality of sound.  I’ve learned to add the extraordinary mind of the conductor and all of the nuance from his or her vision in the shaping of the sounds to repaint and highlight the musical landscape into a unique envisioned experience for us to consider.
The tug and pull between the composer, the conductor and the musicians resembles the painting process.  The conductor determines which elements, shapes and nuances of the brush strokes work best in providing the best experience for the listener and the original intent of the composer.
In art, landscape painters must choose which visual elements will be the main communicative threads within a work.  Is the work going to be about the landscape’s light, it’s colors, structural elements, the play of shapes, or its textural nuance?  Although all of these elements may be present in a particular piece, on or two concepts must take precedence to be easily aesthetically read, otherwise, all of the elements compete within the work and it becomes too busy.  Like a painter, the conductor decides what is most important and magical about the a work and determines what the main threads should be.  They translate the score and form it into a new experiential product.
I like to think of metaphorically: The earth is the original product from the composer, the interpretation of the visualized landscape is carried out by the conductor/painter and the musicians sound the ultimate physicality of product, producing the palette in action.
Conductor Thomas Collohan shared, with me, a famous paraphrased quote he once heard, ‘The conductor is the energized copper wire, the musicians are the lightbulbs and the music is the light.’   Another way to look at this, is the conductor brings the shape of the energy into the musicians actions and forces their combined performance into something greater as a unified whole.
The composers markings may be a detailed map for the musician, but the latitude of nuance, between conductors vision and aural journey, seems huge to my ears.

John Devlin, the conductor for the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, explained to me. ‘On one hand, conductors are hamstrung by those very same markings. A conductors first job is to capture and reflect the intent of the composer.  Although the conductor is needed to pull together all of the musicians into one force, each musician is completely equipped to play their part perfectly well.  They are gifted professionals.  The conductor determines the rules of engagement for the works, the timing, the starts and stops and the dynamic interpretations.’
Consider googling conducting master classes and rehearsals by your favorite conductors, or some from the list of this show and enjoy seeing how the conductors aural landscape is painted in real time.  I hope we can broaden our horizons and learn enough to foster new ways of listening together.  That is the hope for all my music visualizations.

There are many conductors I did not have room for, so don’t be surprised if The Conductor Envisioned, has a second round in the years to come.  Perhaps adding more current, and up and coming conductors, with more past greats.

Previous Exhibitions

2021 February – Featured Artist commission – The Wheeling SymphonySoundbitesNight of Gershwin, visual collaboration featuring 2-d artwork and video to the live performance of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”

2020 – Studio Visit Magazine – four pages featuring paintings and paper-works.

2020 November-December – The Conductor Envisioned, solo show at The Workhouse Arts Center.

2020 January – Arts Club of Washington – featured artist Spilsbury Gallery.

2019 December 6 – Arts Club of Washington,  Member’s show.

2019 October 26-January 12th – Glass National, Workhouse Arts Center – The reception is from 6pm-9pm, November 9th, 2019.

2019 September 14th-October 6th, Jazz Envisioned: Manhattan Lullaby – solo show opening reception Sept. 14th and concert collaboration with jazz composer, Chris Ziemba October 5th, 2019.

2019 August-September 26th Faculty/Staff show, The Center for Design, Media and The Arts, Alexandria, VA – curator/exhibitor

2019 September 6th-October – HIGH NOTE – Del Ray Artisans Association – Juror

2019 June, July, Arts Club of Washington

2019 June, July, August, Artists in Their Own Right, Workhouse Arts Center – Reception 6-8pm July 13th, building 16 second floor- Curator

2019  March-June,  EARTHTONES Capital One Headquarters, McLean

2018 December, Arts Club of WashingtonAward of Excellence

2018 October American Stories, American Stamps, AIGA and Northern Virginia Community College.

2018 August, Faculty/Staff Show, Northern Virginia Community College

2018 July-September, Huntington Museum of Art

2018 June-July  Arts Club of WashingtonAward of Excellence

2018 January “COMPOUNDS NOT REQUIRED: 29, 47, 13”,  Workhouse Arts Center.

2017 December, Arts Club of Washington

2017 June 4t, Mystical and Majestic: Art/Music collaboration with VA Bronze:  Music within stained glass lit by a self-coded light show to the concert music.  Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, Debussy etc., Solo Show and collaboration. 2017 June 4th:  National Masonic Temple, Alexandria, VA.  June 17th: Workhouse Arts Center.

2017 June 4th, Mystical and Majestic: Art/Music collaboration with VA Bronze:  Music within stained glass lit by a self-coded light show to the concert music.  Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, Debussy etc., National Masonic Temple, Alexandria, VA.

2017  Collectors Showcase, The Workhouse Arts Center, Juror Emily Smith

2017 January, “La Vie en BleuStrathmore Center for the Arts

2016 Director’s Collection, Workhouse Arts Center – Juror Al Masino and  Donald H. Russell

2016 Collector’s Showcase, Workhouse Arts Center.  Juror Sarah Newman

2016 August, Faculty/Staff Show, Northern Virginia Community College

2016 April, The Art of Britt Conley: Music and Portraits. Solo Show, Crossroads Gallery

2015 Director’s Collection, Workhouse Arts Center – Juror Peter Winant and Chris Neptune

2015 Collector’s Showcase, The Workhouse Arts Center – 1st runner up

2015 November, Musical Phrasing: Drawings on the Musicality of Phrasing, Solo Show, Workhouse Arts Center

2014 November, Jazz Envisioned (Collaboration of art and Jazz) solo show at The Workhouse Arts Center

2014 August, Faculty/Staff Show, Northern Virginia Community College

2014 The Collector’s Showcase, The Workhouse Arts Center

2014 Director’s Collection, The Workhouse Arts Center

2013 August, Faculty/Staff Show, Northern Virginia Community College,

2013 Collector’s Showcase – The Workhouse Arts Center – Juror Jack Rasmussen.

2013 Conceptual Structuralism: Consideration with Graphite – Solo Show, Workhouse Arts Center

2012 August, Faculty/Staff Show, Northern Virginia Community College

2007 Arlington Arts Center

2007 Portraits: Intimate Structuralism, Solo Show

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