Artomatic 2012 (1851 S. Bell St.) has already started, but there’s still plenty to see and do including many musical performances, film screenings and more.
Philip Gerlach, also known as his alter-ego Queen Bambi, is one of the artists featured this year, with his first-ever exhibit showcasing his photography.
“I was encouraged by another artist … in order to get my work out there,” Gerlach says. “Artomatic was a great launching ground.”
Gerlach has been taking photos since he was 5, when as a reward his father gave him an old instamatic camera. But he never intended on making a career out of it — it was always a hobby.
Gerlach attended West Virginia University, studying animal and veterinary science when he took a photography class during his last semester. His passion for the class changed his career path, leading to a second degree in graphic design.
He is now coming on 15 years as the sole owner and creative director of Gerlach Design.
Gerlach’s exhibit focuses on three series of images he’s been working on.
One series, “Child’s Play,” focuses on found art, zooming into different elements that might not be seen otherwise.
“There has to be an obscure detail that might be missed by most people,” Gerlach says of his process. “I try to find a story within something that might be overlooked. I’m a very detail-orientated person in everything that I do.”
The toys pictured in this series were part of various cars Gerlach saw on display in Baltimore.
The other series are “Oohs & Aahs,” featuring self-portraits of his alter ego, Bambi, and “Zoom,” a continuing series featuring light and movement, which Gerlach says reflects his life and “fascination with all that sparkles.”
Gerlach isn’t just into visual arts, but performance arts as well, using his alter ego to help raise money for various local organizations, particularly HIV/AIDS charities.
“Becoming comfortable on stage in drag, led to opportunities for me … to serve organizations … to use my character power to raise funds, sell raffle tickets and promote events,” Gerlach says. “I’ve done fundraising for [Food & Friends] in drag for seven years … on a volunteer basis.”
This may be Gerlach’s first year participating in Artomatic, but it’s not his first exposure to the event. He first went seven or eight years ago when the event was held in D.C. and opened on Halloween night. He went dressed in drag in a deer costume.
The festival requires at least 15 volunteer hours from the artists and Gerlach spent his hours helping set the space up.
“It’s been a great networking experience,” Gerlach says. “I chose to do those … laboring in the volunteer space … along with other artists and its been a great way to … realize just how tremendously huge the art community in Washington is.”
This year, the month-long art festival is being held in a former office building slated for demolition. There are 10 floors of art by more than 1,000 artists spanning several mediums from visual art to fashion and more.
Some of the upcoming special events include a free demonstration on how to draw popular superheroes by Utrecht on Friday at 7 p.m., an artist social on Saturday at 8 p.m., a meet the artists night June 2 at 7 p.m. and more.
There’s also a weekly “Art-to-Go” marketplace on Saturdays from 1 to 6 p.m.
Artomatic is open Wednesdays and Thursday from noon to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 1 a.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
For more information on Artomatic and a complete list of events, visit artomatic.org. There’s even a mobile version of the site for the day’s event schedule.