Monday, May 09, 2011

A Museum Visit

There have been several things of late that are deserving of their own posts, so I'll endeavor to catch up a bit, even if things are out of order.

I signed up to be a chaperone on Sara's field trip to one of my favorite museums-The Smithsonian American Art Museum.  I turned in the permission slip weeks ago and then sort of forgot about it. On the Tuesday before the Friday of the trip, the teacher called and said that yes, they needed me. I immediately changed around my schedule and decided that yes, I would forfeit 4 hours in the darkroom because the bottom line is that you just don't give up a chance to be in your teenager's near orbit for 6 hours. I love seeing her with her pals and listening in the snippets of conversations and all that. Love it. So, two Fridays ago, we went. It was a perfect day, a friend of mine was one of the other chaperones, and Sara was in her creative, artistic element.

Another bonus was being able to go on a docent-led tour. I never think to be that organized when I visit a museum on my own, but it was so worth it. She guided us through the museum with a specific theme based on the art teachers' request, and it was fascinating to look at the art with a context and a sort of structure. It made it so that I didn't feel like I had to look at each thing. It was okay to just look at the pieces she had selected for the tour and understand them in a new way. I will try to remember to make use of these amazing volunteers the next time I go, and I've added something else to the list of things I want to do when I grow up-she seemed to be having a lot of fun. Here are some of the pieces that either moved me or made wonder about the process or that were just magnetic enough to pull me over to get a closer look:

The Swing. This one looks like a simple drop cloth
but the colors are gorgeous, and any gallery
that acquires it can hang it however they like. So, the artist
allows his vision to intersect with the vision of the curator,
making it into something slightly different each time.
It's a fascinating idea. 

Forgot to capture the info, but if you look closely, the
white figures give the appearance of people. Is it a
landscape? A battle scene?  

Yay, knitting in fine art! But she appears to have three
single-pointed needles in use at the same time, so
either the artist made a mistake or she was doing something
really unusual. 

I loved the way that D.C. looked through the
sunshades on all the huge windows in the
museum. It was like the cityscape was part of
the collection of artwork. The shades made me
notice it more and look more closely rather than
ignoring it. 

This and the following two are of the same artwork. It is
a painting done on the floor and wall of an entire room.
This image shows that it is done in many colors. 

However, when the computerized light show starts, the
color of the filtered light turns it into a single-hued scene.
There are also three dimensional elements that change as
the light moves and casts shadows, so even though it is
one static piece, just moving the position and color of the  light
makes it a living, breathing piece of art that changes moment by moment. 

And now it becomes all reds and oranges. 

At first I was sure this was a favorite artist,
James C. Christensen, but it is not. It is another
artist named Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson and
was painted in 1891. The similarity in style to
some of Christensen's contemporary work
was really striking to me, so I'd love to know
if she or even just this painting are part
of Christensen's inspiration. 
Even the floor tiles were awesome. This whole museum is
 a great space,  with lots to see. They have a section called
the Luce Center that is what's called Visible Storage, so you can see
many more paintings than the museum can display in the typical way.
It is arranged with special glass cases on several floors around
an atrium like the stacks in a library. 

I find this place very inspirational, with many pieces that I like to come back and see over and over again, but also a wealth of things that are new and different each time. Plus it is attached to the National Portrait Gallery, so you really get two, two museums in one. You should go sometime.

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