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A Slice of the Congo in Richmond, VA: Congo Masks Exhibition

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Happy Hump Day, friends! While I haven’t been able to get to the Smithsonian Institute or National Gallery of Art for several months ( it’s been awhile since I’ve been in Washington DC, and then there was a shutdown), I have had a chance to check out local museums. Recently, I went to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to get a dose of African art. I viewed the Congo Masks: Masterpieces from Central Africa exhibition. This collection of masks from the Democratic Republic of the Congo offers Virginians a rare glimpse into the mystical and captivating world of African art, celebration, and ritual.

I am so glad that VMFA is displaying these treasures. I’ll do an in-depth analysis of the exhibition in a future post. In the meantime, here are a few photos from the exhibition. Enjoy!

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I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Take care, and stay warm!

 

 

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Art and its Appreciators Suffer During Government Shutdowns

Happy Thursday, friends! I hope that this Thursday sees you in good health and fantastic spirits. I wanted to post a quick update because, as you all may recall, a few weeks ago I posted about Smithsonian exhibitions that were scheduled to leave the museums in January 2019. I wanted to make sure you all knew the exhibitions that would be leaving soon so that you could take advantage of these before they left DC.

However, my post about the exhibitions came right before the government shutdown. I was not aware that the shutdown would be affecting  the Smithsonian Institution as well as the National Gallery of Art. As a federal employee, I’m aware of what a shutdown can do. I’m also aware that the Smithsonian is part of the federal government.  Despite knowing these things, I did not know that the shutdown would happen for such a long period of time. I also didn’t know to the extent that the Smithsonian would be affected.

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The Smithsonian Castle

Regrettably, while the shutdown continues, the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art are not available to serve the public who have funded them throughout the year. I regret that so many people will not be able to enjoy these fine museums until the government is up and running again. Fortunately for us, the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art have made many exhibitions viewable on their respective websites.  Yes, I know that websites don’t compared to viewing these treasures in person, but until the museums reopen, we’ll have to make do with what we have.

Let’s all send good vibrations to the hard-working staff of the Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art, who will not receive compensation while the shutdown is occurring. Let us also send good vibrations to the legislators who are trying their best to resolve the shutdown issue with as little negative impact to the workers as possible.

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Leaving Soon – Smithsonian Exhibitions Leaving in January 2019

Happy Sunday! It’s a dreary, rainy Sunday in central Virginia but here’s hoping the weather is more pleasant wherever you are.

If you are planning any trips to the Northern Virginia/District of Columbia/Maryland area during January 2019, then you’ll want to carve out a little time to visit the Smithsonian Institute, one of the most extensive museum collectives in the world. And, if you’re an art lover (like me), you’ll probably want to know which exhibitions are leaving so you won’t miss them during your visit.

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Visitors at the National Collection of Fine Arts touring a gallery of contemporary art by Unidentified Artist, Photo Blow-up, 1968, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. (as seen in the Celebrating Fifty Years exhibition)

So, for your visiting convenience, here is a list of Smithsonian exhibitions slated to leave the Institute in January 2019. They are organized from early in January to the end of January, so you know which ones to check out first. Enjoy!

January 1 – In Memoriam: George Herbert Walker Bush (National Portrait Gallery)

January 4 – Pushing the Envelope: Mail Art from the Archives of American Art (Archives of American Art Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery)

January 6 – Celebrating Fifty Years (National Portrait Gallery)

January 6 – UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar (National Portrait Gallery)

January 6 – Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen (Smithsonian American Art Museum)

January 6 – Let’s Get It Right: Work Incentive Posters of the 1920s (National Museum of American History)

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One of the work posters in the Let’s Get It Right exhibition

January 21 – No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man (Renwick Gallery)

January 21 – Diane Arbus: A box of ten photographs (Smithsonian American Art Museum)

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One of the prints shown at the Diane Arbus exhibition (Diane Arbus, A woman with her baby monkey, N.J. 1971)

January 24 – Japan Modern: Photography from the Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck Collection (Arthur M. Sackler Gallery [Sackler Gallery])

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Kawase Hasui, Daikon Embankment (from the series Twelve Scenes of Tokyo), 1920 (as featured in the Japan Modern exhibition at the Sackler Gallery)

January 24 – Japan Modern: Prints in the Age of Photography (Sackler Gallery)

January 27 – Charline von Heyl: Snake Eyes (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)

 

I hope this list helps you plan a fun and art-filled trip to the Washington, DC area! Take care, and enjoy your Sunday!

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A Tale of Two Cleopatras: Comparing and Contrasting Art

Happy Thursday, friends! After a recent trip to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, I found myself with a few art photos that I wanted to share with you all, but I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of sharing the photos and simply telling you what I think about it, I decided that it would be more fun to compare the art with a similarly themed piece that I’ve also viewed in person. That way, I can describe the similarities, differences, and which piece I favor most.

(from left to right) Edmonia Lewis, The Death of Cleopatra; William Wetmore Story, Cleopatra

As you can see from the title, I’m comparing two marble Cleopatras today. The first work was part of my review of Edmonia Lewis’s work at the Archives of American Art (housed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum). Lewis’s The Death of Cleopatra was easily one of my favorite marble works of art at the museum.

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Photos of Lewis’s version of Cleopatra

The second Cleopatra is by William Wetmore Story, and is located at VMFA. This Cleopatra – his earliest version of the tragic Egyptian queen – is located in the American galleries at the museum. The massive work sits imposingly in the gallery and, in true queenly fashion, all other art in the room are dwarfed by the stunning Cleopatra.

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To keep this focused strictly on the works themselves, I avoided reading up on Wetmore Story. So there won’t be a comparison of the artists’ lives or legacies, but we will get into these pieces and discuss what they have in common and how they differ.

For starters, the subject is the same with both pieces. Both depict Queen Cleopatra, and (interestingly) both of the pieces portray her as having traditionally Greco-Roman facial features (kudos to the artists for remaining historically accurate when it came to her face). Both statues are massive: Lewis’s is a bit taller, but the posture is different, so they are actually very close in size. Amusingly, both also depict Cleopatra with one breast exposed. Perhaps they knew something about traditional Egyptian dress that I don’t?

While both of these Cleopatras are regal and elegant, the theme of the works couldn’t be more different. Wetmore Story’s Cleopatra is pensive and in deep contemplation: she is troubled by something and has probably just asked her servants to give her some privacy. Is she thinking about lost loves, or the impending downfall of her rule? Her mind may be racing over any number of things.

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Lewis’s Cleopatra has just committed suicide and is dying on her throne as her last royal act. She has just closed her eyes and her left arm has fallen limply to her side. Even in death, her face is struggling to relax comfortably: this queen is pained to the grave.

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As far as fine detailing on the pieces, I’m a fan of Wetmore Story’s version. To be fair, Lewis’s work had been exposed to considerable environmental elements and poor handling, so the sculpture isn’t as impeccably detailed as it (likely) once was.

My favorite Cleopatra is probably Lewis’s version, for this reason: she captured death and pain without making it grotesque or unnaturally pretty. This Cleopatra is finding it difficult to “rest in peace” but, ever the royal, she makes us feel pride, and not pity, for her. Wetmore Story’s Cleopatra is enchanting, for sure: I loved how well he captured her troubled mental state behind her stoic, regal expression. His Cleopatra is alive with emotion; however, Lewis’s Cleopatra moves us even in death.

That’s my not-so-quick comparison of two Cleopatras. I hope you all enjoyed and will make it a goal to see both of these beautiful works at some point in time. Enjoy your day, and I’ll chat with you all tomorrow!

 

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A Few More Pictures from “What Remains to Be Seen”

I have a few more pictures from the exhibit, “What Remains to Be Seen”, featuring the works of Howardena Pindell. I wrote about the exhibit previously, but I returned to see it one more time before it left. Pindell’s work left a huge impression on me, if you couldn’t tell!

I hope you all enjoy these final glimpses of the exhibition. I will treasure the time that I spent learning about Pindell and marveling over her work. Stopping by VMFA one more time before the exhibition left was a wise decision: I’m glad that I did it!

art · culture

Howardena Pindell’s “What Remains to Be Seen” at VMFA

A few months ago, I went to a special event at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, announcing an upcoming exhibition. That exhibition was a retrospective of the creative career of Howardena Pindell, multimedia artist, activist and professor. “What Remains to be Seen” is an impressive ouevre that showcases Pindell’s evolution as an artist, and is broken down into the different phases of her life and creative journey.

Today (November 25) is the last day to see the works, so I’m heading to the museum shortly so I can enjoy them one last time before they leave. However, I’ve got a few pictures for you all in this post, some additional commentary (of course LOL!) as well as a YouTube video of Pindell’s most famous short, “Free, White and 21”. Enjoy!

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Howardena Pindell

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Pindell’s use of grids and numbers created some of her most riveting work. I love seeing how she turns numbers and otherwise sterile, math-related tools and objects, into art.

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The 3-d grid below is a good example of the blend of art and math. It’s probably one of my favorite works by her.

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The tiny individual circles affixed to many of Pindell’s pieces reveal her love of mathematic perfection reinterpreted. These pieces, attached to the grids she loved to work with, were occasionally numbered individually.

Like many artists, Pindell sought to promote cultural shifts through activism. Her works also featured socio-political themes that were near and dear to her.

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One of my favorite themes explored by Pindell was that of science. Closely related to her mathematics fascination, her interpretation of natural phenomenon and wonders created some of her most aesthetically charming works (though, to be honest, I love all of her work and find it all aesthetically pleasing). I especially loved “Nautilus” and “Night Flight” (pictures are below).

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Finally, here is “Free, White and 21”, Pindell’s video experiment where she aims to repair her memory loss (caused by a serious car accident) by recalling memories from earlier in her life.

art · life curation

The Writing and Drawing Salons Are Back!

You’ll recall last year that I wrote about how the National Gallery of Art offers writing and drawing salons seasonally (during the fall, winter and spring). I’m delighted to share that the salons are back! In fact, I’m a little late to the party: the first salons have already happened! Here is the schedule for the remaining salon events:

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Writing Salon

  • Character: The Power of Detail (November 2018)
  • Perspective: Inside Out (January/February 2019)
  • Setting: Capturing Place (February 2019)
  • Story: The Narrative Arc (March 2019)
  • Poetry: Movement and Meaning (April/May 2019)

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Drawing Salon

  • Rachel Whiteread and Sculpting Memory (November/December 2018)
  • El Greco’s Expressive Figures (January/February 2019)
  • Illuminating American Landscapes (March 2019)
  • The Portraits of Sir Anthony van Dyck (April/May 2019)

Kudos to the National Gallery of Art for expanding the schedule to accommodate more participants during this salon season. I recall the years when the events were held over three days only. However, this year (and last year, if I recall correctly), each theme has up to 8 different dates for attendees! More people can participate in these events with all of these dates available.

I plan to attend several salons this year. I didn’t make it to any last year, but I should have a lot more schedule flexibility over the next few months. If you decide to attend, I’ll see you there!