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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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This Week in DC Art

Happy Tuesday, friends! This is a holiday week, so you may be trying to find something to do other than simply eating turkey with family and friends (though that’s a perfectly good plan, as well!) If so, I have a few art-related things that you can check out if you want to do something different during this holiday weekend.

For starters, the National Portrait Gallery has an exhibit highlighting the history of the selfie-er, I mean, the past 100+ years of self-portraiture. Eye to I: Self Portraits from 1900 to Today showcases 75 different works that show how different artists during this period chose to depict themselves. It should be a fun and fascinating exhibit.

The National Portrait Gallery also recently acquired a photograph of Celia Cruz that is worth a trip all on its own, so if you go, make sure to pay homage to Queen Celia.

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¡Yo soy de Cuba la Voz, Guantanamera! by Alexis Rodríguez-Duarte, inkjet print, 1994 (printed 2016). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution © 1994, Alexis Rodríguez-Duarte

At the National Gallery of Art, this is the last full week that you can check out the exhibition Water, Wind and Waves: Marine Paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. If you love the sea (like me), this exhibition shouldn’t be missed. With the Dutch being personally invested in seafaring activities, these paintings have a level of realism and intensity that is rarely duplicated by other artists.

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Estuary at Day’s End by Simon de Vlieger, c. 1640/1645

Finally, if you’re spending time at the National Portrait Gallery, you might as well swing over to the Smithsonian American Art Museum (these two institutions are housed in the same building). Pushing the Envelope: Mail Art form the Archives of American Art is showcasing a fascinating subset of art: mail art. Artists in the 1960s and onward started using postal mail as a new outlet for their creativity. This exhibition has mail art that captures the spirit of the times, including pieces that mark significant political periods.

These are just a few of the exhibitions in DC this week that are worth checking out. I hope you spend a little time patronizing these fine institutions over this upcoming weekend!

 

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“See It Before It’s Gone” Art Exhibitions

Happy Tuesday, darlings! What would a new month be if I didn’t reflect on the upcoming exhibits coming to the area?

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Photograph featured in a tribute to Senator John S. McCain III at the National Portrait Gallery

Surprisingly, there are no exhibitions coming to any of the Smithsonian Museums this month. However, there are a few exhibitions ending this month. Here’s what I’ll be checking out in the next couple of weeks:

At the National Portrait Gallery:

In Memoriam: Senator John S. McCain III (ending on September 9th)

Celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s 100th Birthday (ending on September 23rd)

At the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden:

George Baselitz: Six Decades (ending on September 16th)

Tony Lewis: Anthology 2014 -2016 (ending on September 16th)

The Message: New Media Works (ending on September 30th)

It looks like I’m going to have some very busy days over the next few weeks, since I can’t seem to stay out of the Smithsonian and I love taking advantage of being so close to the museums. Look out for some review posts in the near future!

 

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Henrietta Lacks, An Overdue Tribute

Recently, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African American History and Culture jointly acquired a painting of Henrietta Lacks, as portrayed by Kadir Nelson. Lacks died from cervical cancer at the age of 31, and her cells were subsequently studied and used over the past 60+ years. Lacks’s cells (named HeLa, for Henrietta Lacks) were instrumental in developing treatments for a variety of illnesses, such as polio, AIDS and Parkinson’s Disease.

I was familiar with Lacks’s story from many years back, as she was a Virginia native and never forgotten here, in her state of birth. Thus, I knew that I had to see the painting, titled “Henrietta Lacks (HeLa): The Mother of Modern Medicine”, for myself.

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Henrietta Lacks (HeLa): The Mother of Modern Medicine, Kadir Nelson, oil on linen, 2017

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Information card as displayed in the National Portrait Gallery

The painting is large and breathtaking: Lacks smiling sweetly and posed with her bible. Nelson incorporated some very special details that refer to Lacks’s legacy. As stated on the National Portrait Gallery press release:

“Commissioned by HBO, Nelson used visual elements to convey Lacks’ legacy. The wallpaper features the “Flower of Life,” a symbol of immortality; the flowers on her dress recall images of cell structures; and two missing buttons allude to the cells taken from her body without permission.”

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Close up of the background, featuring the “Flower of Life”

Henrietta Lacks’s story raises issues surrounding ethics, right to patients’ genetic information, and privacy. The fact that she died but her cells made it possible for other people to live is heartbreaking, but what’s even more tragic is the fight that her family had to undertake to challenge the medical industry that used HeLa cells without Lacks’s, or her family’s, consent.

I’m so happy that Henrietta Lacks is being featured at the Smithsonian Museum and is taking her rightful place in American history. I really enjoyed seeing this beautiful portrait for myself, and I hope that you all get a chance to check it out, too! It will be at the National Portrait Gallery until November 4, 2018, and then it will be at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. You’ll be glad that you made the visit!

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New Exhibitions Coming to Washington DC

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Happy Thursday, friends! Before we welcome the month of June, I thought you all might enjoy a list of some of the exhibitions coming to DC during the month. Have fun planning your museum trips! I know that I will.

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Kreeger Museum, June 5 – July 31, 2018: The art for this exhibit is coming from the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon. This museum is fairly new: it opened to the public in October 2016.  This is a special exhibition because it is the first group exhibition of 21st century Portuguese art of the 21st century to be presented in the United States.

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Fabergé piece on display at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden, June 9, 2018 – January 13, 2019: As a lover of all things bejeweled and antique, Peter Carl Fabergé’s work is an eternal fave. So I won’t miss this exhibition at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden in DC.  Fortunately, this exhibit will be here for several months, so if you can’t make it this summer, you have until early 2019 to visit and check it out.

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Daguerrotype of Louis Daguerre, one of the fathers of photography

National Portrait Gallery, June 15, 2018 – June 2, 2019: The National Portrait Gallery (NPG) will be exhibiting daguerrotypes collected over 50 years. This early form of photography was the predecessor to photography as we know it today. The collection has some very famous faces, like P. T. Barnum and Matthew C. Perry, within it. The museum is celebrating it’s golden anniversary this year, so you can bet that there will be a lot of great exhibits throughout the year. 

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Smithsonian Folklife Festival

National Mall, June 27 – July 1, 2018; July 4 – 8, 2018

June ends on a strong note with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This year’s festival will highlight Armenia, Catalonia and the Sisterfire Concerts. It’s technically not an art exhibition, but if you’re in the area, you can’t miss the festival. This is always a great opportunity to take in international culture over several days.

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5 Lessons from Amy Sherald, An American Success Story

A few months back, the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama was unveiled and put on display at the National Portrait Gallery. The painter, Amy Sherald, quickly became a household name, as her unique portraiture captivated art appreciators and stirred discussion on what makes an “acceptable” political portrait.

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Michelle Obama as portrayed by Amy Sherald (I took this photo a few weeks ago)

But today, I’m not talking about whether Sherald’s painting was aesthetically pleasing or suitable for a First Lady (though, after seeing it in person, I agree that it is both beautiful and a fitting tribute to Mrs. Obama). I want to talk about Sherald and what makes her the ultimate American success story. Here are five lessons we can learn from Amy Sherald:

  • Be committed to your craft.

Sherald studied art in her undergraduate and graduate years. Before committing to art school, she practiced her craft daily and participated in arts camps during the summer. Much like Sherald, if you want success, you have to be committed to your craft

  • Seize as many opportunities as you possibly can.

Sherald apprenticed for art historians, curated for museums abroad, and she also lived and studied in Norway, China and Panama. She didn’t let distance keep her from seizing opportunities that brought her closer to her dream. Likewise, the opportunities we need are rarely in our own backyard: we have to seize them wherever they are, even if that takes us around the world and away from everything familiar.

  • Don’t allow discouragement to distract you.

Despite Sherald’s immense talent, her family wasn’t particularly supportive of her decision to be a full-time artist. In fact, it wasn’t until she won the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition that her mother view art as a viable career for Amy. Our loved ones mean well, but we may have to “tune out” their well-meaning advice that doesn’t bring us closer to what we want.

  • Be courageous enough to choose discomfort in service to your vision.

Sherald herself mentioned that she chose “discomfort” in order to create art that inspires. Discomfort means that we sacrifice certainty for the possibility of realizing our highest selves. Try a little discomfort to help you make strides toward your goal.

  • It’s never too late to be what you envision yourself to be.

Sherald was 42 when she won the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Dreams aren’t just for the young and wide-eyed: consistency and focus will bring you the success you desire, even if it’s a little later than you expected. By consistently following the previously mentioned steps, you’ll be prepared for your “big break” whenever it comes along.

Have you had a chance to check out Amy Sherald’s work? Let me know in the comments below!