art · culture

Welcome Back, Smithsonian Institute!

I’m finally writing a post that I’ve wanted to write for weeks now: welcome back to the Smithsonian Institute! During what is officially the longest shutdown in US history, visitors had to go without this cultural treasure.The Smithsonian Institute (SI), along with the National Gallery of Art (NGA), are finally running again after shuttering their doors at the end of December. Even when several other federal agencies were furloughed, SI and NGA both made sure to continue operating until the end of the calendar year.

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It’s this commitment to the American public that really distinguishes these fine organizations. No one is happier to welcome them back that I am.

You’ve been missed.

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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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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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Art As Taught by the Smithsonian

I came across a fabulous Smithsonian Institute program that some of my fellow art lovers may want to check out.

“You love art. Now become the expert you’ve always wanted to be. Register in Smithsonian Associates Certificate Program in World Art History

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Well, with that lead in, who wouldn’t want to learn more about this program? This certificate program has 10 courses (four core courses and six electives) offered by the Smithsonian and you can take them at your leisure. You can start at any time and choose the courses that interest you as time goes along.

Even if you aren’t interested in completing the program, the opportunity to get instruction from the premiere staff employed by the Smithsonian is too good to pass up. Also, the chance to connect with fellow art enthusiasts who have decided to take their interests to the next level by enrolling in courses.

However, if you do enroll in the program, you get access to a “private Facebook group where you can interact with fellow students and pose questions to lecturers”. You will also get exclusive invitations to events at the institution. I’m considering enrolling in 2019, if inspiration leads me to it.

Have any of you had a chance to take some art courses, either online or in person? I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments below. Take care!