o say can you see

Posted by on May 1, 2009 in Illustration | 0 comments

I have so much to process from our recent trip to Washington, DC, I don’t know where to begin. We traveled with friends, saw old friends, and plenty of art and monuments in between. The change in administration and spring blossoms drew crowds just like us, so we didn’t get our White House tour tickets. But it’s the very first sight we needed to see upon arrival. Isn’t is beautiful?

The next day was sunny and sublime, taking in the glories of the National Mall. Both my daughter and I took photos of Alexander Calder’s “The Gwenfritz,” a 35- ton stabile at the corner of the Smithsonian. Hers captures the delightful tension of figure/ground principles better than mine. The egg-shaped negative space foreshadows other sights to see.

The carousel was a welcome spot: shade and music and maybe never growing up.

The most striking aspect about DC was the openness, the visibility of the Washington Monument from just about anywhere. What vision the nation’s architects had back before the population explosion, to create a vast field that would someday be packed with freedom seekers! This wasn’t my first trip to DC, yet my awe overwhelmed me. Must be age.

We nabbed a fun pedicab ride over to the Lincoln Memorial. This was undoubtedly the most moving moment. Lincoln’s 200th birthday has been celebrated all year, but visiting his memorial let the power of history truly sink in.

Next stop, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. It’s downright mind-boggling there.

From big stuff:

to this radiolarian (photoplankton?) magnified 3400 times that caught my eye:

Lucky for me, Marty was willing to take kids to the Spy Museum so that the moms could visit the contemplative beauty found at the National Musuem of Women in the Arts.
where a fabulous exhibit called “Mary McFadden Goddesses” was happening. It was surely divine intervention, to have both fashion and cosmic serendipty coincide. The gowns featured Greek, Egyptian, Italian, Persian, and Asian influences. Her painted silk designs and collectible jewelry made me swoon. A show of Louise Dahl-Wolfe’s photos and the permanent collection also hit many chords. And to see a Frida painting in person is like visiting an altar.

We stayed with an old friend (and former diplomat) of Marty’s who suggested we couldn’t visit DC without seeing the “seat of power.”

We encountered free speech, tourists, and the enormity of democracy all in one.

Nearby we visited National Museum of the American Indian, housed in an undulating ode to native architecture.

Besides a surprising exhibit on American Indian comics, there were numerous collections of artifacts and contemporary art. Loved this gold display.

I love this mosquito mask, too. Praying for no bites this summer.

Right next door is the National Air and Space Museum. At this point, I was bordering on museum fatigue. Who wouldn’t? There is only so much national heritage one can take in 3 days. We gratefully sank into plush seats in the Einstein Planetarium for a mesmerizing movie on black holes. It took me so far beyond the beyond, I was done. Left my family inside to sit vacantly on the museum steps and stare catatonically at this sculpture. Worked for me.

We were rescued from tourism then by my college chum, David Hicks. He brought us to his groovy digs to catch up, relax, and reconnect. More art to enjoy, like this luscious painting of his, somewhat obstructed by one weary kid.

David works by day as the photo editor at The Washingtonian, but otherwise keeps busy with multiple creative outlets: painting, piano-playing, and erstwhile animation. Check out his Board Games episode!

I love this painting, also David’s, and it’s signage.

The next day it was off to Baltimore to see more sights and folks. First stop: Donna’s.

Both Marty and I worked with Donna in her design days, at the Boston Globe and the Baltimore Sun. We hadn’t visited her restaurant empire since 1993, and it only grows more delicious and elegant with time. Here’s an early menu I illustrated, way back when Donna’s was new and I was doing collage.

She dropped us off at the Baltimore Museum of Art where I spotted my cover for “Secrets of the Cirque Medrano” in their special circus shop, in honor of a current exhibit, “Picasso to Leger.”

This was my favorite find, a Warhol I’d never seen before that triggered my radar around eggs and nests.

We stayed with ex-islanders, Karen and Steve and son, Zach. Loved, loved their house! And look, we had fresh bread made by Steve and hard-boiled eggs for breakfast that could have leapt from that Warhol painting. A sight to behold and the taste lingers.

Both Karen and Steve are accomplished writers and performers, but I never knew Karen was a drop-dead amazing painter, too! She has a way with the palette knife in this portrait of her son.

All I managed to do on this entire trip was draw their cat. I am allergic to cats, and cats never cease to be drawn to my disenchanted air. But this one respected my boundaries, curling up a few feet next to me while the gang was at Zach’s baseball game. (Go Cavaliers!) We had a wordless conversation. Just what I needed at that point.

The biggest surprise of the entire trip was visiting the American Visonary Art Musuem
a quirky Baltimore gem that’s a must-see. From the mirror mosaics to the outsider art, I was in a state of wonder. Still am. Note recurring egg theme.

Folk art is alive and well here.

The newest exhibit is called “The Marriage of Art, Science, and Philosophy,” and presented notions of play, intuition, and desire as primary forces shaping creative invention. From the show’s dedication to Arthur C. Clarke to radiant sculptures of planets to paintings by Alex Gray, the whole thing had me hovering a few feet off the ground. This quote by Einstein hung on one wall: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.” It was a reminder not to dismiss my right brain so often.

According to the show’s catalog, museums “have their purpose harnessed to the proliferation of wonder and the presentation and preservation of the rare, the well-crafted, and a more awake way of firsthand witnessing. The American Visionary Art Museum believes that if one is only dedicated to things, art as object, you establish a repository for the dead, a mausoleum rather than a MUSE (an alive, spirit, vision, inspiration-based) museum. Right on!

The AVAM says, “Visonaries are the brave scouts at the frontier of the unknown.”

This sign probably lights up at night, beckoning visionaries from all corners.

Young girls in love with Obama will carry their vision of hope into the future.

Believe in the invisible!

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