Cultural Weekend – Part 1B – Saturday

More on my Portrait Gallery trip ….


the building was the third public building constructed in DC after the White House and the US Capitol.In his original plan for the U.S. Capital, Pierre L'Enfant designated the site for a national nondenominational church or pantheon of heroes.  In 1836 President Andrew Jackson authorized construction of a fireproof patent office.  It is constructed of freestone and sandstone from Virginia; marble & granite from Maine, Mass, Connecticut & Maryland. 

The south wing was completed first and the Patent Office moved in the building in 1840.

The government's historical and art collections including the Declaration of Independence and George Washington's Revolutionary War camp tent were kept on the 3rd floor which was then called the National Gallery.

The building was used as a temporary barracks at the beginning of the Civil War and as a hospital and morgue after the battles of Manassas (Bull Run), Antietam and Fredricksburg.

The total cost of the building was $2.3 million – which given the time was a lot of money!

In 1877 the upper floors of the west and north wings were ravaged by fire.  Nearly 87,000 patent models were destroyed.

In 1932, after 92 years, the Patent Office moved out of the building.

In 1953 the building was slated for demolition to make way for a parking lot!!!!!!   President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1955 which saved the building and in 1958 Congress transferred the building to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery opened to the public in January 1968.

In 2000 the building was closed for extensive renovations and re-opened on July 1st 2006.

Okay – back to the exhibits:

If only I'd known that my old pantyhose had value outside of staking up my roses and tomato vines!!    This piece is called Arachne by Bruce Conner 1959.  It consists of nylon stockings, collage and cardboard. The title refers to the proud girl who wove stories of the gods' misbehavior into her cloth, boasting that she could outperform Athena, goddess of spinners and weavers. Out of spite, Athena transformed Arachne into a spider, condemned to weave webs in the darkness until the end of time:  

A lot of times I think an artist is just laughing at the gullibility of collectors…. This piece is titled:  Zen for TV  by Nam June Paik -  1976 Version (apparently there was a 1963 version).   This is described as being "a manipulated vintage television and components"   (that is not me in the reflection -  that is our Hawaiian friend)

This was beautiful  – Peacocks and Peonies I and Peacocks and Peonies II  by John La Farge 1882

These windows were commissioned by Frederick Lothrop Ames (railroad magnate) and they were installed in a baronial hall in his Boston house.  The peacock tails are made of pieces of glass and each peony blossom is a single piece of glass which was moulded to catch the light differently throughout the day.  La Farge layered glass to get the different shades of colours. 

 This piece is title Electronic Superhighway by Nam June Paik – 1995.  (I thought I had taken a straight-on photo of this but apparently not).  336 televisions on a scaffold and overlaid with almost 600 feet of neon. Fifty DVD players send multimedia simultaneously to screens populating each state with audio clips from The Wizard of Oz and Oklahoma. It is 15x32x4 feet.  The flashing images are meant to convey those "seen as though from a passing car"  

Adoration of St. Joan of Arc
J. William Fosdick  1896

These are 3 panels of fire etched wood relief. At the turn of the 20th Century,  Joan of Arc was a popular symbol in American culture- an emblem of the "New Woman", symbolic of power,  in the modern world.

Sky Cathedral
1982 Louise Nevelson (she was 83 when she made this piece).  She liked black paint as it conjured "totality, peace and greatness".  She described this as "the heavenly spheres, the places between the land and the sea"

This one was amazing.   It looked like driftwood artfully arranged but is actually bronze!  

 Monekana by Deborah Butterfield 2001.   Monekana is Hawaiian for Montana.  It is cast using fragments of Hawaiian Ohea wood.    It think this was my favourite piece in the museum:

And here we have a woman making herself comfy amongst the exhibition -  oh, hold on ….    this piece looked so realistic.  It is called Woman Eating by Duane Hanson 1971.   It's polyester resin, fiberglass polychromed in oil paint.  Clothes, table, chair and accessories are real…  

  It was not immediately apparent if this was an exhibit or not……   after 3 hours on my feet I sure wanted to lie down here and have someone bring me a drink!   





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36 responses

  1. very cool. I love the horse too, it really does look like driftwood. and wow. I have no words for the amazing 83 year old artist and her piece!
    I'm going to have to look at the pics closer when I am less sleepy and my contacts aren't drying up in my eyeballs!!
    I gotta make a sightseeing trip to DC one of these weekends. I always went to the same places it seems, though at least when I went a few years ago for the day I finally got to see the Vietnam memorial as well as the WWII one.

  2. I can not say this photo is my favorite or this…all this photos are very wonderful. I enjoy all your posts about your visiting of a museum or theatre. you are a culture-lover, you are very inquisitive/inquiring and that is impressing and I like it. Have a nice day.

  3. Some times you have to wonder about some of these things they call art as long as you talk the talk and walk the walk some of the things they have passed off as art are things I used to do as jokes in my art class as jokes but if I had a name then it would have been considered the different from wasted paper to 20 million dollar art! And as for your last photo you never know if it is a rest stop or a 50million dollar interpretation of a rest stop?????it scares me how some things are mind boggling beautiful it is always such a wow thing now I wish I could go to the museums

  4. I tried to comment yesterday but something was wrong with Vox. This is a fascinating post and I really enjoyed it! I really want to see that bronze driftwood piece in person!

  5. Amazing place! Beautiful photos! I thought the woman eating was real! I'll have one of those chaise lounges please…either the gray or red would suit me I think.

  6. Thank you very much Lady. I thought the history of the building was interesting enough to share (in a sort of condensed version). There are so many beautiful architectural features too and then the art!

  7. My pics don't do proper justice to the art …. We always go down to the National Mall when we have visitors in town and tend to see the same museums – American History, Natural History, Air & Space. It was nice to see something different. I think construction starts on the MLK Memorial this year. Let me know when you are coming……

  8. Thank you LBeeeze. I bet the number of lovely structures demolished to, in some way or other, accommodate the almighty car is alarming. The Peacocks & Peonies glass is much more striking in place than my photo (which is a bit blurry). I wonder how long it took Nam June Palik to manipulate the tv to give that horizontal line………. πŸ™‚

  9. I thought you would be interested in the TV piece given your recent post on television….you might find this link interesting: (sorry it doesn't imbed)

  10. LOL – I can imagine you making such things as jokes. Now if you'd just set up in an arty community your "jokes" might be displayed in galleries today. Yeah it was not clear whether the seats were to sit on – no-one sat on them the time we were in that section and the security guard just stood there in the same spot which might have put people off.

  11. It was funny to see the chaise lounges empty like that. In just about every other section there were people sitting on provided benches etc but no-one even looked like sitting on these. Perhaps the guard standing there put people off approaching them….. The woman was amazingly life-like – her colouring, including the blemishes on her leg was really natural.

  12. Well, we've driven through a few times and twice stopped to take pictures at the Lincoln Memorial and at the White House. One time I drove through, we did some sightseeing from the truck. It was a bright yellow pickup with a U-Haul trailer on the back. I got lost on the wagonwheel and missed my exit once again. I was so mad, I yanked the wheel and pulled a U-turn within sight of the Whitehouse and as my wife slunk down in the seat next to me, all she kept saying was, "They're gonna shoot us!" over and over. LOLOL

  13. Wow, that lady sitting, I thought you had taken a random picture of some poor woman who didn't keep up with the fashion. πŸ˜‰ The horse is also one of my favorites. I think I've seen other sculptures like that in my art history books. They are gorgeous. Amazing. I don't really understand the TV thing, or the neon thing. XD Its very creative, but I guess I'm a painting and drawing person. The glass windows are awesome! So many forms of art, and so many ways to do it. Its amazing how many ways artists use their tools to create something unique. πŸ˜€ Being a bit of an artist myself, lets just say I'm seething with jealousy. XD

  14. So cool. The Paik piece is especially compelling. I don't think I would fall prey to gullible collecting (my grandma would have said, you can make that at home for free)! but vintage art is cool.

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