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.
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!