The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC, brings recognition to the achievements of women artists of all periods and nationalities – and during May admission on the weekends is free!
We had gone to look at the new sculpture project on New York Avenue, called Dancing in the Streets. This is the first phase of a public art sculpture unveiled by the museum – this phase was completed by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle. There will be 4 phases aimed at revitalizing New York Avenue between 13th Street and 9th Street (Mt Vernon Square/Convention Center) – this will be the first major sculpture boulevard in DC.
The figures are 12 and 15 feet high and are made of fibreglass and encrusted with mirrors, coloured stones and mosaic glass. There were really, really colourful.
Nana on a Dolphin
Les trois graces (The Three Graces)
L'Arbre serpents (Serpent Tree)
The museum has an admission fee of $10 but I went in to ask if there were any areas we could visit for free (with the exception of the gift shop) – sometimes museums will have permanent exhibitions which are free to visit and they only charge for special exhibitions. We were pleased to hear "free admission" mentioned.
The museum has a lovely grand looking entrance
And spacious interior for their permanent exhibition areas:
There was a special exhibition: A Dream … But Not Yours Contemporary Art from Turkey which explores the predetermined roles forced on women in Turkey - a country often described as having one foot in the East and the other in the West. The exhibition showed the work of eleven artists as they explored "why do so many women seek to conform and adhere to standards set by others, and continue to be judged by their roles as spouse, mother and keeper of the house?" They explore the dreams they are supposed to live and those they want to live.
No photos were allowed in the exhibition but there were some really interesting works. I was really taken with a work by Inci Eviner – a 3 minute video entitled Harem. It is based on early 19th century engravings but animated with the harem as a background for contemporary women performing repeated actions. One woman looks repeatedly into a mirror, another continuously hammers the floor. "It is a scene of oppositions in which they are contained and subjected to male dominance while being honored and adored for their beauty" . We watched this work many times over.
Another really riveting work was "Exemplary" by Canan Senol who used a series of miniature paintings to make an animated narrative – a fable of a beautiful girl from a poor family forced to marry a man of her mother's choice.
We wandered around the rest of the gallery and these were a few of my favourite works from their permanent collection;
Africa by Lois Mailou Jones (American 1905-1998). Jones lived in DC for much of her life and taught at Howard University for nearly 50 years.
Self-Portrait by Alice Bailly (Swiss 1872-1938). Bailly created tableaux-laine "wool paintings" – in which she sewed coloured yarn in the form of brushstrokes.
Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky by Frida Kahlo (Mexican 1907-1954) In this work Kahlo acknowledges her political allegiance to the Mexican revolution & Marxism by wearing a peasant costume and dedicating the work to Trotsky.
4 Seated Figures by Magdalena Abakanowicz (Polish born 1930). This work is made from hessian, (burlap) resin and iron rods.
This one fell into "I could do that"; … but of course I've never thought of it.
Acid Rain by Chakaia Booker ( American b. 1953) – rubber tyres and wood.