Acid Rain


We went to the National Museum if Women in the Arts the other day. I won’t lie. I picked the day because it’s free on the first Sunday of the month.

The little one was mostly unimpressed and distracted until she saw Acid Rain. She responded to it immediately. Her first reaction was to believe it was made of bones, which also feels like an emotional reaction rather than strictly perception. We spoke about it later and she told me it made her feel sad. Which, in one way, is bad, but she was having a reaction to contemporary art, which is more than most people ever have.

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The Barnes Foundation


This was my first time visiting the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and it was a moderate disappointment.

Many years, while the old Barnes building was being remodeled (they moved to the current location when it became clear that the original building simply could never be made suitable for safely storing and displaying the collection), I saw a temporary exhibit of many of the collection’s works at the Musée d’Orsay and it left a strong impression (though I was also pretty young back then).

I added that parenthetical caveat because, seeing it again in its new home, I was left unsatisfied. It didn’t seem like they actually had much gallery space and the curatorial choices were downright baffling.

The galleries were small, but items were hung in the style of traditional eighteenth and nineteenth century salons, but those salons were traditionally in much bigger rooms, so the effect is different and feels cramped. Also, every room had a long of ironwork on the walls. Not sure why.

I am not sure because there are not placards identifying the pieces, only individual room guides, which I didn’t have the capacity to view because I had a child with me. She loves art, but she is still a kid and not inclined to wait around while her father reads booklets.

I am also a little baffled about the choices of why paintings were placed together. It seemed vaguely but weirdly thematic (a room of mostly paintings of children; a room of mostly women getting dressed/undressed). And, if we are honest, in the service of these presumed themes, a lot of second rate paintings were put out. I love many second rate paintings and second tier artists, but I want some context, which context was placed just out of my reach.

On the good side, it was family day, so the little one got to make a sketch book and see a lot of dancing (hip hop, tap, Indian, and Cambodian).

The picture near the top is by yours truly, the coffee philosopher. The rest were taken by the little one. Like her father did at that age, she has a thing for African masks.

Poetry East


I just finished reading the latest copy of Poetry East, one of my favorite poetry magazines.

One could criticize it by saying that it publishes too little work by new and emerging poets and too many by dead poets (like, Shelley levels of dead). But when you read it… well, it’s hard to criticize such a well put together publication with so much great poetry and beautiful (if not original) artwork.

This one (actually from Autumn 2017) features Carvaggio paired with passages from the Gospels (do you consider that poetry?). Ovid and Bernini. Facing pages with the Italian and English translations of Petrarch. Selections from American writers who visited Rome. English writers (the earlier mentioned Shelley, for example).

And yes, some new poetry. As part of three short poems collectively entitled Storyflowers, Suzanne Rhodenbaugh included this small gem, called Iris:

Once I was all lips and tongue.
Now I am a fist.

Can’t wait until the next issue.

Gun, Candle, School


Leaving aside, if you will, the incongruity of my little girl posing before this starkly disturbing site piece, the work by Krzysztof Wodiczko was created for the Hirshhorn Museum thirty years (after another school shooting, I believe). The Parkland massacre resulted in its (re)projection being delayed, but there’s no doubt it remains incredibly offputting.

The little details, like the wedding ring on the left hand and the four different styles of microphone and the ‘Dirty Harry’ style of the silvery revolver, are powerful and disconcerting.

My girl, of course, understood none of that, but I want her to see contemporary art as part of her life and environment and something worth making into a special trip. But not as much as I want Congress to do something so we don’t have to worry about an enraged white man with a gun marching into her school with something capable of firing fifteen or more rounds without reloading.

The Florida Highwaymen


There is a house in Florida called the Florida House. It is advertised as the only state ’embassy’ in DC. It’s right behind the Supreme Court and catty corner from the Library of Congress (and also just down the street from my first job in DC, at a now defunct nonprofit called the Population Institute, whose main claim to fame is having introduced me to some of my best friends).

As an aside, it was privately funded, but is decorated like an official arm of the state, but is more semi-official. In fact, I have no idea what it even does, really, besides host some meetings.

It also has a nice collection of paintings by the Florida Highwaymen, which fact is not even mentioned on their website.

I made a mini-pilgrimage there (the only difficulty was the hours of the Florida House do not mesh well with working hours, if you don’t work close enough to walk there during lunch).

Sadly, the person who showed me around had no idea who the Florida Highwaymen were, so finding their paintings became an annoying scavenger hunt.

I jotted this post down because of seeing this article about them, so you can read that to get a better idea and, if you so desire, go further down the rabbit hole. It’s not my job to decide for you and I cannot be solely responsible for your cultural education, so take some responsibility for your philistinism or lack thereof, will you?

Edmonia Lewis’ ‘The Death Of Cleopatra’


I came across this article about Edmonia Lewis, an African-American sculpture who achieved success in the nineteenth century. It’s a neat article, it’s not that long, so just take a moment and read it.

Ok.

One of the statues pictured look awfully familiar to me: The Death of Cleopatra.

I swore that I’d seen in the Luce Gallery. When we took our daughter to participate in one of the Luce’s many family friendly events (this one a ‘color-in’) I made a point to find it and snap a picture.

All the world is all around you, if you just take a moment to put the pieces together.