DC Artist Anne Truitt


Ok. I hadn’t actually heard of her until I read a (positive) review of the exhibit in the Washington Post. But I did go see her in the tower gallery at the East Wing of the National of Art. And I liked her.

It helps that she was a DC artist. Not just someone from DC (and technically, she was born in Baltimore) who then moved away, but someone who lived and worked in DC for most of her career. Thank you. We are an artsy city and unless your name is New York or Paris, we can probably kick your butt, arts-wise.

Her minimalist work, spaced out in the large, high ceilinged, and vaguely trapezoidal gallery, gave the space the feeling of a secular temple (maybe like the Rothko Chapel, to which I’ve never been). Which made it so disappointing that there was only one small bench, set off to the side were you really couldn’t see much of the art very well. This exhibit was just begging for a couple of rows of pews, where people could pray or meditate in a setting that really called for an appreciation of art as a spiritual practice.

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Jackson Pollock’s Mural


I apologize for the distortion cause by my effort to use the ‘panorama’ function on my iphone

I am only slightly ashamed to admit that I first learned about this mural from the Ed Harris biopic, Pollock (which also helped to promote the apparently misguided belief that Pollock painted the massive work nearly overnight – the exhibit makes clear that he had been working and making progress on it for a period of at least several weeks).

So it was awesome to finally see it in person… and disappointing.

This is the first time the mural has ever been displayed in DC. The decision was made to pair it with one of my favorite paintings from the National Gallery’s permanent collection, Number 1, 1950, better known as Lavender Mist.

I first encountered Lavender Mist in a college art textbook, but without seeing it’s scale (it’s extremely large, but less than enormous), it’s impossible to fully appreciate. Sometimes, I will visit the National Gallery for the sole purpose of spending twenty minutes sitting in front of it. I’ve done that at least a dozen times (besides shorter visits, or visits focused on other works) and I’ve never grown tired of the work.

And… Lavender Mist is better than Mural. It just is. And it kind of ruined Mural for me. I wish I could have seen it on it’s own. Surely it’s important enough to be placed where one can soak it in, undistracted by other large works?

Bad call, curator. Bad call.

 

Vermeer And The Masters Of Genre Painting (At The National Gallery Of Art)


I have never been a tremendous Vermeer fan; I appreciate him, but do not love him nor seek him out. Overall, I was as enthralled by his featured contemporaries as I was by the master himself.

But I was deeply struck by a tiny aspect of a Vermeer. Woman with a Lute featured metal studs securing the leather covering a chair that ‘popped’ so dramatically that I had to stop, because in that first moment, I would have sworn they were three dimensional. I looked for some kind of painterly trick, but there was none. And it’s not like the studs were (to my amateur eye, at least) something of thematic or compositional importance. They were (presumably) a representation of the same plain (brass, I would guess) studs on the chair that was the model for this chair. But, wow.

Woman with a Lute

I saw a similar effect in the gold decorations on the sleeve of a woman in another Vermeer, Young Woman Seated at a Virginal.

But I can’t help but feel like that, if I were given sixty seconds to grab one from off the wall and make a run for it, I would not go for Vermeer (assuming we are thinking about keeping the painting and now trying to pawn it; in which case, Vermeer would have more value). His moralizing feels too stern and off putting, like a white evangelical church in Appalachian hill country that forbids dancing.

The exhibition (as the curators note) is heavy on images of women. It might almost be called feminist. So it felt a little sad that my favorite painting is actually one that features no women at all. But I have always been drawn to representations of writing and books and maybe I am looking for myself in these.

Man Writing a Letter, by Gabriel Metsu

The Grand Re-Opening Of The Freer/Sackler Galleries; Or ‘Illuminasia’


The Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art, also know as the Freer/Sackler, is one of my favorite museums. Not only is it directly by the Smithsonian metro station, but it is less crowded than many other museums on the National Mall and has some of the best spots for quiet contemplation you are likely to find.

After almost two years closed for renovations, the galleries are finally open. The grand celebration was called Illuminasia. Lots of cool stuff for the kids and some lovely music and some frustratingly long lines for food (the bao was excellent, but not worth the thirty minute wait).

There’s a nice exhibit on cats in ancient Egypt and a genuinely inspiring exhibit called ‘Encountering the Buddha’ that I can’t wait to see again.

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What To Do With Periodicals


I also get Foreign Affairs and the weekend Washington Post.

Leaving the WaPo aside for the moment, I often don’t feel sure what to do with my other periodicals after I’ve read them. They all have wonderful staying power. Who would object to going back and reading some of the great articles published in the New York Review of Books down the road? But, conversely, who does want to risk being that person whose home is stacked with piles of  moldering newspapers, becoming the subject of a sad human interest story after the fire department has to bust down the door once your sad, lonely, and malodorous corpse becomes decayed enough to alert the neighbors?

I have kept the Poetry issues because they are small and fit easily on bookshelves. Sadly, I have decided that Brooklyn Rail, for example, is more likely to become a testament to my own cluttered nature than a source of continued enlightenment through the years. So I toss them in the recycling.

Mentally Stuck In The Library


civic-center-library-01The Scottsdale, Arizona library has a justly famous sculpture outside. My mother’s most vivid memories of me in Arizona are of me climbing on the pieces that make it up (it was allowed, I gather; and by the way, I am not talking about the ‘LOVE’ sculpture because that wasn’t there during my early childhood days in the southwest).

My most prominent memory of that library is actually of what felt like a terrible failure.

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