I’ve just arrived home from my first visit to Washington, D. C. I was very busy with work, but, via work and a bit of judicious skipping out, I managed to get to several of the Smithsonian Institution’s fabulous galleries and museums. Here is one of the highlights. (Actually, the highlight, but I’ll write another post about a few others things I enjoyed.)
My pictures will not do it justice, but suffice to say, even if you are not all that “into” art, I’d get over to the Renwick Gallery before May 8, 2016 if you find yourself in D.C. You’ve got to see, or rather experience, the WONDER exhibit. Fabulous. And they are large installations — one to a room — so it isn’t that overwhelming. Well, it is almost overwhelming, but in a very good way. Here are a few of my favourites:
This exhibit, In the Midnight Garden, is by Jennifer Angus. This was my favourite gallery, but Angus is also Canadian so she get’s top billing here. And here’s what the Renwick has to say about her installation: “Angus’ genius is the embrace of what is wholly natural, if unexpected. Yes, the insects are real, and no, she has not altered them in any way except to position their wings and legs. The species in this gallery are not endangered, but in fact are quite abundant, primarily in Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea, a corner of the world where Nature seems to play with greater freedom. The pink wash is derived from the cochineal insect living on cacti in Mexico, where it has long been prized as the best source of the color red. By altering the context in which we encounter such species, Angus startles us into recognition of what has always been a part of our world.”
Next up, 1.8 by Janet Echelman. (How have I never heard of this artist before? Check out her website.) I could have hung out at this installation for a very long time. There are pillows, couches, and a comfy carpet below, so you are welcome to lie down and watch.
From the Renwick: “Echelman’s woven sculpture corresponds to a map of the energy released across the Pacific Ocean during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, one of the most devastating natural disasters in recorded history. The event was so powerful it shifted the earth on its axis and shortened the day, March 11, 2011, by 1.8 millionths of a second, lending this work its title. Waves taller than the 100-foot length of this gallery ravaged the east coast of Japan, reminding us that what is wondrous can equally be dangerous.”
And then there was this, Middle Fork, by John Grade:
From the Renwick: “To commemorate the Renwick’s reopening, Grade selected a hemlock tree in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle that is approximately 150 years old–the same age as this building. His team created a full plaster cast of the tree (without harming it), then used the cast as a mold to build a new tree out of a half-million segments of reclaimed cedar. Hundreds of volunteers assisted Grade, hand carving each piece to match the contours of the original tree. After the exhibition closes, Middle Fork (Cascades) will be carried back to the hemlock’s location and left on the forest floor, where it will gradually return to the earth.”
Note: hundreds of volunteers helped Grade and, when the exhibit is done, it’s returning home to decay back to the earth. I kind of love that.
Just one more and then I’ll leave the rest for you to discover, either in person or online.
Especially for my friends who find visiting office supply stores a good time:
The installation is Untitled by Tara Donovan. From the Renwick: “Employing mundane materials such as toothpicks, straws, Styrofoam cups, scotch tape, and index cards, Donovan gathers up the things we think we know, transforming the familiar into the unrecognizable through overwhelming accumulation. The resulting enigmatic landscapes force us to wonder just what it is we are looking at and how to respond. The mystery, and the potential for any material in her hands to capture it, prompts us to pay better attention to our surroundings, permitting the everyday to catch us up again.”