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Posts tagged ‘Washington DC’

Exploring China and Kenya at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

It’s not every day that you can walk from Kenya to China, but that’s what I did this Saturday.  Every summer for two weeks, the National Mall is DC is transformed into a center for global culture when it hosts the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.  Over 100 artisans, musicians, performers, and chefs take up residence and share their national traditions with Washington DC.  The rich cultures of Kenya and China were presented this year and I had a wonderful time exploring the festivities!

Folklife Chinese gate

The Flower Plaque gate made of bamboo, paper, and plastic welcomes visitors into the Chinese section of the Festival.

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Man and Myth: Interpreting Statues of Lincoln

Mount Rushmore

Nothing says importance like being carved into a mountainside – Mount Rushmore National Memorial, near Keystone, South Dakota (Photo: Wikicommons)

The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme.  This month we are focusing on Sculpture.  We’ve got picks from all over the world and different time periods.  Be sure to check out all the posts below!

Statues always remind me of monuments and I am fascinated by how cultures remember their heroes.  Living in Washington DC, I am surrounded by monuments to great American men.  A lot of artistic thought goes into these sculptures because subtle, and not so subtle, visual choices shape how we view and remember these famous people.  I think no other figure is wrapped in as much symbolic meaning and myth as Abraham Lincoln.  Whether in books, art, or movies, we continue to struggle with who this president was and how we remember him.  Two statues in DC epitomize this debate for me.

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El Greco and the Painting Process

Saint Martin and the Beggar

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) – “Saint Martin and the Beggar”, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (Photo)

This last Saturday, the National Gallery of Art, along with SPAIN art & culture, held a small symposium on the Renaissance/Mannerist artist Doménikos Theotokópoulos in honor of the 400th anniversary of this death.  Better known as El Greco (the Greek), this Cretan painter stands out in Spanish art history for his unique, almost otherworldly compositions, bold use of color and fluid brushwork.  Analysis of some recently rediscovered paintings was presented at the conference and helps shed some light on how the artist worked.

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Memory & Justice: Ai Weiwei’s “Straight”

Whether you follow contemporary art or international politics, you’ve probably heard of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.  Renowned for his “Birds Nest” stadium at the Beijing Olympics, it was his social activism and criticism of the Chinese government that earned him 81 days of detention, house arrest and the loss of his passport.  An intelligent artist and social commentator, his exhibit, Ai Weiwei: According to What? is currently touring the US.  I had the opportunity to see it at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC last year.  I’ve been blown away by the beauty of a painting before, but it wasn’t until Ai Weiwei’s piece “Straight” that I encountered a work of art so emotionally powerful that I am still thinking about it a year after seeing the show.

Ai Weiwei, "Straight", 2008–12. Collection of the artist. Installation view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, 2012. (Photo: Cathy Carver)

Ai Weiwei, “Straight”, 2008–12. Collection of the artist. Installation view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, 2012. (Photo: Cathy Carver, Hirshhorn Museum)

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Photo of the Week – A Capitol Autumn

I was down at the National Gallery of Art this weekend to see Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections (more on that later…) and saw this incredible view of the Fall foliage and the juxtaposed with brilliant white Capitol building.

US capitol, autumn leaves

There were a few clouds that kept casting interesting shadows alternatively between the trees and the Capitol building.  I also love this view down Pennsylvania Ave; its so dramatic.

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