Temples to the Gods
Without planning Kurt and I dodged the mid-Atlantic coastal flooding from the nor’easter storm at the end of October. Instead we camped out in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest just inside the West Virginia border. And it started raining. And raining. Days of raining. The sun made a weak appearance for a few moments one morning and then immediately was lost in dark heavy clouds. The rhythmic rain splatter on the shell of the camper and the dark days turned me into Rip Van Winkle.
The National Mall
Over the weekend a terrorist news alert was buzzing about on Twitter for the Virginia area. Two men who came into the country with other refugees, absconded and were believed to be a credible threat… especially to malls. Sounds good.
We were going to The Mall.
Yes. My tantrum was large enough to get us back into DC. During my public education (specifically eighth grade) we had a class trip available to us once to go to Washington DC. I was one of the few students who stayed behind. Quietly. Stoically. I never even tried to tell my parents about it, they weren’t the type to ask.
I never imagined I’d finally get there and nothing would be open on a regular Tuesday business day. Instead Kurt and I walked in the drizzling rain to the Washington Memorial, the reflecting pool, the Lincoln Memorial, past the Vietnam Memorial and back… a three hour stroll under moody skies.
DC is festooned with its idea of itself. Everywhere they are chiseled into marble and concrete, lofty words and quotes.
I stood under Lincoln’s alabaster gaze, thinking, it’s absolutely nothing and everything like the photographs. But a photograph can’t capture the immense weight inside that cathedral. They tried to make a god of a mortal man, maybe even succeeding.
Art and Culture
Round Two, the Hirshhorn and the Natural History Museum. Be still my fluttering heart. This fulfillment of spirit I missed so much this last year. I could even bare wearing my mask for nearly five hours straight.
On exhibit in the Hirshhorn: Mark Bradford, Marcel Duchamp (but not the urinal) and Laurie Anderson. An exceptional triumvirate of artists to see.
Mark Bradford, Picketts Charge. 2017
In some of the pieces you can make out the images and shapes of the original material. Mostly, the tearing obliterates the original content. It’s angry, raw and very controlled.
This was an extensive collection of works and collaborations around artist Duchamp. Showing art history students a urinal and calling it a day was a disservice to the students and to this artist. There was so much more going on that made him so much more interesting. I would certainly get excited to see his work included in an exhibition from now on, where before he was the artist who through a dirty old urinal at the art world and it stuck.
Laurie Anderson, Weather
If you see her name anywhere on leaflet, go. Don’t ask if you’ll enjoy it. Just go. Go out of your way to go. From synchronized moving red silk flags that made me feel uncomfortable walking past, as though invisible beings were doing political obsequiousness to us. To tiny projected humans sharpening knives all in a row. Then an entire room completely covered in white writing and drawings over a black ground while a droll parrot talks on in the background. Immersive, indeed.
Natural History Museum
To be blunt, I expected more. I expected a higher caliber of display, information, and depth of knowledge. I was not prepared for elementary level concepts and over crowded displays. Once in awhile it hit a note where you could peer back to a more academic time. Briefly. Before it fluttered away in inanity around the next corner. I want to see a natural history museum from a serious era where it doesn’t cater to amusement and entertainment.
Kurt and I feasted from the food trucks lined up. While we we waited from order to prepared food a man tried to hustle us into buying ice cream or a shoe shine. I think. Our food truck guy started smirking and shaking his head. After awhile I asked if he had seen the same performance before. Yes. He watched the man ask people to buy him food from his truck just to throw it away. The day before I bought an umbrella from a man, there was a pack of them out wearing badges, for a donation towards helping the homeless. On this day they were out slinging baseball caps▪️
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