Indeed, I am lucky to live in a cultural mecca with a plethora of museums and galleries. There are great permanent collections, new exhibits and art events galore to explore. And instead of waiting until friends come into town to play tourist, I’ve committed myself to taking a few hours here and there when I can to experience art. I can get easily overwhelmed and overstimulated if I try to see an entire museum. Taking an hour or two and seeing just one or two collections makes it easy to contemplate and appreciate the artwork and also helps to stimulate my creativity and productivity. It gives my day a great boost. And I don’t feel pressured that I must see every piece or that I’m missing out on something because I live here. I can take my time.
My last afternoon art break was at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. It had easily been ten years since I visited the NMWA even though I’ve always loved it. Somehow it just got overlooked, but every time I drove by I made a mental note to get over there. Like many area museums, the building itself is as much of a showpiece as the collections. It’s a popular venue for weddings and social events as the Great Hall and Mezzanine are rather breathtaking.
The first work to really catch my eye was a painting called Superwoman by Kiki Kogelnik. I was drawn to the clean, hard lines and the strength that emanated from the canvas. The scissors are certainly imposing and the combat boots and dark glasses complete the “don’t mess with me” look. It’s refreshing to see a woman who is not represented as sexualized or existing simply to be pleasing to a viewer. There is so much pressure for women’s visual appearances and attitudes to line up with cultural expectations and be non-confrontational and pleasant. Any time an artist rejects that notion, I’m fascinated.
Next was this sculpture made of rubber tires entitled Acid Rain by Chakaia Booker. I instantly recognized her as the same artist who did another rubber tire sculpture in the Wonder Exhibit at the Renwick Gallery. This piece was equally fascinating. The texture and lines were amazing. It had a hard and industrial feel because of the materials yet was almost soft and flowing at the same time with the round shapes of the rubber. And the shadows and dimension made it really fun to photograph.
Juxtaposed on the opposite corner of the room was this tutu hanging from the ceiling and appearing to be dripping with wax. I had seen pictures of this piece before, Untitled #781 by Petah Coyne. The tutu appears to be floating in the air. It’s rather eerie. And again the textures were just incredible. This piece also references the traditionally feminine with the tutu, but then again it appears that the tutu is being melted and perhaps destroyed. And there is no female form here at all.
Of course it would be remiss for me not to include a work with bright, abstract colors since that is so much my own aesthetic. Symphony by Joan Snyder is contemporary and clean. It’s a massive painting taking up much of one wall so its effect in person is more striking than even in pictures.
This will not be my last afternoon art break and I will continue to share some of my favorite finds and the works of art in DC that really speak to me. In the meantime, if you also haven’t been lately or you’ve never heard of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, check it out! It’s not free like the Smithsonian Museums but tickets are only $10 and the museum is well worth it.