Saturday, January 26, 2008

Yep, pictures.

I'm holed up in the study while Todd has a big poker party downstairs with his buds, so I thought I'd throw down a few more pictures, from Thanksgiving this time.

So we didn't have any travel plans for the holiday, because it's too far to go to Ohio for a four-day weekend. We often go to my brother's family for part of the weekend, but they decided to make the trip home to Ohio. So we weren't sure what to do, but I didn't want to sit home and stare at the walls.

So Todd suggested we go up to Washington, DC for the weekend. And we had a terrific time. We got there about 10 AM Thanksgiving morning, and headed for what I mistakenly thought was the Smithsonian American Art Museum, but which turned out to be the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a different place entirely. This gallery exhibits American crafts of the 19th-21st centuries. The building dates from 1859, and was the site of America's first art museum, and it's named after James Renwick, the architect who designed it and who also designed the Smithsonian Castle. Just a little tidbit!

The Renwick sits at Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th St...if you scootched the building about half a block to the right, it would be sitting in Lafayette Park looking at the White House. We got there a bit before the doors opened, so we took a stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue and admired the White House from the street. It was a very warm sunny morning--but that would change.

I couldn't get any pictures inside the Renwick, but by far the best thing we saw there was an exhibit of late 19th-century quilts from the Plains states. Many of them were civic quilts, with stitched names of businesses or prominent citizens, or redwork-style stitched pictures of town buildings. And there were two crazy quilts that I just wanted to cry that I couldn't take pictures of--one was worked by a milliner who incorporated all her scrap bits of velvet, lace, flowers, silk, feathers, you name it, into a quilt that just glowed with color and texture. The other crazy quilt was worked by a girl in her late teens or early twenties around the turn of the century, and she stitched words into many of the patches, like slang phrases that her crowd used, or a few words about an event, like ice skating on the river, or a particular dance she'd gone to. It was one of the most memorable, fascinating things I've ever seen--like a scrapbook made of fabric.

On the way back to our car, we stopped at a hot dog vendor and ate at the sidewalk tables of a cafe that was closed for the holiday. Note the sunshine and Todd's shirtsleeves. It was so nice out, and the city was so quiet. There were some people out and about, but not many.

Then we headed to the actual Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, which are in the same mammoth building several blocks away. I didn't get a picture of it, but just picture your standard marble temple with steps and big columns and you've got it.

I adore looking at art, but this museum had lots of furniture sprinkled in with the art pieces--lovely, old, historic furniture to be sure--but kind of boring. However, they were running an exhibit of American propaganda posters from World War I, and how wonderful that was! The artwork on them was amazing, and the colors still glowed, after almost 100 years.

We also strolled quickly through the Presidents' portrait gallery, and that was terrific, too.

Todd is such a good sport about going to all these museums and looking at stuff. I'm so lucky that he enjoys it, too, because it's one of my favorite things to do, and so much more fun with him along.

By the time we came out of the American Art Museum around 2:30 or 3:00, the weather had drastically changed!

Look at that sky behind the Capitol. The temperature had dropped about 30 degrees, and the wind was howling. We drove to the Capitol because I never seem to make it down to that end of the Mall on any of my trips to DC.

Here are some of the windows along the front of the National Botanical Gardens, which sits right next-door to the Capitol building.

Indoors was a conservatory decorated gorgeously for Christmas:

We strolled up to the bottom of the Capitol steps, and turned to look out over the Mall:

As we'd driven toward the Capitol earlier, I'd noticed an Edward Hopper exhibit at the annexe of the National Gallery of Art. The annexe is just a modern smaller addition that's accessible to the Gallery by strolling across the street or crossing to it underground. They do special exhibits there, and the high ceilings are all decorated with fantastic Calder mobiles.

Well, I have always loved Edward Hopper, so that was our last stop before heading out to Woodbridge to find our hotel and some Thanksgiving dinner. And the exhibit was WONDERFUL. Again, no pictures allowed, but I'll never forget the beauty of those paintings--and they had dozens!--and the way the colors glowed. You can look at paintings in books, and that's nice, but there is no way, NO way, to reproduce the detail and the hues and the just pure glowing beauty of a painting viewed close up in real life. It makes my heart pound.

Some of the people I mentioned this exhibit to had never heard of Edward Hopper, so here are two of his best-known pieces,
Chop Suey:

and Night-Hawks:

It was awesome, and I'll never forget seeing his gorgeous work up close.

More pictures later, but I want to add that I had this moment tonight, reading the CNN website about Obama's South Carolina primary win, where I looked at his picture and just marveled in a way that almost made me teary-eyed, that we have a black man and a white woman running for President--and each actually has a better-than-good shot at it. Not that I didn't know that before, but the realization came over me very strongly tonight. It's just so wonderful. High time, and wonderful.