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On the Road

Hi everyone! I’m away from home this weekend, but I wanted to share a couple of interesting things that I’ve seen during my week in Washington, DC. I am here for a two-week course at the National Archives, which is housed in an amazing building right off the Mall.

I love it that I can dash over to the National Gallery of Art during my lunch break. I discovered an exhibit there called “From Impressionism to Modernism- the Chester Dale Collection,” and became enamored with one painting in particular: Henri Matisse’s 1917 painting Lorette with Turban, Yellow Jacket:

I keep returning to it to study The Master’s use of line and color in depicting Lorette. Matisse doesn’t seem to be too concerned about the exact correct naturalistic representation of her body… you can see that he is focusing on the emotion of color. One of the things that I love about Matisse’s paintings is the way that it feels like you can follow his pattern of thought – and his hand’s response – as he observes and paints his subject. Not only can you tell what he moved or removed as he painted her - the buttons of her jacket, for example, or the folds of her turban - but you can see the changes they make to the entire image, and guess at what he was trying to communicate. Those buttons become a triangle pointing directly towards her face, countering the movement created by all of those echoed lines in the turban. Those two strong features both bring attention to her intriguing face but, since they are balanced by each other, don’t overwhelm it. And the way that Matisse handled the background is amazing - look closely at the way both her chair and the background are different colors on each side of the painting, and the way the chair on the left is brighter and therefore balances out the dark wall on the right. Matisse once said that he does not attempt to paint a physical object, but “the emotion it produces upon [him].” I love the way he chose to communicate those emotions. 

(ps - if you’re interested, check out this scan of the 1917 New York Times article that that quotation comes from!) 

Yesterday I had a little more time, so I went up to Dupont Circle with a good friend of mine. We spent several hours checking out the Phillips Collection; where I discovered Gene Davis’s 1952 Black Flowers


 
I love the linear quality of the black stems, the abstractness of the image, and the way he indicates the flowers using the dots of stamens as well as a different directions of brush strokes, leaving the white petals as a suggestion, a hint for the viewer’s imagination. It took a minute for my eyes and my mind to take it in and sort it out - but when I realized what it was, it was like a great puzzle revealed itself to me.

The space of the Philips Collection is wonderful. I love the way they have reserved one whole room for Rothko paintings alone - it’s such a great feeling to step into a space and be surrounded by color, simultaneously comforting and invigorating. Color field paintings have always spoken to me… they re-affirm my need to create, to use color, to continue - forever - to explore that genre in my own work. Here is one of my favorites, the 1957 Orange and Red on Red:


 
I was here last Wednesday when the big snowstorm hit - that was quite an experience! Luckily, my class dismissed us early, and I was able to walk in the snow as it was just beginning to fall. Safely behind my hotel room’s large windows, I watched as the snow piled up and Washington slowly shut down. It certainly was beautiful - we never get that much snow in Georgia!

And this evening, as I was picking up a few things for dinner at Whole Foods, the electricity went off! As I walked back to my hotel I saw that several blocks had been affected by the power outage, including the one with my hotel on it. Everyone spilled into the streets, creating a festive atmosphere - it almost felt like a block party or street parade! Once again I sat in front of that large window and watched the world react to this latest surprise. Windows really are the eye to the world - or is it supposed to be that the eyes are the window to the soul?

Next week I’ll be posting from New York City! Feel free to email any art/coffee suggestions to check out while I’m there!