My recent trip to Washington D.C. was dedicated to my grandmother Juanita. She was the type of person that exuded curiosity, courage, and elegance. In fact, “grandmamma” took me to Paris during my first year of graduate school. I had never traveled abroad and she made sure that we experienced everything. Battling cancer, she fought till the end for every moment of life. As a result, I made the promise that every trip would have no regrets.
Places visited in Washington D.C. included the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Library of Congress (the Thomas Jefferson Building), the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Smithsonian Castle, the National History Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, National Air and Space Museum, the Hirshorn Museum, Sackler Gallery, Freer Gallery, American Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Phillips Collection, the National Gallery of Art (East and West), the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Gallery, the National Archives, the White House, the US Capital, the House of Representatives, Congressman George Miller’s office, the Supreme Court, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Mason Memorial, the outside of the Washington Monument (closed due to an earthquake), the National WWII Memorial, a Washington Nationals baseball game, the Dupont Circle, the Washington National Cathedral, Embassy Row, Georgetown, the Delaplaine Visual Arts Center, and Gettysburg. Clearly not enough for one trip.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was an unexpected and haunting visit. The Holocaust was a terrible event that must never be repeated. Before entering the exhibits, each visitor is given an identification card. Mine was of Maria Orlicka, a young poor Catholic girl arrested for using black-market ration cards to get food. As a result, she was deported to Auschwitz. Her father thought she was executed and died of a heart attack after receiving the news. At 16 years old, Maria was finally released from Hell at the end of 1944. Also at the Museum, a large pile of shoes confiscated from prisoners at Majdanek enclosed a hallway. It made me fearful and sad of political rhetoric that can be easily distorted to hurt groups of people.
The Lincoln Memorial blew me away in sheer scale, size, and meaning. Similarly, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial surprised me with many inspirational quotes. Favorite FDR quote: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” As a result, both memorials echoed today’s political climate.
Also, the powerful photos of Dutch artist Charlotte Dumas at the Corcoran Gallery of Art was a highlight. The exhibit titled ANIMA, featured images of the burial horses of Arlington National Cemetery. The photos focused on the end of a workday for the horses that included leading eight ground burial processions a day. Dumas: “These animals, housed at Fort Myer, Virginia, are among the few left to perform a duty for mankind that dates back centuries. No longer used in warfare as such, they now have the sole an exclusive privilege of accompanying soldiers to their final resting place.”
The National Gallery of Art- East Building was under construction (perhaps some retrofitting?) but it didn’t matter. The design of the building is exquisite and elegant by architect I. M. Pei. To my surprise, artist Barnett Newman dominated the tower of the building. “Simple” black and white lines are more complicated then they appear.
Finally the painting at the National Gallery of Art– West Building by Leonardo da Vinci titled Ginevra de’ Benci [obverse] left me speechless. Because my art practice is not quick (nothing gets finished in an afternoon), I respected the masterful effort. It was the closest thing to perfection I’ve ever seen.
It’s going to take some time to download and process all the sights and sounds of Washington D.C. Well worth a return visit and new journey…