Friday, October 24

Visiting the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Art

Today’s Image

An unexpected find on recent travels was the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. We ran across it while strolling on the Mall in Washington, D.C. I guess we knew it was there, but had either passed it by or forgotten it on previous visits. I’ve heard the Mall referred to as ‘the nation’s front yard,’ which I think is appropriate; it’s the place where thousands of visitors walk by and view our monuments and federal buildings.

That said, I suppose you can think of the Sculpture Garden as yard ornaments for the front lawn. It sits across the lawn from the “Castle’ of the Smithsonian Institute. You come across it quite unexpectedly, at least we did, and the sign invites you come in and walk down the gently curving sidewalk. It was a beautiful fall morning, and the leaves of several of the trees had begun to change to orange and red.

The sculptures are arranged so that you are guided to look first to the left at one, then stroll a little more, and you look to the right to view the next one. I didn’t know there were 17 sculptures in the garden until I looked it up later on the internet, and I don't think we saw every one. But we did see a good many that were impressive, if not beautiful and thought-provoking. Some of the sculptures were under renovation and not on display, but among the memorable to us in no particular order:
  • Aurora by Mark di Suvero– a huge steel structure with crossbars and beams that towers way overhead and is oxidizing as you look at it
  • Four-Sided Pyramid by Sol LeWitt– a large cascading pyramid of cubes that present the viewer with a symmetrical form of light and shadow
  • Cheval Rouge (red horse) by Alexander Calder – a large red multi-legged steel structure resembling a horse, although the red has faded to a pinkish orange
  • Cluster of Four Cubes by George Rickey – a tall bright stainless steel (it’s shiny) structure of four large cubes with shimmering finishes that are clustered around a pole. And it rotates.
  • House 1 by Roy Lichtenstein – My personal favorite and Today’s Image—it’s a complete optical illusion that you will spend minutes walking around and moving in and out to view to see how it works. What’s happening is that the sculpture is convex and also angled so that the main corner of the house appears to come forward or recede depending on your angle of viewing and distance from the sculpture. Very intriguing.

We were on our way to the National Gallery of Art when we found the Sculpture Garden, and were very glad we did.

In the Studio

A few blogs ago I was talking about my acrylic of a view of the Pacific Ocean from a cliff overlooking it. Well, I finished it after several fits and starts. It was one of those works that you finish, and finish, and then you finish it again, and then you finish it a third and fourth time. Well, I think I ‘finished’ it again yesterday. At least I put it away for now and called it finished. I did give it a name, which usually for me means that the end is near.

I didn’t have any particular trouble in painting it, but I wasn’t happy with the way the water looked and re-did it several times to try to get the depth, the reflections, and the wave action right, not to mention the correct tones (I did add Liquitex Heavy Body Ochre over the Grumbacher Ultramarine to make a believable color in the shallow water near the shore). I also had some trouble getting the depth perception right. The view is from a cliff looking at once down a steep hillside but also way off in the distance to the right, and there is a hillside that ascends on the right. After writing that description, no wonder I was having a bit of trouble. But I added shadows to the foreground, some highlights to the vegetation on the hillside, and ‘blued-up’ the horizon to make it recede. So I finished it again, for now anyway.


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