Thursday, August 4, 2011

Refuge from the heat

This hot weather has me contemplating where I can find a piece of marble on which to cool my heels. The Dallas Museum of Art or the Kimbell come to mind, but it is too hot on the DART rail or in my car to want to go to either. However, thinking of marble puts me in mind of a trip a colleague and I made to Washington D.C. during which we visited our fair share of museums and attractions. I'm tempted to go again right now, since reports 81-degree temperatures there.

The first place I would stop is actually two museums in one. The National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum share a stately Greek Revival building where Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural ball was held. They are both part of the Smithsonian and are housed in the same building, which I know would be a cool haven after this streak of 110-degree temps.

While in Washington, I visited the museums three times. Each visit was a true educational experience, and here are a few things that have stayed with me.

Most of us know Georgia O'Keeffe for her flora and skull paintings, but I tend to like her paintings of buildings better. Her museum is in Santa Fe; but her pastel-colored city scape Manhattan is on display in D.C. When I saw it, I had just been to Manhattan for the first time, and the seven-foot-tall painting reminded me of how the ornate buildings fill the sky. 

George Catlin created American Indian portraits and landscapes while documenting some of the last great Native American warriors and leaders. The Smithsonian owns the majority of his vibrant work.

The Smithsonian also has James Hampton's Throne of the Third Heaven, largely composed of aluminum foil, displayed in the folk art collection. Hampton took some 14 years to build it, and one could sit for hours and contemplate the various materials he used. A Scottish couple and I - after some observation and discussion - decided that he incorporated light bulbs and empty toilet paper rolls (we were correct) into the shiny monument.

Now thinking of empty toilet paper rolls (or cylindrical cardboard rolls, as the Smithsonian calls them) puts me in mind of a big bag of recycling that I need to put outside. But just in case you haven't noticed, it is oppressively hot outside, and I can barely bring myself to walk to the curb. How in the world am I going to take a trip if I am reluctant to walk out of my door?

You, too, may feel the heat is too oppressive for traveling even if a cool slab of marble is at the end of the drive or plane flight. Instead, stay near your computer and check out the Smithsonian American Art Museum's blog. If you're on our campus, visit the Richland College Library's "N" shelves for information on art & architecture. We have a large selection of books that are lovely to behold and cool to the touch.

Happy heat wave,



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