January 12, 2009
Monday, January 12: A Party for Edgar Allan Poe (He’s 200, Never More)
2009 has a bumper crop of notable bicentennials, notably Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and, you guessed it, author/poet Edgar Allan Poe. Come celebrate the birth of this literary luminary with dramatic readings and light refreshments at the S. Dillon Ripley Center. Tickets are required. Rates are: $45 General Admission, $35 Members. S. Dillon Ripley Center, 6:45-8:45.
Tuesday, January 13: Advice from a Couple of Fools
Everybody loves a clown, and you should too—especially when he’s doling out financial advice. Tom and David Gardner—founders of the Motley Fool—are on hand to help you build a winning investment portfolio. (That’ll make you smile, right?) There will be a book signing after the lecture. Tickets are required. Rates are: $20 general, $15 Members. S. Dillon Ripley Center, 6:45 PM.
Wednesday, January 14: We Shall Overcome: The Song that Moved the Nation
It’s the song that symbolized the Civil Rights Movement. Come explore the meaning of this piece through a video presentation and the recollections of those who lived through these tumultuous times. Free, but reservations are required. Call 202-633-4844 to reserve your spot today. Anacostia Museum, 10:30 AM.
Thursday, January 15: Inauguration Tours
Come and see all the inauguration-themed goodies at the American Art Museum! Free. American Art Museum, 2 PM.
Friday, January 16: Strange Bodies Gallery Talk
The Hirshhorn has compiled the crème de la crème of its figurative artworks into one whopping exhibition that will be on display until early 2010 and DC art collector Robert Lehrman will walk you through the show and offer his own insights about the artwork. Topic and speaker are subject to last minute change. Free. Hirshhorn Museum, 12:30 PM.
Saturday, January 17: Out of Many: A Multicultural Festival of Music, Dance and Story
Kick off your inauguration celebration with this three-day festival that celebrates the music, dance and storytelling traditions of cultures the world over. Check out the event’s website here for a complete schedule or you can pick up a hard copy on site at the Welcome Center. Free. National Museum of the American Indian. Continues January 18 and 19.
Sunday, January 18: Iranian Film Festival: Three Women
In this story, three generations of women go on a mystical journey—and all because of a Persian carpet. Free. Due to high demand, assigned seating is in effect for this series. Up to two tickets will be distributed per person one hour before show time. Freer, 2 PM.
January 8, 2009
There’s no doubt that graphic designer Shepard Fairey’s red, white and blue collage of President-elect Barack Obama called “Hope” has gone viral. The artist, known for his guerilla street artist style, printed posters and stickers of the portrait, and they crept up on the sides of city buildings and car bumpers. He put a downloadable version of the image on the web, and others snagged it to for t-shirts and fliers. People even made spoofs based on it, dubbing the faces of John McCain and Sarah Palin and words other than “Hope” into it. Not to mention, Time magazine had Fairey create a similar portrait for its Person of the Year 2008 cover in December.
At first, Fairey was a bit hesitant to show his support for Obama through his art. He does have an arrest record for his graffiti work, so he didn’t want to bring any negative attention to the campaign. But Fairey told the Washington Post that he got the green light from Obama’s people. The propaganda-style image spread and became iconic, maybe even the most recognizable of the Obama campaign. And its success reportedly inspired Obama to write Fairey a personal letter of thanks. According to the Washington Post, the President-elect wrote, “I would like to thank you for using your talent in support of my campaign. The political messages involved in your work have encouraged Americans to believe they can help change the status quo. Your images have a profound effect on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign.”
Now, it seems that the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery should be the one writing a thank you. Washington, D.C. art collectors Heather and Tony Podesta have donated Fairey’s original 60 by 44 inch collage to the museum’s permanent collection, and as of on January 17 Inauguration Day, January 20, it will be hanging in the gallery’s first-floor “New Arrivals” section. “Hope” is the second Obama portrait to grace the museum’s walls. The first, by photographer Martin Schoeller, is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s “Portraiture Now” exhibition.
January 6, 2009
When actor Jack Nicholson showed up to his photo shoot wearing a red clown nose, Martin Schoeller did what any photographer would do and snapped the picture. When the entertainment value wore off, the portrait artist asked Nicholson to remove the nose. The moment Schoeller then captured now hangs in the “Portraiture Now: Feature Photography” exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.
Schoeller, a staff photographer at the New Yorker, discusses the stories behind his portraits, which include subjects like Nicholson, actress Angelina Jolie and President-elect Barack Obama, in an audio slideshow featured this week on the magazine’s Web site.
Schoeller’s commentary provides an interesting perspective on these famous faces. “He looked so much younger then,” he says of Obama, who Schoeller first photographed in 2004 while the President-elect was running for Senate, “He already has aged so much in the last four years from the campaign trail.”
The other voice featured in the slideshow is a second New Yorker staff photographer, Steve Pyke, whose black-and-white portraits of subjects like actor Sir Ian McKellen and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger are also in the Portrait Gallery exhibit.
“Portraiture Now: Feature Photography” will run through September 27, 2009. View the exhibit online at the National Portrait Gallery’s site.
December 16, 2008
The campaign may be over, but Barack Obama and John McCain continue to face off at the National Portrait Gallery.
In a gallery on the first floor, curators have hung portraits of the two men side by side. Both were taken by photographer Martin Schoeller, and are part of the new “Portraiture Now” exhibit.
Schoeller shot Obama’s portrait for GQs “Men of the Year” feature in December 2004. He did McCain’s portrait a year later, but on assignment for Men’s Vogue. The McCain image was never published.
The President-elect’s portrait is also the subject of an upcoming lecture by the exhibition’s curator Anne Goodyear to take place this Thursday evening at 6 p.m. According to Goodyear, Obama keeps a copy of a famous portrait of Abraham Lincoln hanging in his office. It’s known as the “cracked plate Lincoln.” Taken by Alexander Gardner in February of 1865, the original photographic negative cracked spontaneously. The black line of the fissure appears in all later prints.
Historians have long mythologized the cracked plate Lincoln as representing the bitter divisions of the Civil War, and the ultimate toll that the presidency exacted upon the 16th President.
“The meaning of faces and lives are always in flux while that individual is playing out his or her life,” says Goodyear. “There is an underlying connection between the making of portraits and the writing of history.”
The portrait of Obama on view in the exhibit was originally part of a set that Schoeller took back when Obama was but a fast-rising and charismatic Senator. From that shoot, GQ selected and published a smiling, happy Obama. Now, says Goodyear, the images that we see of the president-elect tend to be more serious, as if to reflect the evolution of Obama’s role in history.
See Schoeller’s picture of Obama at the museum until September 27, 2009, and while you’re there, visit the “cracked plate” Lincoln in the Portrait Gallery’s “Mask of Lincoln” exhibit, until July 5, 2009.