Daily Archives: April 5, 2018

washington d.c. – day two (national portrait gallery)

I’m starting with this photo because it was the start of our first full day in D.C., and also because it looks like spring, and everyone is more than ready for spring around here. I also have way too many photos from this trip, so I’ll probably share them slowly over the next week of two, and break the days up into a few posts as I go.

I mentioned that we stayed in Dupont, which turned out to be a really convenient and beautiful location for a home base. Sunday morning the streets around our hotel were closed for a weekly, year-round farmer’s market. It was really hard not to purchase things, but alas – no kitchen. And no vases.

The weather was chilly, but sunny. We walked for a few blocks to the only breakfast reservation I had made for the week.

We had a table for breakfast / brunch at Kramerbooks in the Afterwords Cafe.  I figured that Sunday morning brunch places might fill up quickly, particularly with everyone on Spring Break, and so many people around town for the march, but when we arrived there was no one there. The reservations felt a little silly (it was 8am, after all!), but within 15 minutes every table was full, so I was glad we had made them.

Breakfast was delicious, and the space was kind of fun. It was more of a three season room, but was closed up for the weather, so the brick floor had a funny slope to it. The food and service was good, and there was such a nice vibe to the bookstore. We wandered around in the shelves for awhile, and tried to limit the purchases all around.

After breakfast we hit up the corner CVS (2 stories tall, open 24 hours, F’s favorite place on the trip!) and picked up water and sunscreen and a few snacks. We headed over to the National Portrait Gallery, and were there about 20 minutes before it opened. We joined the line at the door to wait.

They’ve separated Michelle and Barack to help with crowd control, and it seemed to be working. When the doors opened we went straight to the third floor to see Michelle, then worked our way down to the Hall of Presidents to see the portraits there. It was my first time in this museum, and I loved it. I also loved seeing the lines of people waiting to see the new portraits hanging there.

There’s a powerful exhibit on the first floor of the gallery – Unseen: Our Past in a New Light. I recommend looking up Ken Gonzales-Day’s and Titus Kaphar‘s work. I only took one photo in the exhibit – Behind the Myth of Benevolence, Kaphar, 2014 – the portrait of Jefferson, canvas pulled away from the corner, revealing another portrait of a black woman behind it. I recently watched Kaphar’s TED Talk, so I was grateful for the opportunity to see his work in person.

Two weeks ago I attended a lecture and discussion with Dr. Angela Simms on her book Lynched: The Power of Memory in a Culture of Terror. Viewing Gonzales-Day’s work was directly related to Dr. Simms work collecting the oral history of African-Americans’ memories of lynchings. In Erased Lynchings, the artist uses actual photographs and postcards from lynchings, digitally removing the victims to resist re-victimization, while focusing the viewers attention on the observers, participants, and the environment that supported this culture of terror. The exhibit runs through January 6, 2019, and I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.

We had a loose structure to our week, but found ourselves always positioned to notice and point out the broader story of the founding of our nation to the girls. Our visit to the National Portrait Gallery at the start of our visit was a good backdrop for the places we would visit later that day and for the remainder of the week. Beginning at the March for Our Lives (whose stories are listened to? whose voices are heard? who gets a chance at the microphone?), that became the theme of our visit as we walked the miles of tiled hallways and marble stairways and gravel paths ahead of us. Having the words from various Hamilton songs running through our heads as we went, was helpful as well.  Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?