Tag Archives: artwork

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?

rainbow themed

When I was in high school I started painting murals. It was the late eighties / early nineties, and that was a big thing – a more custom take on stenciled borders and wallpapered walls that everyone seemed to have. It kept me busy. I did a lot of nurseries and kid rooms, bathrooms, dining rooms, kitchens. I painted on larger walls in schools – lots of book themed murals in hallways and stairwells. I also did pen and ink renderings or watercolors of people’s homes, watercolor names of children for their rooms, a few painted mailboxes and flowerpots – I don’t think I ever turned down a job. Thinking back on that now, I really hustled in high school. I had places to go (Europe with my French class!), things to buy (Guess jeans!), events to attend (New Kids on the Block concerts!).

So it was kind of funny to have some flashbacks to this time over this past weekend.

I painted a lot of book themed murals in the elementary school where my mom taught third grade. I started painting them in high school, and added to the collection over summer breaks at home from college. Based on the date above, I must have done this one right before heading back to my sophomore year at Clemson. It’s a scene from Eric Carle’s Draw Me A Star, and I remember that it wasn’t that easy to paint something in thick paint that was originally rendered in painted tissue paper collages.

My first mural in that school was the cover of one of my favorite books – Tomie De Paulo’s The Art Lesson. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but that mural was ten feet tall and painted over a stair, so it was a pretty dicey ladder setup I worked from. Also, I had to use oil based paint on the painted concrete block walls, which wasn’t much fun. I don’t miss mineral spirits. I used to bathe in the stuff.


E is always drawing or painting something at home. A friend asked recently if she’d be willing to paint a mural on her daughter’s bedroom wall, and E was excited to do it. I offered to help her get started on this project because I know that it’s not as easy as it looks. You need good quality paint, you need a lot of supplies, and it’s easy to tell when you haven’t done your homework. Plus, someone’s got to drive her around to do all of this, so she didn’t have much of a choice on the partnership. Luckily she was on board.

We ended up having a really great time together, and split the work pretty evenly to be efficient. I gave her lots of pointers along the way, but let her make or weigh in on every single decision. (We used a push pin in the corner of the wall, and stretched twine tied to a pencil to make the perfect arcs for the rainbow stripes. And we hunted through the house for big circles – using a step stool and a metal toy bin for the fluffy clouds.) We made a good team, and when we were driving home on the third day, she thanked me for the opportunity to try it. She loved the process and really loved the end result. She wants to do more. I have a feeling she might have a mural business in the making.

“super” raffle posters

I haven’t been to bed before midnight in a week, and I’ve promised myself to be there by ten tonight. That’s in eleven minutes, so I’m typing at breakneck speed – I’ll do a quick edit in the morning and then post this. I’m just so excited to have a camera again, and so I’ve been playing around with it some this weekend. I shot some of these photos early this morning, and I was pretty rushed to get out the door to set up for the annual soiree at the girls’ elementary school. I’m glad I took the time to take the photographs though, I love to look back on these each year. There are a few process shots thrown in as well.


Raffle 9

This year’s theme was Super Soulard Soiree – it had a pop art / comic book / super hero kind of vibe to it. I decided to take this really bold, graphic approach with paper as my medium, which gave the posters a really nice handcrafted feel. The top poster above was the crowd favorite, and the last one that I completed. E punched green paper with a hole punch for an hour while I glued the dots on in a grid to form the planet. Then I used two shades of gray to make the buildings, assembling them around the globe. I wove curved rainbow streamers through the building, and this poster was called “Save the World”. It featured lots of civic and good citizen minded prizes, plus a large gift certificate to Peacemaker Lobster & Crab just around the corner from us.

Raffle 7

I loved this second poster – “Kryptonite”. The description asked “What’s your kryponite?” – carbs, beer, working out, etc. I drew inspiration for the background from Lichentstein’s Still Life with Crystal Bowl, and cut dozens of black strips of paper. Then I made dimensional green kryptonite exploding in the center. I love the way it turned out. A bird pooped on it at the end of the event, so maybe pigeon poop is your kryptonite!

Raffle 8

The idea I got most excited about was for this third poster, “What’s Your Super Power?” The prize was full of experiences – music, art, fitness – so many different things to try out and explore. I decided to take inspiration from Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans, and opened three of them, with some comic book bubbles asking the questions Could I? Should I? Maybe I Will. At one point I entertained the idea of doing the Campbell’s logo, but even I have my limits. I actually like the simplicity here.

Raffle 6

The last poster was “Lightning Power for a Rainy Day” – it had so many awesome things to do in the summer when it’s raining outside. I had plenty of inspiration for this one last week. The BAM! in the center is dimensional with gold and red sticking out, and I love how the white dot pattern – stretched out into raindrops – turned out. Lots of measuring and marking on these four posters to get them to turn out right.

Raffle 5

The afternoon was perfect – sunny, 70, with a light breeze. The decorations were so much fun – my friend Becky orchestrated all of that, and there was a great crew there Sunday morning setting everything up.

Raffle 13

Raffle 10

Raffle 11

Raffle 12

I’ve heard rumors it was the most successful soiree to date – which is really exciting to hear after all the hard work from everyone.


I “borrowed” a few of the centerpieces, and tucked them around the house. I was seriously worn out by dinner time, but rallied to do a few more things before bed. My goal this week is to be in bed by 10pm each night – we’ll see how that works out! It was nice to celebrate and visit with friends on such a beautiful afternoon.