architecture photography

Change of Heart by Kenneth Dixon

July 28th '17, 11:41 am

Exhausted from taking thousands of steps walking around the museum of science and industry as an elementary student, I never would imagine how fascinated I'd become over a decade later with the structural compositions and art within various museums. As a kid, field trips to the museum were always mundane activities that I had a discontentment for. Lacking enthusiasm, I'd trudge through these ginormous edifices wondering why I couldn't touch one artifact or walk around without a chaperone watching my every move in hopes that I wouldn't break the "Do Not Touch" rule. At that age, I could only recall trips to the Shed Aquarium being exciting. Despite not being able to touch most of the marine life there, I could at least accept that these exhibits were alive, and not fossils or old artifacts. 

Those earlier sentiments I possessed as a young child, I no longer favor. Every chance I get to travel to a new state or country for more than a day, visiting a museum or art gallery becomes a must. These explorations are typically essential in order for me to feel some sort of satisfaction while traveling, but I admit they're not always what they're cracked up to be. Where the art may lack in some of these locations, the installation and structural design behind them pick up the slack. Isolated displays, dramatically highlighted by overhead light fixtures, high ceilings, linear patterns of walls and frames, exaggerated shadows, and art composition all catch my eye from a photographic standpoint when the art isn't as stimulating.    

Amid my recent travels to Washington D.C., I was able to carve out some time to explore the immediate area around my hotel. While wandering the DC area a bit I passed by the National Building Museum then walked a few blocks to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Three hours and thousands of steps later, I had successfully experienced one of the Smithsonian Museums for the first time. By far it was one of the largest I had been to, featuring over 3,000 pieces spread across 3 different floors. The contemporary American Art exhibits were so diverse, showcasing the art of different cultures and races in an array of mediums. I found the John F. Kennedy, Kerry James Marshall and American Presidents displays to be some of the most intriguing. The aforementioned presidential display provoked my thoughts on slavery in the past. I hadn't known what every president looked like or what all of their contributions to the United States were, but I couldn't help but ponder which ones were racists and fascists.  Every president had a painted portrait except for one, President Barrack Obama. His segment only featured a portrait that was taken during his presidency and a statement saying how Obama's painting is still in the works and should be up by next year. Despite the presidential gallery being fairly new to the Smithsonian, I couldn't help but feel adverse opinions about his portrait not being complete; After all, his portrait was the one I was most excited to view. I wondered who the artist would be to paint Obama's portrait, and how she or he would capture the essence of his character on canvas. 

Marlene Dietrich's Dressed For The Image gallery can also be added to the list of impressive expositions. While it wasn't too privy to the history of Dietrich, and how she was classified as one of the biggest Hollywood stars during the early and mid-1900's, I was impressed by her display in the National Portrait Gallery. The most distinguishing features about her gallery was her portraits. She photographed well, and some of the candid shots of her during her youth were amazing. They evoked so much emotion, from both the viewer and subject. I'll include some images of her below. 

If you're an avid museum goer I'd highly recommend checking out all of the Smithsonian Museums if you have enough time. The American Art Smithsonian is one of the largest in the US so mapping out your day so you can get enough time to experience the entire museum is necessary. Next up on the list is the African American Art Museum, MOSAÏCANADA 150/Gatineau 2017 and the Storm King Art Center.