Day 25: Pictures of Pigment Placement Patterns

Picasso's Blue Period. I like this painting very much. Photo: Jenny Williams

(This entry is for July 14, 2011.)

On the Metro again today. This is getting old (and mightily expensive). But it is a great place to people watch. Also, it is a great place to witness the positive aspects of humanity. When you go during commuting time, you tend to see a lot of business people. Between times, there are a lot of tourists. I have planned our days so that we don’t have to ride the Metro after dark, so I don’t know who rides it then. But I’ll stick to days. Twice now, though, a young or young-ish man gave up his seat for me. Today the very nice young man, after I said, “No, that’s okay,” telling him he could keep his seat, said to me, “But you have kids!” I said, “But I’m not a kid myself.” He still gave me the seat. Chivalry is not lost.

Rembrandt's Self-Portrait. Photo: Jenny Williams

The boy wasn’t feeling too great this morning, so I let him play with the iPod Touch on the train on the way in. Bad idea. That made him Metro sick. Like car sick but on a Metro train. It was a good thing I had a large Ziploc in my purse because he needed it. But we managed to be really discrete so I don’t think most people knew what was going on. I later nabbed an umbrella bag at our first stop to use later on if needed, but fortunately we didn’t need it.

We got such a late start this morning, for several reasons, that we went straight to the Museum of the American Indian where we were to meet my friend Nevin for lunch. The museum has various regional American Indian dishes. The food was pretty good, if astronomically expensive. But Nevin’s company was great. He was patient and playful with my kids, which I appreciated, and he had plenty of interesting things to say, as I knew he would. (See, we hadn’t met before.) We talked about writing food books and traveling and kids and various other things. He was generally awesome.

Monet. Photo: Jenny Williams

Next stop after lunch (no, we didn’t tour the museum, we were just there for the food), we headed to the National Gallery of Art. We started in the East Building, which has modern art, though not a ton of it. The girl, pointing to a “painting” with torn and folded canvas and some paint and said, “I don’t understand that.” But, there was also the excellent and famous Alexander Calder mobile hanging from the ceiling.

The building was designed by I. M. Pei, and seems to have no right angles. All the corners are acute or obtuse, and everything is made of parallelograms. There wasn’t too much to see in this building, so we moved over to the West Building which is much larger and, for the most part, much more interesting. We took the underground tunnel with moving walkway, which the boy really loved. There were interesting lights going on in the tunnel, which the kids said once again that it was a time tunnel, like the one in Dinosaur Train.

Picasso's Cubism Period. Photo: Jenny Williams

Artists whose paintings we saw in the West Building: Picasso, Renoir, Degas, Da Vinci, Cassat, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin, Pissarro, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya, John Singer Sargent, Gilbert Stuart, Botticelli, and many more. I was in awe.

A helpful security guard told me where to find a few interesting things, and he also assured me that it was okay to take photos. That blew me away. Flash photography? Of priceless works of art? Well, okay. So I took a ton of photos.

Vermeer is a favorite of mine, ever since the girl and I studied him for homeschool. He had so many themes running through his paintings. The museum had one definite Vermeer (and at least one suspected one), but it had many of the same themes. Window on the left with light coming in, woman facing window doing something on a table, a bit of blue. It was missing books and musical instruments, though. The painting was smaller than I expected, which somehow made it more endearing.

Da Vinci. Photo: Jenny Williams

Going to this museum for the first time in a long time reminded me just how much I really do love art. The girl and I have done some studies on art (in addition to Vermeer, we’ve done Van Gogh, Monet, and Impressionism in general), but I’d like to do more. The older I get and the more art I see, the more I figure out what I like and what styles I am drawn to. Plus there are other paintings that just grab me, and I’m not always sure why. Sometimes it’s the detail of a painting. Sometimes the drama. Or the color, or action, or stillness. But most often it is the light in the painting that really draws me in.

Alexander Calder. Photo: Jenny Williams

There were tours around the museum, and if I’d been alone, I would have found a way to be in one. But I could probably just go and read a good art book or a decent website. The National Gallery of Art has a fantastic website.

Seeing art in person, kind of like seeing history in person (such as at The National Archives), is like hearing live music. You gain a renewed appreciation for it, and are enthusiastic to learn more. I really, really wish I could have spent more time in the National Gallery of Art. If only I had been alone…

The Wright Flyer. Photo: Jenny Williams

We then moved to the Air & Space Museum, the one on The Mall. It was mobbed! It was much different from the Annex, as I well knew. It had plenty of planes and other things (though not as many as the Annex, and they weren’t as big as some), but everything was displayed within the context of history. Exhibits are themed (such as World War I, World War II, the Universe, the Wright Brothers, Air-Sea Planes, etc.) in addition to having some planes, rockets, and other things out in the open. Vehicles from war, aviation history, space, and commercial airliners are represented.

One interesting room in the Air & Space Museum is a bit like a science museum. It is for everyone, but especially kids. It teaches about how things fly through topics such as thrust, drag, lift, and weight. I also really enjoyed the room dedicated to the Wright Brothers and the Wright Flyer. I would have spent much more time in there, but we were starting to get tired, and I got extremely sick of having to jockey for position with the mob to see what I wanted to see in the order I wanted to see it. The Air & Space Museum gets the award for the largest gift shop, though. It is three floors and filled with interesting (and also cheesy) overpriced stuff!

I felt like we rushed through some of the museums this week. I haven’t read as many displays as I’d like, and didn’t come away with a better understanding of as many things as I’d like. But, at best, we can only do a sampling of the Smithsonian’s offerings. The text in all the displays is interesting and useful, but it takes a long time to read and the kids only have so much patience. You can read and learn from books and websites, so the important thing for us on this trip was to see the actual artifacts that are being preserved in these locations. Getting to see an actual rock from the moon. Seeing Picasso’s actual brushstrokes. Seeing the chairs where the members of the Supreme Court actually sit. Seeing the original Constitution of the United States. So we read enough context nearby to understand what it is we are seeing, and then just revel in the fact that we’re seeing the actual whatever that means something to us. Still, I would prefer to read everything, or at least more than I’ve been able to read, but that isn’t possible. We want to see a variety of things, not know every square inch of one location.

Tomorrow is our final day in DC, though not the final day in the area. We’re taking Saturday mostly off to recover, rest, and visit another friend. (Or we might mix that up a bit because the boy is feeling out of sorts. I have been asking quite a lot out of the kids lately.)

Drove: Around town.

State (and a District!): Virginia and District of Columbia.

Weather: Oddly cooler and much drier today! Apparently rain here makes the weather nice. In Arizona during the summer, rain just makes it muggy.

Kids: Getting sick of walking around. Just one more day in DC, phew.

Best Part of the Day: The paintings in the National Gallery of Art.

Worst Parts of the Day: The crowds at the Air & Space Museum, and being exhausted.

Total GeekDads and GeekMoms Visited: 8.


About Jenny Bristol

Jenny Bristol is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, playing board games, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.
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