Opposing Forces: Two Exhibits to See Before Christmas
Thanksgiving came and went, and the Christmas lights went up faster than you can say “Black Friday.” The season is upon us—the season of parades, of family, of thanks, beauty and giving. It is a season marked by visual splendor, from Christmas lights and snowy mountaintops, to gingerbread houses, parade floats and the glitzy intrigue of wrapping paper.
There is a traceable line between the spirit of the holiday season and the ethos of visual art, both of which build upon and reflect a collective understanding of our shared experiences, almost regardless of religion in this day and age. They carry with them an innate lineage unseen in almost all other objects or experiences that pull at our nostalgic heartstrings while moving steadily into the future.
Washington is abuzz with activities and events through the end of the year. If you are among the many households with family coming to town for the holidays, there are going to be plenty of options to keep your restless out-of-towners distracted. For those so visually predisposed, there are two unique and interesting museum exhibits which are both complimentary and starkly contrasting, and which hover beyond the radar of most visitors to the city so accustomed to the prevalence of the Smithsonian and National Gallery. The offerings at The Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Museum of Women in the Arts will please any audience, while taking them around the city for a true taste of the holidays in Washington.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts is exhibiting “Wanderer,” an exhibit of travel prints, drawings and original printing plates by Ellen Day Hale (1855–1940), on view through January 5, which demonstrate the artist’s passion for travel and her mastery of printmaking. Hale achieved acclaim as a renowned portrait painter and printmaker, training in the ateliers of Boston artists and then traveling to Paris in the early 1880s to study painting. While abroad, Hale published accounts of her studies and the Parisian art world, encouraging female artists in Boston and inspiring them to travel.
Throughout her career, Hale took multiple trips throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, recording crumbling ruins, scenic land and cityscapes, and local people at work, embracing the spontaneity and intimate scale of printmaking to capture her impressions of the many local cultures she experienced. This collection is an inspiring travelogue to any journeyer who might be resting their boots in the District over the holidays. www.NMWA.org.
In sharp contrast to Hale, contemporary artist Mia Feuer’s current installation at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, “An Unkindness,” is a haunting vision of our world consumed, transformed and twisted by human need. Inspired by the artist’s experiences in the oil-producing landscapes of the Canadian tar sands, the Arctic Circle, and the Suez Canal, the project explores the relationships between human infrastructure and the natural world. Feuer merges imagery from the oil sands with research into ecological systems worldwide, creating a series of immersive and interactive installations that are at once topical and deeply personal. The exhibit highlight includes a synthetic black skating rink open to the public in the museum’s Rotunda, which contrasts our own gleeful pleasure against the ominous natural symbolism, which is especially thought-provoking around the holidays. For skating rink hours and more information, visit www.Corcoran.org/Exhibitions.