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Issue #212, Epic Road Trip, July4, 2018, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

July 4 2018 (written early in the morning)

a day spent with art -
documents that reveal time,
human perceptions

the power of paint
from Raphael to Pollock
pervades the gallery

with his globs of paint
Cezanne pissed off t he purists
now he is pure one

room full of Rembrandt
faces glow from dark canvas
all eyes watching me

We headed back to Washington on the now familiar Metro train, this time parking where we could not lose sight of the Volvo on our return. We got out at the Smithsonian Metro stop in an attempt to get closer to the Washington Monument, but as we walked closer, we could see that it was all fenced off. So we changed direction and headed for the Archives building. That, too, turned out to be a disappointment, because the line of people trying to get in wound around the building, and we did not want to stand in the heat and wait for what might have been at least an hour, so we headed over to the National Gallery of Art, and descended into the cool marble halls of this fine and expansive institution.

The first destination was the Cezanne portrait exhibit, and it was a superb collection of many of his portraits of his friends and family members, as well as ordinary people, which challenged artistic conventions of the time. I noticed a few people sketching in there and I was glad I brought my journal, as I too stood in front of ‘Boy in a red waistcoat’ and had a delightful half-hour focusing intently on this marvelous painting.

The kids and Paige, meanwhile, had used up all their artistic viewing energy already by touring the Dutch Sea-ocean paintings and some sculpture, and so were ready to eat lunch right away, so we split up at that point, and I didn’t see them until around 5 pm when the galleries had closed and I had made my way into the East Wing of modern art, viewing Pollocks, Rothkos and Ernsts.

Paige and the kids retreated to the Natural History Museum, while I continued to discover treasure after treasure hidden amongst the galleries, each opening to yet another room full of art. I kept going back to certain spots and in doing so would discover entire rooms I had overlooked, full of more art to scrutinize.

The highlight for me might have been the Rembrandt portraits. It struck me how dark they all were, save for the faces. But there was plenty of vibrant color in the Italian and Flemish painting that excited me to my core. The one Leonardo DaVinci painting, his portrait of “Ginevra de’ Benci.” was exquisite; the only Leonardo in North America, and a line of people had gathered around that portrait.

Eventually I wandered down into the underground passageway that connects the main galleries to the modern art “East Wing”; done so with a wonderfully creative elevator connection, and soon was walking amidst art of a radically different nature: modern art, post 1930. It seemed to me that the terrors of the world wars and the absurdities of life really brought forth the expression we now consider ‘modern’, much of which I don’t find interesting, truthfully, abstract conceptions often dissolving into self-consciously important marks and impulses that don’t move me nearly so much as representational art does.

I went up into the towers and a walkway that bridges the two of them, and found a gigantic blue rooster, where I could also see the Capitol Building. Soon the guards announced everyone would need to leave, so I connected with Paige via text, walking up to the Natural History Museum, then meeting them along the street. Paige had chosen a restaurant to walk to - “Farmers and distillers”, and we headed through Washington’s Chinatown to get there - a lively place.

Dinner was good but expensive, I had pasta that was too salty and spicy, and the kids had double cheeseburgers. The kids liked the water faucets in the bathrooms (a river of water came out from under the handle) and I admired yet more art on the walls, including two portraits of African Americans who were George Washington’s cooks.

We did not get back until about 9:30 pm and after brief showers, threw ourselves at the mercy of the dreaded air-conditioner.

painted devotion
revealed by the copious
quantities of gold

this tiny Vermeer -
sparkling like a diamond
in hidden display

Vincent self-portrait
ironic selfie backdrop
for Chinese tourists

paintings that convey
meaning beyond the medium
subtle human gaze

the great rotunda
is a work of art itself -
Orion’s favorite

none of these artists
knew their work would someday be
in these marbled halls

up in the tower
Rothko and Barnett Newman
have a dialog

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen