Sourcing the Museum’ (until Aug. 19) brings textiles to the contemporary fore with fabric creations inspired by ancient remnants. For example, artist Lisa Cook designed Coptic Manga, a large tapestry wall hanging of faces. At first glance they look like the Simpsons, but on closer observation the faces are portraits of smiles, frowns and puzzlement. Cook said she was inspired by a mini tapestry fragment from 6th and 7th century Syria that showed “subtle nuances of recognizable human expressions.”
CELEBRATION OF ARCHITECTURE
Take the Metro to Judiciary Square Station, climb the escalator to the sidewalk and zoom in on a massive red brick building encircled with a terra cotta frieze depicting Civil War infantry, cavalry, artillery and medical units.
Wow, you will exclaim!
This is the National Building Museum, once the U.S. Pension Bureau and now an example of spectacular architecture.
Civil War Quartermaster General for the Union Army, Montgomery Miegs, designed the building in 1881 to serve Civil War veterans. The Renaissance Palazzo Farnese in Rome, built to Michelangelo’s specifications in 1589, served as his model and inspiration.
The lavish interior, larger than a football field, is decorated with about 185 columns and a central fountain shooting water high up in the five-story space.
Today the building is a private non-profit, National Historic Landmark and popular venue for Washington black-tie galas. It has hosted Inaugural Balls since Grover Cleveland’s presidency in March 1885, including January 2008 when President and Mrs. Obama danced the night away.
Rotating exhibits explore cities, urban design, engineering and architectural drawings, some centuries old. A Lego room with models of the tallest buildings around the world and thousands of Legos to play with is perfect for your children and the child within you.
Meander up The Hill taking in the setting of the Capitol grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and the magnolia-scented pathways crisscrossing the grassy knoll.
Folger Shakespeare Library, a block from the Capitol, is a museum; shrine to the playwright with the world’s largest Shakespeare collection; theater space for early music, Shakespeare’s plays and poetry readings; and center for scholarly research. A corner garden replete with benches, trees, shrubs and sculptures is perfect for reading your favorite work by the Bard.of Avon.
Great Hall, adorned with pale green and rose stained glass celebrates Shakespeare’s Sisters, educated high society 16th century women who yearned to stretch their minds. On view are handwritten manuscripts and palm-sized devotional books of comedy, love and religion, all in elegant penmanship.
WORLD’S LARGEST LIBRARY
Around the corner, across from the Capitol, is the Library of Congress, fronted by a massive ornamental fountain of Neptune surrounded by sea nymphs, sea horses, frogs and turtles.
You could spend days in this magnificent complex wandering marbled hallways, staring at painted ceilings, exploring dozens of Americana exhibits such as George Gershwin’s music, Bob Hope’s comedy and Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, attending talks and concerts, and, of course, reading. This is the world’s largest library with more than 151 million items in practically every language.
Politics and the Dancing Body, on display until July 28, displays photos of dancer Jane Dudley, a copy of her FBI file and the note blacklisting her husband, documentary filmmaker Leo Hurwitz. The exhibit also includes the 1936 letter to Martha Graham inviting her to participate in the XI Berlin Olympiad, next to her refusal: “I would find it impossible to dance in Germany at the present time.”
In the Sakura/Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship exhibit, which runs through Sept. 15, is a tiny framed handwritten letter dated Feb. 26, 1911 from Yei Theodora Ozaki to President Taft’s wife:
“My dear Mrs Taft,
On the 14th of February … my husband shipped off 3000 cherry trees which he hopes will form an avenue in Washington as a memorial of national friendship between the U.S. and Japan …”
I am deeply touched by this seemingly unremarkable note. Yet it too is a piece of art. And it makes me appreciate the city I live in as much as the curve of a Henry Moore shoulder or the asymmetrical face of a Picasso muse.