in search of the weekend hashtag project: the national gallery of art

Sunday, August 25:  On this Sunday, I went in search of photos to enter in Instagram‘s Weekend Hashtag Project: #WHPartwatching.  The challenge, as posed by Instagram, which I just joined, was this: The goal this weekend is to take creative photos and videos of people interacting with art. Some tips to get you started: Head to a museum or sculpture park if you have one nearby, but don’t be afraid to explore unconventional art like neighborhood murals and statues. Look for interesting colors and patterns, both in the art and in the clothing of the people in your shot. Finally, think about the way your art watchers move and pause—groups assembling, viewers sketching or solitary people contemplating a piece.

the West Wing of the National Art Gallery
the West Wing of the National Art Gallery

I thought it sounded like an interesting challenge, but I found it was much harder than I imagined.  If I had taken along a willing subject to pose “interacting with art,” it might have been much more interesting.  Instead, I went around trying to take surreptitious pictures of strangers interacting with art.  I didn’t have much success at this project, but it was fun to try anyway.  I headed first to the National Gallery of Art’s East Wing.  I went to the East Tower, where there was a special exhibition of paintings by Kerry James Marshall, born in the same year as I was.  His work explores the experiences of African-Americans and the narratives of American history that have often excluded black people. Drawing upon the artist’s prodigious knowledge of art history and the African diaspora, his paintings combine figurative and abstract styles and multiple allusions, drawing from “high” and “low” sources (National Gallery of Art: In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall).

Upon first entering the Tower Gallery, I found this man sitting on a bench looking at the paintings, but I felt uncomfortable being so intrusive, even though his back was turned to me.  We were the only two people in the gallery, besides the guard, and I’m sure he could hear my camera clicking behind him, taking a shot that included him in the picture.

In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall ~ "artwatching" :-)
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall ~ “artwatching” 🙂

I didn’t think this picture was particularly interesting, so I continued to search.  But the pictures I wanted to take would have required me to get up close and personal, and intrusive, on that person’s experience of art.  So instead I resorted to just taking pictures of the paintings. 🙂

In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall

It’s difficult to take pictures of people interacting with art when there are only one or two people in the gallery.  The only exhibit that had big crowds was the Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music exhibit.  However, when I pulled out my camera to take pictures in that gallery, the guard wagged his finger at me.  “No pictures in this exhibit, miss!” And he promptly pointed out the sign that said just that.

In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall
In The Tower: Kerry James Marshall

In a small exhibit next to the Ellsworth Kelly Colored Paper Images, I saw some fish hanging in a small exhibit.  I especially liked the shadows the fish made on the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
fish scales & shadows

Still, no people were interacting with this colorful fish! I found this cool sculpture in the lobby, but no one was interacting with it.

a cool sculpture in the lobby
a cool sculpture in the lobby

And later, when I walked past it again, people were interacting with it, but I couldn’t get a good angle.

a father and daughter interacting both with each other and the sculpture
a father and daughter interacting both with each other and the sculpture

I was fascinated by this colorful wall art, but I couldn’t figure out a way to get someone in front of it.  Even if someone had been in front of it, it wouldn’t have been interesting unless they were posing or doing something interesting!

I liked this colorful wall art, but couldn't find any people interacting with it!
I liked this colorful wall art, but couldn’t find any people interacting with it!
Another colorful painting, with no people!
Another colorful painting, with no people!

Oh well.  I was starting to get discouraged so I went to the Concourse walkway between the East and West wings.  At least I could get some lunch and see the Multiverse, the largest and most complex light sculpture created by American artist Leo Villareal.  The work features approximately 41,000 computer-programmed LED (light-emitting diode) nodes that run through channels along the 200-foot-long space. Development of this LED project began in 2005, and installation took place between September and December 2008.

Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse
Multiverse

You can see a couple of people “interacting” with this art, but they were kind of blurry in the dark!

Multiverse
Multiverse

When I reached the end of the moving walkway, I came to the cafeteria, where I ordered lunch and watched this waterfall flowing down steep steps behind glass.  It’s very soothing to watch while eating lunch.

waterfall in the concourse
waterfall in the concourse
the waterfall in the concourse
the waterfall in the concourse

Finally, I gave up and went outside, where I found these little mini glass pyramids and fountains, and I took some photos here.  I found this couple interacting with the fountain, which I guess you could say is “art!”

a couple interacting with the fountain!!
a couple interacting with the fountain!!

And these young people walking through the pyramids.

mini glass pyramids between the East and West wings of the National Gallery of Art
mini glass pyramids between the East and West wings of the National Gallery of Art

But I actually thought the pyramids were more interesting with no people and their interesting reflections.

more mini pyramids
more mini pyramids

I finally gave up and went to try my luck at the Sculpture Garden….

By the way, the thousands of people who entered the Instagram Weekend Hashtag project seemed to have taken much better photos than I was able to get, and I couldn’t help wondering if many of them were posed.  Next time I think I better take along an accomplice. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “in search of the weekend hashtag project: the national gallery of art

  1. Great fun Cathy. I love walking through the Multiverse and I think your photos really captured it. It’s so tricky to get “people pictures” when you’re trying. My best ones seem to be spontaneous – but then they’re out of focus! Oh well. 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Thanks, Terri. Yes, my pictures never seemed to be successful, but I kept trying. I never really got a single good shot though. Oh well, I like these challenges because they push you to think outside the box. I’m not very good at this on my own! 🙂

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