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.
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.
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. 🙂
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 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.
Still, no people were interacting with this colorful fish! I found this cool sculpture in the lobby, but no one was interacting with it.
And later, when I walked past it again, people were interacting with it, but I couldn’t get a good angle.
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!
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.
You can see a couple of people “interacting” with this art, but they were kind of blurry in the dark!
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.
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!”
And these young people walking through the pyramids.
But I actually thought the pyramids were more interesting with no people and their interesting reflections.
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. 🙂