WONDER at the Renwick… and bewilderment on the homefront

Sunday, January 17:  Today, Mike and I go on an outing to see WONDER at the Renwick Gallery, which has just opened after a two-year renovation.  He jokes that he’s taking the Yeti to Washington, because I’m wearing a fuzzy white vest I bought at Target.  Sometimes I like to wear funky clothes, as some of you know. 🙂

In the WONDER exhibit, “nine contemporary artists created site-specific installations, each taking over a different gallery.  The nine artists are connected by their interest in creating large-scale installations from unexpected materials like thread, tires, marbles, and blocks of wood — commonplace objects that are assembled, massed, and juxtaposed to transform the spaces and engage visitors in surprising ways.” (All descriptions are from Explore the New Renwick Gallery brochure. All photos are taken by me).

We arrive early and fall into place at the end of a long line that’s already formed outside the gallery.  Luckily it moves fairly quickly; before long, we’re inside with hordes of people.  I guess everyone is desperate to get out on this gray winter day.

 

WONDER at the Renwick
WONDER at the Renwick

The first installation is Shindig by Patrick Dougherty.  He uses willow osiers and saplings to weave enormous pods that offer discovery and sanctuary to visitors and Yetis alike.

the Yeti at Shindig
the Yeti at Shindig
Shindig by Patrick Dougherty
Shindig by Patrick Dougherty

“Dougherty has crisscrossed the world weaving sticks into marvelous architectures. Each structure is unique, an improvised response to its surroundings, as reliant on the materials at hand as the artist’s wishes: the branches tell him which way they want to bend.  Finding the right sticks remains a constant challenge, and part of the adventure of the art-making sends him scouring over the forgotten corners of land where plants grow wild and full of possibility” (plaque at the exhibit).

Mike in Shindig
Mike in Shindig

In the next gallery, Gabriel Dawe develops dazzling waves of colored light using miles of embroidery thread spanning floor to ceiling.  His installation is called Plexus A1.

Gabriel Dawe - Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe – Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe - Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe – Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe - Plexus A1
Gabriel Dawe – Plexus A1

In Untitled, Tara Donovan glues thousands of styrene index cards to create ten towers — looming spires that seem like natural accretions.

Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled

“Employing mundane materials such as toothpicks, straws, Styrofoam cups, scotch tape, and index cards, Donovan gathers up the things we think we know, transforming the familiar into the unrecognizable through overwhelming accumulation. The resulting enigmatic landscapes force us to wonder just what it is we’re looking at and how to respond.  The mystery, and the potential for any material in her hands to capture it, prompts us to pay better attention to our surroundings, permitting the everyday to catch us up again” (plaque at the gallery).

Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled
Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled
Tara Donovan - Untitled
Tara Donovan – Untitled

In a central hallway, Leo Villareal’s light sculpture, called Volume, evokes the movement of falling stars; 320 hanging rods are encrusted with 23,000 LED lights that shimmer and sparkle in endless non-repeating sequences.

Leo Villareal - Volume
Leo Villareal – Volume
Leo Villareal - Volume
Leo Villareal – Volume

One of my favorite installations is Janet Echelman’s 1.8.  She explores volume without mass in a suspended net lit by colored lights; it surges across the Grand Salon in waves evoking a tsunami.

Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8

This exhibit is huge, covering the entire ceiling.  Visitors line up around the periphery before moving into the next gallery.

Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8
Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8
Janet Echelman - 1.8
Janet Echelman – 1.8

Some people lie on the carpet and take pictures from the floor.  I have a lie down as well. 🙂

people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman's 1.8
people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman’s 1.8
people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman's 1.8
people on the carpet observing Janet Echelman’s 1.8

In the next gallery, John Grade found a 150-year-old hemlock in the Cascade Mountains, made a plaster cast of it (without harming it), and then invited hundreds of volunteers to re-create the tree in recycled cedar strips – a tribute to the 150-year-old Renwick building.  He titles his work Middle Fork (Cascades).

John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)

After the exhibition closes, Middle Fork (Cascades) will be carried back to the hemlock’s location and left on the forest floor, where it will gradually return to the earth.

John Grade - Middle Fork (Cascades)
John Grade – Middle Fork (Cascades)

In Folding the Chesapeake, Maya Lin’s deluge of glass marbles flows across walls and floor, creating a map of the Chesapeake Bay.

Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin - Folding the Chesapeake
Maya Lin – Folding the Chesapeake

Not part of the WONDER exhibit, Dale Chihuly’s Seafoam and Amber Tipped Chandelier was commissioned in 1994 for an oceanfront residence on Long Island, with shimmering seafoam colors and fanciful shell shapes echoing the seascape outside.  It is one of the first of a series of the artist’s “chandeliers” inspired in 1992 by a light fixture in a Spanish restaurant.  This series consists of large-scale nonfunctional sculptures with a dramatic presence in the space surrounding them, each made of hundreds or thousands of repeated elements.

Dale Chihuly
Dale Chihuly

Chakaia Booker transforms hundreds of recycled rubber tires, splicing and weaving them into a mysterious labyrinth.

Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR

“Booker was inspired to explore tires as a material while walking the streets of New York in the 1980s, when retreads and melted pools of rubber from car fires littered the urban landscape.  By massing, slashing, and reworking the material we see daily yet never fully consider, she jolts us out of complacency to grasp these materials for what they are: a natural resource marshaled through astonishingly complex channels into a product of great convenience and superabundance” (from a plaque at the gallery).

Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR
the Yeti at Chakaia Booker - ANONYMOUS DONOR
the Yeti at Chakaia Booker – ANONYMOUS DONOR

My other favorite in the gallery is Jennifer Angus’s In the Midnight Garden.  This artist creates spiraling designs across the gallery walls from shimmering, brilliantly colored insects, a novel “wallpaper” that displays nature’s spectacular range of colors and shapes in small-life forms.

Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden

From a plaque at the gallery: “Angus’s genius is the embrace of what is wholly natural, if unexpected.  Yes, the insects are real, and no, she has not altered them except to position their wings and legs. The species in this gallery are not endangered, but in fact are quite abundant, primarily in Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea, a corner of the world where Nature seems to play with greater freedom.  The pink wash is derived from the cochineal insect living on cacti in Mexico, where it has long been prized as the best source of the color red.  By altering the context in which we encounter such species, Angus startles us into recognition of what has always been a part of our world.”

Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden

I’m amazed at this exhibit. First, I’m surprised and delighted that the insects are real.  And the way they are displayed is amazing.

Jennifer Angus - In the Midnight Garden
Jennifer Angus – In the Midnight Garden

After exploring WONDER at the Renwick Gallery, we take a walk down to the White House, passing some interesting buildings along the way.

The Renwick Gallery
The Renwick Gallery
Renwick Gallery
Renwick Gallery

We stop to admire the White House, where I’m hoping a certain candidate will NOT be living come January of 2017.

The White House
The White House

We walk past the stately Executive Office Building.

Washington building
Washington building
Washington row houses
Washington row houses

We’re hungry for lunch by now, so we go to Cosi to grab some lunch.

We feel slightly more relaxed today than we’ve been over the last several months, having had to deal with the emotional upheaval and crash of our youngest son, Adam (23).  Last week, on January 8, we moved him out of our house to a loft apartment in Richmond, VA.  As of today, it doesn’t seem he has been looking for a job and we’re worried that he is just sleeping all day every day.  He hasn’t really communicated much with us, so we don’t know anything for sure.

Two days after today’s outing, late on the night of Tuesday the 19th, Adam comes up from Richmond to visit, telling us he is giving a permaculture presentation to some people in Maryland on Wednesday.  He spends all day sleeping in the basement on Wednesday.  While I’m out running errands, he goes out and we don’t see him the rest of the night.  I assume he has gone to give the presentation.

However, on Thursday morning the 21st, while I am still in bed, Mike comes up and turns on the light.  Grumpy, I ask why he is turning on the light.  He says, “You’re going to go crazy.”  Then he proceeds to read me the following note, written by Adam:

What we woke up to on January 21
What we woke up to on January 21

We are both aghast.  If he had already bought the ticket to go to Hawaii in December, as he claimed, why the heck didn’t he tell us BEFORE we got him an apartment in Richmond and committed to a 6-month lease?  We feel duped, furious and hopeless.  Not to mention totally baffled as to what to do.

The next 10 days are torture for us as we don’t know whether or not he’ll come back home at all (we half wish he’ll just stay in Hawaii as he’s been wanting to go there for some time and frankly, we’re sick of being stressed out about him); neither do we know how he plans to live or eat while there as we know he has no money; in addition, his credit cards, which several stupid banks gave him, are maxed out.

We never hear a word from him in the 10 days he was there.  In some ways, I have to say it’s a welcome break, although I try hard to send positive thoughts his way.

Argh!! Life.

 

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25 thoughts on “WONDER at the Renwick… and bewilderment on the homefront

      1. Winters over, snows gone and the ice is almost out.
        Sorry to hear about your woes with Adam. I know it must be tough and heart breaking.
        Please do take care.

  1. I like your “Yeti” vest.
    Wonder made me wonder. Interesting. Perhaps my tastes are too conventional.
    Adam? Will have to learn to crawl before he can walk. Sometimes parenting is hard.

    1. Thanks, Carol. I’m glad you liked my crazy Yeti vest. I felt a bit like the abominable snowman, but it was still fun. As for Adam, yes, he will need to learn the realities of life the hard way, I’m afraid. We’re taking the tough love approach with him now. We’ll see if it will set him straight, but we also worry it will push him over the edge. The future is totally unknown with him. I’m hoping and praying every day that things will turn out well for him.

  2. The exhibits in the museum are all amazing – I am struggling to choose a favourite because as I read through your post I was thinking ‘Oh this one is great’, ‘Oh, this one is great’ and so on.
    I’m sorry to hear about your troubles with Adam. Hang on to the fact that he left a note – some ‘children’ might not have done that.

  3. Wonder looks like a wonderful exhibit. I’ll have to get to D.C. while it’s still showing. I really like your fuzzy vest. Sorry to hear about your troubles with Adam. I hope things have worked out since that time.

    1. WONDER was a wonderful exhibit, Robin. As for Adam, things seemed to be working out for a while, and now, again, they don’t. He’s the biggest worry of my life right now. Thanks for your kind words of encouragement.

  4. Doing a catch-up Cathy, now the house move has finally happened! Now this is one exhibit I would love to visit, thankfully you have shown the exhibits in wonderful detail so I don’t have to leave my room. Stunning! And you look pretty smart in the funky vest 🙂

    1. Congratulations on your move, Jude. I’m sure you’re very excited to be in your new home! You’re now in Cornwall, right?

      That exhibit was wonderful and a great escape from the homefront. Thanks for the compliment about the vest. Mike was right in that I looked like a Yeti. 🙂

  5. Wow – these photos of the artwork are amazing, not sure how I missed this post at the time it came up!! Just so sad about Adam. As this was a while ago, I hope there has been progress on that front esp. with Sarah’s graduation tomorrow!!! I do not know how parents deal with challenging children – I was no cup of tea for my folks and was always afraid of this (someone like myself!) happening to me one day. Not a big surprise that I do not have children.

    1. Thanks so much, Mona Lisa. It was a fantastic exhibit. Adam is doing much better now, thank goodness, but he still has some ideas about life that I think are very unreasonable. I’m just learning to let go. I should have probably never been a mother myself. I was a terrible teenager and young adult to my parents, so I guess I’m getting my comeuppance now! It probably would have been better off for everyone if I hadn’t decided to be a mother. 🙂

      1. Please please do not say that!! Look at Alex and Sarah!! Had you not been a mother, where would they be?? Not here!!! So you clearly did something right! Three children with some challenging family situations well… you are bound to have a child who may have lost his way. I truly think your tough love approach as Adam will find out when his rental situation in Richmond ends, when he realizes he really is not able to just turn up at your place as was the usual in the past, will be a shock to his system, one he needs and one which can only benefit him, even if he won’t be able to see it that way. You are a BRILLIANT mother and role model, never say again to me or to yourself that you aren’t!! You inspire and motivate those around you to be better, to do better, to see more, to do more, to never give up. And your children have benefitted from that. Now, that is my sermon for today.

        With much affection, 😀

      2. Mike just said this to me the other night when I was bemoaning yet another bombshell dropped on us by Adam. Adam seems to be hell-bent not to work, not to stick with anything, and to waste all his god-given talents. He actually goes out and talks to homeless people and seems to have some affinity with them. I guess because he sees himself going in that direction. Alex’s girlfriend said it well when she said Adam is digging his own grave. Thanks for your “sermon” and for your words of encouragement, but sadly I can’t ignore what I see as a huge failure in our part as parents and by a son that has his own unreasonable agenda. I’m up against a wall now, and we’re stepping back. There really is nothing else we can do for him. We’ve tried to provide him with every advantage in life, but he just shrugs off everything he’s given and has no appreciation for anything at all. I really do give up.

      3. Luckily you see all these posts before they get posted, if they get posted.

        I am wondering of course how you are doing. I do hope you do not feel bad that you reached out.

        Have you had any contact with Adam since his bombshell? Have you made any decisions regarding your immediate needs re: getting away to recover from this all?

        I do not wish to pry, but of course I am worried about your well-being and how you are making headway with regard to plans for moving forward with Mike.

        Sending you a big hug, and just wish I could have you come up here, but with my six cats, and no car and no money to take you anywhere, it is just not possible. And unlike most Canadian parents with a summer house, my parents do not even let me go there on my own, never mind offer to it to my friends, which I would so love to do. This is their home, not a cottage not a cabin they keep saying, and as kids we were never allowed to bring anyone home or with us on vacation. Very German, and very sad, hence my lack of attachment to the place once my own lots next door were sold off to pay for my condo.

        There is really nothing better than escape, I so understand this. I just pray you will find somewhere to tuck yourself away and come to grips with Adam’s choices, and FORGIVE YOURSELF. Adam is not a child in the eyes of any law, he is making his own choices, as harmful and negative and stupid as you might think they may be. But they are HIS choices. All you have power over now is how you REACT to his choices, and behaviour. That is all. And that is still a lot of power.

        End of today’s sermon.

        Big hug as always. You know there are some EU jobs where you do not have to have the EU passport or teach children. Perhaps a summer work term is just what you need for 8 weeks. You would have to pay for your transport, but there are tons of summer schools where I know you could find some refuge and a change of scenery. Just let me know and I will look for some ideas for you.

        xxxxxx your friend xxxxx

      4. Sorry, I hadn’t replied to this comment yet. I’m not planning to get away except maybe for some short beach weekends before Iceland. Mike suggested I go up to explore Philadelphia’s gardens during the weekdays. I may do that. Also, I want to visit Richmond to help Alex find a new house (his lease expires July 31) and to help Sarah get settled into her new place. I also want to visit my sister in Maryland and my brother in N.J. if he’ll have me. It’s pathetic but I haven’t seen him in at least 7 years! I will get away for some outings.

        I’ve been hoping to hear about this part-time job as a receptionist at an Urgent Care, but if I don’t hear something soon, I may apply to go abroad again. As for Adam, we haven’t seen or heard much from him since last Tuesday. Of course, I worry when I don’t hear anything from him, but it’s also a bit of a relief as I always hope no news is good news. I did delete part of your comment about Adam’s mental condition; I really don’t want to diagnose him myself, as I’m not a professional, and I don’t want to assume anything negative, or even put it out there. Of course, I have my suspicions, but I’d like to keep them confidential. Thanks! 🙂

      5. That’s okay, I post as I know you are able to delete and actually I hope you do not post or keep what I write!! And I sincerely apologize if I overstepped my bounds. We have had similar issues close to home which we have been rather forced to investigate and this is where these ideas came from. Again, I am sorry if I spoke out of turn.

        As for day trips, you are so lucky to have so much to explore even with only a day to do so! I have never regretted not having learned to drive or have a car until this last forced initiative to keep me here in Canada. My grandmother was famous for getting into her Beaumont and taking off on her own with a car full of pets and heading to Vancouver. She owned an ocean-front cottage for years which my mother and aunt forced her to sell so she would return here when my grandmother’s last husband died. She sold it for $55,000 which was insane even in 1980. Now the land is work literally in the millions. And my grandmother, who hated living here as much as I do, but who felt obligated to return, sank into depression and self-medication only no one understood that then. I am very much like her, but without the wheels to take off. She was an incredible businesswoman and always was able to make a good living – sadly that part I did not inherit as I would not want my own business. But anyway! I look forward to the blogs of wherever you go, and I am sure your brother would be glad to see you for a visit!!

        Glad your weather has finally turned, yes, we also have cold then boiling humidity and unrelenting heat. For weeks now we have had hot days and a few threatening skies, but no rain. I am watering my garden every day now to ensure everything takes root. I am really enjoying that and do not mind going there even when nothing else would get me off the couch.

        Today is a housework day and I am planting herbs on my garden, too.

        I am looking forward to more renovation photos, and another cocktail hour please! I am sorry you are finding out that you are at the mercy of your contractors it seems re getting them done on time!

        Good luck in Richmond! I have seen shows on it here and it looks amazing (but very expensive!)!

        xx

      6. Interesting story about your grandmother, Mona Lisa. I think anytime a person is forced to do something that is not in their nature, they can easily sink into depression. It really is sad that she was forced to sell the place she loved and to which she escaped.

        I’m so glad you are finding gardening to be something you love. I never could develop a love for it as the Virginia humidity and heat in summer make tending and weeding the garden unbearable. I should be able to write another cocktail hour this week. I’m going to Richmond tomorrow & Wednesday to help Alex look for a new apartment, so hopefully after that. The renovation project is finally winding down. Only 3 weeks for the kitchen. The laundry room was done this past weekend and the porch will be done at the end of the week, with our furniture being delivered on Friday.

        As for Adam, I’m trying my best to let go and trust that things will work out for him. I don’t have any control over him, so there is no use letting him ruin my life. He’ll just have to figure out life on his own.

        Talk soon. Btw, the road trip idea sounds fabulous, but I don’t think I want to go back to Quebec as I’ve already been there. 🙂

      7. Yes, looking back, there is great regret on the part of my mum and her sister for forcing my gran to return, as she started to really develop a drinking problem to cope with hating it here, and who can blame her.

        Funny on my way to the garden I passed the house she lived in – I lived there, too, upstairs with my first loser boyfriend while I was in university. A young guy with a dog was there, and he said it was his house and that it has been renovated top to bottom and if wanted he would show it to me sometime. He was quite young, and good looking, but of course nowadays no one goes into a strange house anymore on their own or even with another person though I would love to see it. There you go, at least that house is loved now.

        The gardening is hard here as it is also 35 Celcius here and humid and this week will be particularly bad, but I am determined to make it work and it makes me walk home, though today I wish I had brought an umbrella for sun shade though I have a visor. What shocks me is how many people grow stuff they never pick which just goes to seed, but you cannot of cours take anything that you have not been given permission to take. One lady lets everyone have some of her salad as she grew too much but there are tons of things not being eaten as it is a very lush set of plots! I don’t spending an hour or two or more there on most days, weekends always I am there as I have water like mad as we have had very little rain this summer. Huge storm clouds and then a five minute deluge just like in Nizwa then it is gone.

        I so enjoyed the cocktail hour this week and I wrote a long novel in response as usual! Please don’t feel you need to respond, it is okay. Cannot wait to see the before and after of renovations soon!!! And hear more about your plans for Iceland!!!! I am so happy you have plans together, how romantic and exciting to get to know each other again and take your marriage to the next level. I do so miss not having someone that knows me well enough to love me despite my differences and challenges and needs. You are really lucky. My friend in Oklahoma has not made any noises about me visiting him or anything so I am not pushing that, though he writes if I ask a gardening question and he loved the Sounds of Silence video I sent around. I was a bit surprised you found it particularly depressing in relation to Adam, considering the son was written about 45 or 50 years ago now I think. I love playing that song on my guitar, which I just picked up. The shop had a man in his 60s there who waited on me, very sweet and a bit flirty, but I am not sure I want to see where that could go by returning to the store, which is only 2 blocks from my place or so.

        I have not done any Nordic Walking as that lady I want to avoid seems to be on every walk now and I won’t walk with her because I am ashamed of my outburst which needed serious analysis and my goal now is to finish KonMari-ing my home before the end of the summer. I am excited to see what I am able to let go off re clothes and books!

        One day we will find the right road trip! I would love to pay the costs to have someone I get along with to drive me down the PCH, that is my dream destination.

        But maybe you might come up to Toronto for a long weekend, when something you want to see or do is on. That would be terrific! There are great mini road trips from there. You never know!

        OK, have a great day, and a great week of good thoughts and good luck getting the house done on time!!!!!! Big hug!!!!!

      8. You should go back to the guitar shop and flirt with that man! Why not? If he was being flirty, you have nothing to lose at all!

        I’m sorry about the Nordic walking. I know it’s disappointing to you to have run into that lady; maybe you could talk to her, at least so you could go back and do that. I know you really loved doing it. Good for you KonMari-ing your home by the end of summer. That’s our goal too. We’re working on paper now; it’s so boring and I don’t know why we kept so much useless paper!!

        It would be fun to go down the PCH one day on a road trip. Maybe we can do it one day, but obviously I’d either have to drive my car across country or rent one at that end. A long weekend in Toronto would be interesting. Did I tell you I have been considering walking the Camino?? I really want to do it. We’ll see if it can all come together.

      9. https://www.tefl.com/job-seeker/jobpage.html?jobId=81790&countryId=223

        https://www.tefl.com/job-seeker/jobpage.html?jobId=81969&countryId=223

        Just a quick search – summer programmes teaching adults and no EU passport indicated. Just a hint of what is there. Spending the summer in the UK is not the worst thing in the world…. just an idea, you don’t have to respond. There is still a big world out there just waiting for YOU to get there. xxxx have a good weekend, at least I hope the weather is better!!! We can still hardly believe that less than 2 weeks ago it was snowing here! Today it is 30 C!!!!! xxxxx

      10. Thanks for sending these. I don’t really want to go anywhere this summer as we’re finishing up the renovation and going to Iceland on August 13. It’s hot here today too; but it’s supposed to rain tomorrow and Monday — too bad as it’s our Memorial Day weekend and all the pools are opening. Have a good weekend! 🙂

      11. Oh yes, I forgot about Iceland!! Doesn’t that sound enticing when it is 90+ degrees out and humid? We are roasting here – two weeks ago I posted photos of SNOW outside my windows on FB! Enjoy the long weekend!!! 😀

      12. Iceland sounds very enticing! I really can’t wait. I was also hoping our renovation would be done by the end of June, but now they’re telling us a week after July 4. I shouldn’t be surprised as renovations always go on longer than anticipated. It has suddenly gotten hot here too, finally, after about 45 days of solid rain and cold! We went from winter directly to summer! I remember your snow pictures. Crazy, huh? 🙂

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