Washington DC – Smithsonian Art Museum

I thought this would be my least favorite museum, but I adored the Washington DC — Smithsonian Art Museum! Ironically my least favorite section was the contemporary art, but I still liked it. I appreciate art that incorporates history, social issues and creativity to invoke emotion. One section of the gallery did this beautifully. Some pieces offended me, but I still respected and adored them because they forced a strong reaction from me.

The Smithsonian Art Museum was so much more than I expected. A half day is all I thought I would need to wander the halls and see the paintings. My intention when I visited was not so much to enjoy it, but to do it because I had to as an artist. I grew up sitting in galleries full of oil paintings with my Grandma. I thought this would be similar only on a larger scale.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. The museum was the most spectacular gallery I have ever stepped foot in. Here is only a small portion of what the Smithsonian Art Museum houses.

The Classics

Here are a few pieces of gorgeous iconic art that one would assume would be in a museum of this stature:

American History Portrayed

The Smithsonian Art Museum is known as one of the leading art galleries in the world. However, it is evident that it is an American museum that puts a lot of emphasis on showcasing American history, issues and politics through art. 

The Hall of Presidents

The hall of presidents houses portraits done of every American president. Each president choose who painted them. By choosing who painted them it also dictated the personal style of each and gives the viewer a deeper view into past nation leaders psyches. 

Play on Lights

Some pieces are touring through the Smithsonian Art Museum including a series that uses light to create shadows.

Contemporary Art

The contemporary wing of the museum showcased modern pieces. My favorite was the life like image of a woman sitting at a table eating her lunch. I thought she was a real person for the first 20 minutes I was wandering around the wing. I only noticed she was not real, but a piece of art, when I got closer and thought how odd it was for someone to have groceries and eating lunch in that spot. 

The Human Body

The human body was on display in many areas of the museum. 

Mixed Media

One of the traveling displays was a series of mixed media pieces.

Deconstructed Portraits

The last wing I walked was my favorite because it showcased deconstructed portraits. The gallery contained art by Titus Kaphar in which the rules of portraiture are manipulated to expose the marginalization of African Americans. He takes historical Anglo-European portraits and puts African Americans as the subjects in them. Kaphar physically assaults the paintings so African Americans are not left unseen like they have been by traditional art museums. Kaphar pushes the viewer to confront the absence of the importance African Americans have played in United States history. 

The Smithsonian Art Museum is a must when traveling in the Washington DC area. Allow yourself a day, drink plenty of water and wear comfortable shoes. There are lots of spots to sit and reflect on what you are visually taking in. Give yourself time and let the art speak to you no matter what kind of emotion it invokes. One art enthusiast I spoke with at the museum said that he hated the deconstructed portraits because they made him angry. I told him that is exactly why I enjoyed them. They provoked strong emotion.

Until next time ~ Happy Travels! 

Betz Golden