As the poet once said, “you never stop learning.” But that may have just been something my great-aunt Agatha used to say. We may never know.
At the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum (aka not The National Portrait Gallery; same building, different museum), a roadmap for exploring the museum cropped up. Nevermind that it’s really for kids, it’s still a way to learn more about art. And hey, just because you’re an adult, still doesn’t mean you know all that much about art.
The Art a la Cart cart provides a bridge between the docents, who know much but have good manners and wouldn’t want to show off, and the patrons, who know less and are probably too shy to ask questions. With or without a kid in tow, I encourage you to step up to one of these carts and learn something. On weekends there are 10-12 carts all over the museum. Children (or adults–no judgement) can pick up a passport to the museum at the two entrances to track their progress.
The cart to which I was drawn today centered on learning about Deborah Butterfield’s “driftwood” horse statue, title Monekana. I wandered over because the cart and its docent had some fascinating looking wooden pieces on display. And, in a museum, getting to actually be allowed to touch something is pretty cool.
The docent handed me what looked to be a piece of driftwood. When I held it, it almost pulled my hand down with its weight. It wasn’t wood after all; it was bronze.
The artist had (so the docent said) created the statue as a commentary on modern femininity. Though the statue looks fragile and light–it looks like it might tip over in a heavy breeze–the statue is in reality extremely heavy and strong. The marble floors were even reinforced for the weight before the statue was installed.
The artist cast each piece of the statue, a complex pattern of “driftwood” pieces, in bronze in the shape of driftwood, then painted them in a light patina, making each one look like a washed up piece of wood; each one is its own little piece of art.
For my time and money (little and none, respectively), this piece of knowledge was so well done. The docents were informative, the learning was fun and low-key and I didn’t have to commit to an entire tour.
Art a la Cart–now for adults.