Weekend Art Sojourn

I did a fairly impulsive thing this past weekend, flying to Washington, D.C. to catch the last day of the exhibition "20 Years of Artists' Books" at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. I was there when the Museum opened at noon, and walked out at 4:30 pm, inspired and delighted by the experience. In fact, NMWA has a collection of more than 800 artists' books by women artists (108 of them were on view in the exhibition) and is a leader in the promotion of artists' books as an art form. The type and range of books and "book objects" was impressive and instructive (not to mention utterly delicious). I'm waiting for the exhibition catalogue to arrive so that I can savor my favorites again.

In typical student mode, I took notes describing particularly interesting bindings that I might try to replicate, jotted down facts and quotes that intrigued me, and noted the names of artists whose work I'd like to explore further. One irony of the exhibition was that the books on view -- works that are often meant to be touched, as in pages turned -- were either under glass or guarded by "do not touch" signs. Understandable, of course, but also frustrating.

Monday morning I braved the excruciatingly cold weather (the kind of cold that makes you feel like your face is going to crack and fall off) to see the Jasper Johns exhibit at the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art. I was lucky, since it had gone up just a few days earlier. The curators took an interesting approach. They selected four motifs that Johns had used regularly in the first decade of his career (1955-1965) and proposed to show how these motifs (for example, the target and what Johns called the mechanical "device") had evolved and interrelated over this period. I knew very little about Johns' work during this time and I was very glad that I'd trekked in the cold from the Archives Metro Station to the East Wing to see it. I had a feeling at the time that there was a link between what I was seeing and what I'd seen the previous day at the NMWA, and although the feeling has lingered, the connection hasn't declared itself. When the bulb lights up over my head, I'll share the news.

An excellent weekend overall. Not only did I get to indulge my art "jones," but I got to spend time with a dear friend and catch up with a colleague whom I've missed seeing. What more could a BookGirl want in a mini-vacation?

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