Philly and D.C.

Try everything that can be done. Be deliberate. Be spontaneous. Be thoughtful and painstaking. Be abandoned and impulsive. Learn your own possibilities.
-George Bellows, 1920

Washington Monument, the National Mall, D.C.

My time on the East Coast is drawing to a close. Tomorrow I strike west for Kentucky.

After leaving New York, I spent 3 days in Philadelphia (in Media, actually, but close enough). I stayed with a friend from my days in Eugene, and as always it was wonderful to catch up. Jodi is one of those friends you can go years without seeing, but once reunited it’s like no time has passed at all. I went into downtown Philadelphia only twice; once to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and once to work on my project (or try to, anyway). The Museum was fabulous. It has been so entertaining to see up close the works I have studied in school. For example, Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 was there, in all its exploding shingle factory glory. You’d think after the Met and the MFA in Boston, I might have been sick of looking at art? Nah…

I have to say that I was a little underwhelmed by Philly. It struck me as very industrial, rather gloomy, and irritatingly congested. Parking is a nightmare, and trying to do a session for my project in one of the public squares involved 30 minutes of circling for parking, followed by 15 minutes of hauling my cumbersome and heavy equipment a half mile in the sweltering humidity. Awesome. And I didn’t even get a cheese-steak (I don’t eat dairy).

So off I went to D.C. And what do I do when I get there? Look at more art! 😉

“Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

If you have never been to our nation’s capitol, you should go. Seriously. After Philly, I was itching to head west, get away from the East Coast and all its crowded craziness. But D.C. set me at ease. It feels small, open, almost park-like. Lots of green space and people outside, running, rowing, cycling, ambling. I have been staying with a student from Maine, who lives in a lovely old Victorian house in Cleveland Park; 3 miles from the White House, quite close to the National Cathedral. She hired me to do some tutoring in Lightroom for her, and offered a place to stay. So convenient, and very kind of her. My hostess loves her city, and had plenty of recommendations for me. I have been bicycling around D.C. for the past two days, reveling in the myriad museums, memorials and gardens. And all FREE. So awesome.

I visited the: Natural History Museum, National Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn museum, Museum of the American Indian, African Art Museum, Holocaust Memorial Museum, Lincoln Memorial, FDR Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, MLK Memorial, White House, Capitol Building, National Cathedral, National Zoo, and Embassy Row. All in 2 days. Some highlights:

  • Gallery of Art: George Bellows exhibit. Got to see the painting I wrote a term paper on, Stag Night at Sharkey’s, plus a wide array of paintings and illustrations I had never seen. His paintings of New York inspired the same feeling I get when visiting contemporary NYC; there is nowhere to rest the eye in the visual chaos of the painting, much like there is no way to escape the madness when you are physically there. Among the other work I was not familiar with were Bellows’ WWI propaganda paintings, tennis scenes from the very courts in Rhode Island I patronized, and seascapes largely inspired by Monhegan Island and the Camden area in Maine, where I spent the summer.
  • Natural History Museum: Dinosaurs! And fossils that related to some of the specimens we’ve collected in New Mexico.
  • Holocaust Museum: HEAVY. But worth experiencing. 3 hours of human suffering. Ouch.
  • National Museum of African Art: exhibit of photography by Lalla Essaydi.
  • FDR Memorial: a lovely, contemplative space.
Philadelphia from the Art Museum

And now here I am. Leaving again in the morning for the rural routes of Kentucky. Bound for the Red River Gorge for a couple days of climbing. I could use some rock, some exertion, and some escape from urbanity. It has been powerfully reinforced this summer that I am not a city girl, nor am I an East Coast gal. The open spaces and wild places of the West beckon to me. They comfort me in a way that only the West can. I yearn to see the monsoons roll across the desert, to see snow-capped ragged peaks jut from the open plateaus, and to know that there is something wilder than me somewhere close by. The East Coast feels so… domesticated. Granted, it serves as the hub of our American cultural heritage, and I’ve immensely enjoyed my time here. But I am undoubtedly a child of the West, who sings the songs of mountains and trees, and dances in the desert and canyons and under open sky. And thus the East will occupy the place in my life assigned to many destinations: fun to visit, no thanks to live in. (Don’t take offense, East Coasters – you’d probably think southern New Mexico is a rundown shit hole. To each their own.)

Westward Ho! And Southward. But that’s later.

Smithsonian castle
The Capitol Building
African Art Museum, D.C.
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