Washington Wanderings: Planetside and Blanketside

Saturday morning I realized I needed to recharge the muse a little with a trip to see art. I started with picking the museum pretty much because I did want to do a transfer on Metro. If any of the lines are single-tracking due to maintenance, it becomes a big headache and a whole lot of people. So, when I saw that there looked to be a decent art exhibit by Kay Walkingstick at the National Museum of the American Indian, that was it. The exhibit actually opened that day.

Generally, I haven’t liked the NMAI. I went to the museum right after it opened its doors for the first time and found it visually noisy. Smithsonian had some criticisms for being politically correct, and the museum felt like they were trying to please everyone. They had tried to put in a section for all the of the tribes, and there were too many to do a decent job with it.

The second time I went, it was to see an exhibit by a Hawaiian artist that was a joint project with a local gallery. I was writing my Hawaii book Rogue God at the time, and I was intrigued in seeing contemporary Hawaiian art.

I got home tools like shovels and brooms.

So this was my third time at the museum. Fingers crossed!

It was raining out when I left. Not really hard, so I figured I could manage without the umbrella. The news made it sound like the rain would blow through. I hopped the Metro and got off at L’Enfant Plaza and back out into the rain. A short walk to the museum (thankfully!).

First stop inside was at the 4th Floor theater, mainly because there was a sign over the elevator that said something like “Start your visit in the theater.” The theater was kind of strange because it had three “screens.” The first was on an Indian blanket, and that was the primary screen. The second was on the “grandfather rock,” which was a polished globe in the floor. The third was on the ceiling, and it was sort of a planetarium screen.

I was sort of torn between planetside and blanketside, and ignored poor grandfather. Some aspects of the film reminded me of these Alaskan films that I saw in 5th or 5th grade. The films showed the Alaskans (who were also in the blanketside film) cutting freshly killed animals and eating the meat from the knife. The grade school films were actually quite bloody. We had a little bit of that here, but nothing like those school films.

Then the film wrapped and it was lunch time so I wandered off to the café to see what was there. This was, hands down, one of the best of the food restaurants in the Smithsonian (Air and Space is one of the worst—it’s a MacDonald’s so there are very few options; Natural History Museum is also pretty poor because they imply healthy food, and healthy means free range).

I picked Indian Tacos, which consisted of Buffalo Chili (beans and sauce, not buffalo meat); lettuce, tomatoes, bell pepper; cheddar cheese; and fry bread. I’d read about fry bread in the Ellah Clah books, so it was on my list to try it. The bread was round and kind of flat, but thicker than a tortilla and puffy. Inside it was pleasurably soft. The taco parts were spread on top of it, so I may have to make a trip back for fry bread by itself. But it was very good.

And I was amazed that the people in front of me just ordered hamburgers. Seriously? You can’t try something new out?

Up to the third floor for the Kay Walkingstick exhibit. The museum guard warned me that an alarm would sound if I got within two feet of the paintings. That’s probably in place because of the Gaughan incident a few years ago. There was a Gaughan exhibit at the National Art Gallery. It was his Tahiti paintings, so lots of nudes. A woman went nuts and tried to damage one of the paintings.

He also said the artist had been by the day before, and he was in awe of her. Pity! I wish I could have seen her. That would have been cool. I settled for a movie she filmed for the museum that was part of the exhibit.

The exhibit itself was very extensive (not like my previous experience with three pieces that consisted of tools). It covered 1970s all the way through today. I found the modern day landscapes just stunning. The colors and images were stunning. You can see the artworks on Walkingstick’s site. Each section has art that was in this exhibit. The section called “Works on Canvas & Wood” feature the landscapes that I really enjoyed.

After I finished wandering, it was time to go back outside. Yup! Still raining, and a bit harder. Really should have brought the umbrella!