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Send My Conscience Home in a Taxi

Externalised Memory

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More aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaart
Drawing of a trike
(Again, I'm writing this on the train to New York, so it will lacking in linkin'. We just passed through Philadelphia.)

On Thursday, my sixth day in the US, I dragged myself to the National Gallery of Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaart. I went to Art School for all of two years some time ago, which give me a special power to be able to look at art, in bulk, very quickly, and to be able to dismiss whole eras, galleries, art periods and artists! I merely wave my hand in their general direction and go "Bah! I dimiss thee!"

I did however make a point of trying to get to every room in the gallery, if briefly, just to make sure I didn't miss some hidden masterpiece. I passed very quickly through the early European art, because it's mostly icons and religious themed work that I have no time for. There were a few portraits of the Di Medici's about, just for a small dose of powerful dynasties. I probably also missed some Carrivagos or something equally important in my dashing through those parts of the gallery.

The more modern areas peaked my interest a bit more. Oh, well, after I got all excited over a room full of Rembrandt's. They have some significant Impressionist pictures, plus the odd Seurat and some great work by Gauguin and Monet.

And there in one of the galleries, I was excited to stumble across one of my favourite pictures - Manet's "The Railway", although I've heard it have other, longer titles than this. It's a simple picture of a woman sitting by a railway fence, with a book open and a small dog on her lap. Next to her stands a girl, holding the railing and looking in. The train station is concealed in a cloud of steam from the trains.

It's a fairly simple picture, but it's full of something... it's ambiguous what is going on for example. Whole books have been written about this picture... So that was a happy accident.

The gallery is in two connected buildings, with lots of the more recent - 20th century - art in the newer eastern building. Which was very poorly laid out I have to say! I found my way to a large gallery space down stairs, which was full of interesting American art - some rather good Rothko's, a Pollack, Oldenburgs, Warhols and the like. I really like Rothko, although lots of people seem unimpressed by his endless coloured rectangles.

Upstairs there was a small but interesting collection of Philip Guston paintings. I really like his work - he went from being an abstract expressionist to painting these weird landscapes and cars full of smoking klansmen. And feet, lots and lots of feet, particularly the soles of shoes. He's a bit hard to explain, but quirky in an interesting and clever way. He was friends with Pollock, but survived himself till the late seventies.

After all that art, I caught a cab out to Georgetown, which was described to me as a bit like Fitzroy, only more gentrified. Which is exactly what it turned out to be! I actually didn't stay long, since I don't really like shopping or even window shopping. I did duck into a bookshop and grab a gift for my hosts, and I might have bought an Obama tshirt in a tiny hole in the wall place. But then I hopped on a bus which (hopefully) was going somewhere useful. Actually, I'd got the hang of Washington by then, so when the bus driver told me he was heading down K street, I knew what he was talking about. Once we crossed K street and 14th, I jumped off and walked south, about five blocks back to the Mall.

The final institution I visted was the (inevitable) Smithsonian Museum of American History. Which was infested with an even higher density of screaming school groups than all the other places I'd been to. In fact the gallery had been very quiet. The school group density was slightly higher than I could cope with, so I didn't stay long in the museum. Also it was full of artefacts which were no doubt significant to American's, less so to me... Although I was amused that they have Lincoln's famous top hat!

And in fact some of the exhibitions annoyed me. There was a fairly self serving section on the American presidency, and a large section dedicated to "Protecting our freedom" - detailing all the war the US has fought over the years. I found it a bit odd - for example, what was the fall of the Berlin wall doing in there? I assume something to to with the end of the cold war... So I didn't stay long in that institution.

I propped myself up in a window in a diner/bar half way between the mall and Metro Central station and drank lots of iced tea and wrote something like seven postcards. Which tired my hand out and indeed proved yet again that my handwriting sucks!

Caught the train back to Glenmont. Later in the evening, Luke, Laura and I went out to a cinema and saw the new Star Trek movie.Which at least was nice and loud! And hence kept me awake. They showed a whole lot of previews before the film, which all blended together for me, they all looked like scenes from the same film, lots of explosions and rapid movements. Except the new Pixar film which I might actually bother to go see...

And that was my last full day in the Maryland/Baltimore/Washington area. New York is next!

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Do I get a postcard? :-)

If I have your correct address - yes, it's on it's way :-)

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