It also had a fire alarm, which went off around 2 am. The alarm was Loud, and the strobe light was Bright. I leapt out of bed, and then struggled to figure out why I was standing there, totally confused and disoriented. As we tried to sort it out, we heard the announcement, "There has been a fire incident. Please exit the building. Do not use the elevators." So we pulled on some clothes, and stumbled into the hallway and down the stairs (we were on the 6th floor). The stairs disgorged us onto a side street; we followed the crowd and walked around to the front of the hotel.
I was surprised that the crowd was rather small - surely the hotel had more guests than these?!? Indeed, some guests were sticking their heads out of windows, looking to see what was going on (Answer: not much). We wandered back into the lobby, where a security guard told us we could go back to our rooms. During the night, a letter of apology appeared under our door, which assured us that the hotel staff were concerned for our safety, and explained that the fire alarm was triggered by smoke in a guest's (non-smoking) room.
In spite of that inauspicious beginning, our stay in Washington was really delightful. Jim had a legal lecture first thing Saturday morning, and met some of the other BYU attorneys that would be attending the Supreme Court session (more on that in a later post). Then he and I headed over to the Metro Station, figured out how things worked, and caught a train to the Smithsonian Station.
We walked to the National Gallery of Art, stopping by the Sculpture Garden. We spent most of our day at the gallery, with a break to enjoy some lunch at the Pavilion Cafe.
Here are a few photos (just a handful of the many, many photos we took...). This first reminds me of my nephew Chris - anyone else see a resemblance?
Portrait of a Boy
When I entered a gallery and saw this scene by Pissaro, it took my breath away.
Boulevard des Italiens, Morning, Sunlight
Jim was looking forward to seeing paintings by John Constable. This one reminded me of our trip to England, when we visited this cathedral. As I recall, the day we visited was a bit dreary, but there was a high school choir (from Canada, maybe?) singing in the church, and it was so lovely that I've never forgotten it. (Unless, of course, I've completely fabricated this pleasant memory...)
Salisbury Cathedral from Lower March Close
One more lovely that we stumbled on:
Poppies, Isles of Shoals
We saw so many wonderful pieces, it was quite overwhelming. The National Gallery of Art is a real treasure; now I want to go back, spend more time, maybe join a guided tour to get some insights and context.
It was a beautiful day to wander through the sculpture garden. The sculptures ran the gamut from whimsical to somber. In the camp of whimsy:
Thinker on a Rock
This next piece seemed rather odd. I later found this information on the National Gallery's website.
Over the last thirty years, Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has created a compelling and highly emotional body of work, largely drawn from her personal experience of World War II and its aftermath. She is best known for her "crowds" (as she calls them) of headless, rigidly posed figures whose anonymity and repetitious presentation have been regarded as the artist's personal response to totalitarianism.
Trained as a textile artist, Abakanowicz first used burlap in her indoor sculpture to achieve modulated, deeply incised surfaces for powerfully expressive ends. Each of the thirty bronzes in Puellae is a unique cast, made from a burlap mold that the artist individually worked during the casting process. Each puella's diminutive size is unusual, since Abakanowicz has traditionally depicted adults as life-size or larger. The work refers to an account the artist heard as a child in Poland during World War II about a group of children who froze to death as they were transported in cattle cars from Poland to Germany, as part of the "Arianization" process. Depending on the site, these figures can be arranged in any configuration.
Still, we both enjoyed the classical story of star-crossed lovers, in this classic theatre.