If someone had told me when I began training as a docent at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (NPG) that I would still be leading tours after seventeen years, I would have been surprised, to say the least. That said, I am so happy to have had the experiences that I have had as a result of my connection with the Smithsonian. In fact, I was introduced to an opportunity to experience art in another unlikely place because of information passed to me through my Smithsonian connection.
In September, NPG had an appreciation event honoring the docents. These events are always special. The food is terrific, seeing my fellow lover's of NPG is always a treat, and an interesting presentation is often a part of the evening. This year, the presentation shed light on an upcoming exhibit of art that was most unusual. The evening included an announcement given to us from the director of the Portrait Gallery, Kim Saget. Saget stated, “I want to expand the idea of what a portrait is,” “The Portrait Gallery commissions paintings, video, photography and drawings all the time. This is about pushing the boundaries of portraiture outside the walls of the museum.” Her excitement was palpable, but she didn't have to convince me. I was fairly bursting at the seams to see the work she described.
During the month of October a giant portrait could be viewed from atop the Washington Monument on the National Mall. This portrait was commissioned by NPG, and was made by the Cuban-born American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada using approximately 2,300 tons of sand and 800 tons of soil. His work, he says, “will avoid any negative impact on the environment.” (That’s a requirement of the National Park Service, which will install soccer fields on the site next year.) Using GPS, he mapped the ground with 15,000 pegs to indicate facial features. He then linked the pegs with string to form a template for placing pale sand and dark soil.
To see this piece in a short video, click here.
Here is a photograph that I took from atop the Washington Monument on a nearly perfect day before it was deinstalled. The clarity was not as precise as when the art was first completed, but my excitement at seeing the work was not diminished. Art is everywhere!