Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A day at the Freer

More years ago than I care to admit, I visited my parents when they lived in Washington D.C.

It was at this exact time of the year, so maybe that's why I'm remembering the event now.  The cherry blossoms in bloom along the Tidal Basin...
On one of my days there, I went with my Mom to the Freer-Sackler Galleries.  Otherwise known as the Smithsonian's Museums of Asian Art. 
"It's my favorite place here," Mom said or something to that effect.  I was admittedly flummoxed by this but went along nonetheless.  It was an art gallery, how bad could it be?

Not bad at all.  Quite the opposite, really. 
It is impossible for me to fully convey the sense of peace and serenity that came over me amidst all of that art.  I know, it's trite and redundant at this point to refer to anything Asian as having "a sense of serenity" but nothing could be truer in this case.  Open and comfortable spaces alive with greens, Japanese folding screens depicting sylphs with fans and serving tea, Buddhist paintings from Korea that were chipped and peeling but retaining their aura of artistry and reverence, and of course statues of Buddha himself.  The majority of these ancient statues depict the Buddha as having his prototypical expression of utter calm and kindness.  It struck me at the time just how much that expression mirrored the ones given to Jesus in Western paintings.  Just don't tell the fundies that bit of correlation.

Speaking of one of my favorite demographics, the Freer-Sackler Galleries also have a sizable collection of Islamic art and works of art from places like Iran.  Bear in mind that I visited this gallery shortly before either of those descriptors became dirty words.  Even then I was amazed at how much you can learn about another culture through their art and their mythology.  With this knowledge can come understanding.  But what do I know?

Another highlight for me were the massive temple guardians carved from stone.  They were Japanese if I'm not mistaken but so far I've been unable to find anything on the web page to confirm that one way or the other.  Additionally, I recall there being at least a few small pieces of anime included in the Japanese section.  Anywhere that rightfully treats anime as art is just great in my book.

In terms of the future, Freer-Sackler has an upcoming exhibition entitled Art of Darkness.  It is neither a collection of goth works nor an homage to a Coppola film.  It is a showcase of mezzotints done by contemporary Asian graphic artists.  Wish I could get there to see it.

So if you're anywhere near the D.C. area or just visiting, you owe it to yourself to stop into the Freer-Sackler Galleries.  Go ahead, your tax dollars paid for it.  Plus you get peace, serenity, and great art to go with it.  As my Mom said while looking at her surroundings, "Don't you wish that this could be your living room?"

More than you know.

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