I just got back after being stuck in Washington, DC during Snowzilla. Before the blizzard moved in and shut down the city (except for many restaurants and bars — thank you for that, DC), I was able to visit a few museums. One of them was the newly-renovated Renwick Gallery, which is currently exhibiting a show called Wonder. Their website has a short video about the exhibit.
I really love installation art. As a child, walking through immersive, room-sized sculptures was transformative and other-worldly, and those experiences are partially why I chose to study art in college.
The Renwick has signs in every room encouraging people to take photos, so I did. Here are three of the nine pieces on display.
Artist Janet Echelman filled the biggest space with suspended netting illuminated with lights that slowly changed colors. The shape of the fabric is a 3-D map of wave heights from the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. The floor had low benches and bean-bag sacks, encouraging people to lie down, look up, and watch how the lights transformed the space.
Here's another view, showing the reflections on the wall. Love it.
As you might have noticed, I like making art and crafts with everyday materials, so naturally I'm a fan of this next piece. Tara Donovan 's termite-mound-like hills (or are they stalagmites? Mountains? Cairns?) are constructed almost entirely of stacked index cards.
A closer look:
And finally, what has to be the most Instagrammed of the nine installations, Jennifer Angus's "In the Midnight Garden." The walls are painted bright pink with cochineal, a dye made from the bodies of the female cochineal insect. Check out the labels of any food or candy with a pink tint, and you might find cochineal or carmine (a processed form of cochineal) in the list of ingredients. Yep, you've been eating bugs.
Anyway: The main attraction is the patterns on the walls, which are formed by the bodies of insects and beetles. Yes, the bugs are real, and all are species that are overabundant or invasive in their Southeast Asia territories.
It's odd and creepy and awe-inspiring, especially on a logistical level (how did she...?). But my favorite part of the room was a tall, many-drawered, hexagonal cabinet in the center that seemed to have once held machine or engine parts. Many of the drawers were pulled out to reveal dioramas of insect bodies engaged in various scenes, either as protagonists or as raw materials.
If you're in or visiting DC in the next few months (until May 8), go check it out. Since the Renwick is a Smithsonian museum, it's free to see.
I'm Debbie Way, an artist and writer who enjoys making things.