Hill Talk: Exhibit Features D.C.-Raised Artist

Posted June 18, 2008 at 4:38pm

Sculptor Martin Puryear credits the National Gallery of Art with granting him his first exposure to art as a child. Now, he will have a chance to inspire a new generation of children with the opening of an exhibit of his works at the National Gallery on Sunday.

“It’s an overwhelming privilege to have my work in this museum,” said Puryear, a native Washingtonian and Catholic University graduate. “My earliest memories of museums are of this place.”

The Washington of Puryear’s childhood was very different than the Washington of today. Born before the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Puryear attended a segregated public school before graduating from unsegregated Archbishop Carroll High School.

This background infuses his artwork most notably in the “Ladder for Booker T. Washington,” named for an African-American educator and civil rights leader. Some have suggested that the 36-foot-tall ladder, which hangs in the West Building’s rotunda, represents the challenges of social and economic ascension for African-Americans.

Puryear is known for his innovative use of organic and inorganic materials, including wood, wire mesh, tar, rawhide and found objects.

For those who typically find modern art impersonal or machine-like, Puryear’s handwrought, organic forms display a personal voice and playfulness often absent in minimalist works.

Visitors can examine Puryear’s sculptures from all angles, getting an up-close look at how the different materials use and hold space. For instance, they can walk directly below the shaft of the massive umbrella-like sculpture called “Desire,” which takes up an entire room.

The exhibit features nearly 50 works created from 1976 to the present, and it is the first in the history of the museum to be installed in both the West and East Building.

The National Gallery of Art, located between Third and Seventh streets at Constitution Avenue Northwest, is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 202-737-4215.

Botanic Garden Offers ‘Green’ Family Fun

The National Mall will get a bit greener this weekend. The Botanic Garden is hosting its first of four scheduled family days this Saturday to highlight “One Planet — Ours,” a summer exhibit on environmental sustainability in the 22nd century.

Sustainability experts will lead visitors in a variety of hands-on outdoor activities, including building with straw bales and cooking tasty treats in solar-powered ovens.

Because Saturday also marks the beginning of National Pollinator Week, the first family day will include several buzzworthy activities and special exhibits relating to birds and bees. Participants can try to spot the queen bee among her drones in a closed observation hive or act out the pollination process with a handmade puppet.

Keeping with the theme of the eco-friendly exhibit, visitors are encouraged to Metro to the events. Early birds can also take advantage of a bag swap — the first 100 visitors to trade in plastic bags to be recycled will receive a free reusable shopping bag.

Activities will take place rain or shine from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Botanic Garden’s National Garden, Terrace and Bartholdi Park (100 Maryland Ave. SW). No registration is necessary. For more information, visit usbg.gov.

Hill Residents Invited To Family Picnic

Ward 6 residents are invited to D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells’ Second Annual Family Picnic & Softball Tournament at Rosedale Recreation Center on Saturday.

From noon until 5 p.m., the pool will be open and there will be soccer, basketball and tennis workshops for children, free food, health screenings, informational booths, live music and a raffle of gift certificates from local businesses and sports teams.

The day will begin at 11 a.m. with a cleanup of the center, located at 1700 Gales St. NE, just south of Benning Road.

A celebrity softball tournament featuring members of the D.C. Council and other guests will begin at noon.

The event is sponsored by a host of D.C. businesses and government agencies.

To register a softball team, sign up for an informational booth or to find out more information, contact Daniel Conner at dconner@dccouncil.us or 202-724-8063.