Sunday, April 17, 2011

Washington, D.C.

While I was having my breakfast this morning in the hotel, I began to think about the enormous differences between two of the most important cities in this country. I got the sensation, from the 4 hours on the train, that I had crossed an abyss, appearing in a totally different world, passing abruptly from chaos to order, from overflowing exaggeration to elegance and sophistication, from popular desires to the political universe.

Both cities have their charm and both lack what the other has too much of. But after 14 days in NY I want to enjoy Washington and this showy peace, filled with culture, public spaces and art… many scenarios repeat in this country.

After walking through the Mall Park almost completely, surprising myself with its museum, buildings and memorials; of entering DC’s downtown with a map in my hand, of course, but clear and sure of the steps I was taking, I began to feel the invitation to go around and take advantage of each and every one of the hours I’ll be here. The morning began with a fun outing with Casey, a poet and Art History professor at Corcoran Gallery & College of Art and Design. We talk while looking for coffee, a search we quit before getting to the Faculty, where we had something to drink in the pleasant space we were in: the Main Hall. We walked by the White House first, a place much smaller than I imagined and full of different kinds of people protesting for many motives that they sure are entitled to have. It’s funny in any case, they’re not more than 5 or 7, including one person for each protest, like good examples of the principles they firmly believe in.

After quenching our respective thirst, we began a fun tour around the University, begining by the exhibition halls and the museum. I imagined what it would feel for a Chilean art or design student to study with painting by Rothko or Rauschenberg around, which you can see whenever you want, surrounded by incredible photography, artwork and big spaces destined for the exhibition of their work. The tour didn’t end there, though, because for my surprise it was just beginning and all my anxiety of visiting the museum that surround the big park faded when Casey opened doors that took us to different corners of this University, places I love like the ones destined to storage or artwork, with cold treatment for photographs, workshops where the students work: I’ve always loved these places, with tools, smells of pigmentation, metal, wood, photograph chemicals; that B side to art that fascinated me. We passed through offices and the library, and in every space we met very kind people and were involved in University moments. When I felt I took little treasures, of hope in important artists of the future.

After a little stroll through the park, I began to satisfy the hunger related to visiting the interiors of the museums, an appetite than began in the MoMa. I began my visits with observing the works generation by generation, among Contemporary Art in the Hishhor Museum and the National Gallery of Art, and of Classic Art as well, where I got to see for the first time in my life a work by Fragonard: an artist that I profoundly admire and that today, after laughing and being touched by his work, I declare my most absolute love to. Every museum here is special and coherent, from their architecture to the artwork in it. This gives me the sensation that nothing is here by chance, that everything is planned out to enlighten and respect every piece, as well as welcoming each visitor that fills up the museums’ space.

During my visits, and after travelling through Art History, I decided to play by taking by stay in DC according to different themes, taking on a new journey, now through US history: visiting the Museum of Indian Culture, with its very attractive architecture, soft to the eyes, interesting and well placed in the circuit, a place where everyone involved in creating this big particular universe called The United States of America is shown without discrimination nor determination (interesting mix); and the Air and Space Museum, where I felt like an absolute tourist, feeling constantly non-moved by what I was seeing, and where being among a human mass did bother me: like the lady that wasn’t allowed to take photos because she was in the way of someone else. I didn’t take photos, and that is definitely my mistake. Well, I might not be made for that kind of adventure, where airplanes and big transport constructions do not seem more attractive than the rest: that are in any case an artwork by themselves, as the space suits worn throughout history (fabulous), even though they remembered me of the Dharma Project in “Lost” than of the excitement of the first man on the moon.

Leaving this experience, I went for my almost mandatory stop on the green grass of Mall Park, to stop a minute, rest my legs and look at the sky. I knew I couldn’t finish my “thematic” tour without visiting the Lincoln Memorial, so I began walking there, and though the excessive amount of people going in the same direction invited me to stop, I knew it was my only chance: and that even though I couldn’t have a private conversation with him, I’d at least get a glance of him and enjoy the beautiful view of the park from there. Lincoln’s image is a powerful one, imposing and absolute, solemn, looking and taking care of this city that would seem to owe him everything. I then went to the Vietnam Veteran Memorial, as to be consequent with the circuit. It’s an interesting place, and extremely intense; you get to feel what these men felt.

Closing the tour at nighttime and with a sensation of being impossibly more tired than I was, I walked to the hotel by streets I didn’t know, enjoying every corner and thinking in how to make the most of my next and last morning in DC; a city that showed me its two faces: first a radiant sun and today an intense rain which didn’t stop me from walking. I even stopped for the mandatory photos, and also got to know the subway (modern, clean and tidier than the one in NY)

I’m now in Union Station, waiting for my train in a coffee shop, hoping to get back soon to the city that this month has become my home and my school.

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