July 23, 2009

The Smithsonian

OK. It wasn't a camping trip and it wasn't a family trip, but I was in Washington DC this week and managed to do enough exploring that I had to stop and buy some new insoles for my shoes. Our meetings were generally over by four, and so my opportunities to explore were limited due to the closing hours of the assorted museums.

This big fellow is a really big fellow. He is probably ten foot tall while seated, and I sure don't want him standing up. He was in the basement of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The realism of this piece was amazing.

The Air and Space Museum was open late, so I visited there after dinner. It so happened that it was the anniversary of the walk on the moon, so there was lots of media there. As impressive as the various artifacts were, I was most moved by a film I saw on the artwork of Astronaut Alan Bean. He continues to create incredible paintings, and he does them on aircraft plywood that he textures with imprints from his moon boots, rock hammer and bits of moon dust from his uniform patches. There is an excerpt of the film below.

The following day, I visited the gardens of the Smithsonian Castle (top photo), and then a couple museums before they closed. In the Castle they had displayed the judges desk from American Idol and props from the Night at the Museum movie.

I went to the Natural History Museum and was disgusted by the attitude of most of the visitors. It was as if they thought they were in a McDonalds' play-land. My favorite exhibit was on the world of ants. This piece which looks like a jelly fish is actually a cast of the tunnels and chambers of an ant colony. The biologist/artist, pours molten aluminum into the top of a tunnel and after it cools, excavates the casting. Incredible.

My last museum of the night was the American History museum. I saw the Star Spangled Banner, and this trailer was in the transportation exhibit. Very cool stuff.

I took the Metro to Union Station and then took a twilight tour of the city on the top of a double-decker bus. A quick Metro ride to the hotel and I was crashed for the night.

I slept in the last morning and then walked to the Potomac River through historic Alexandria, Virginia. It was very nice, with lots of galleries and street artists. At the waterfront, they have taken the old torpedo factory and turned it into a three story artists' gallery. Lot's of cool things going on in there. If I could afford it, I would have spent a lot of money in there.

This trip was a lot of work, with a few hours of tourism thrown in. It would have definitely been better with the whole family. Maybe next year. The video below is about ten minutes long, but I found it, and his work, my favorite part of the trip.