Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Mele Kalikimaka in a Tiki Bowl for Two

Today's greatest regret: I missed Vermeer's "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter" by eight days.

Compensation, if not full restitution, came partially courtesy of  "Wonder," the Renwick's opening exhibition after a two-year renovation, a show ranging from Leo Villard's "Volume," an LED light installation that was really just a visual representation of binary code (making it more science than art, I thought) to Patrick Dougherty's fantastical willow structures to John Grade's "Middle Fork," a casting of a 150-year old tree that was then reconstructed using tiny blocks of cedar.

Mind blown and a mid-morning geography lesson with Maya Lin's "Folding the Chesapeake," a green glass marble installation that showed the contours of the bay and its tributaries across the floor of the gallery and up the pale green walls.

The Potomac, whoa.

Ogling the insect-patterned deep pink walls of "In the Midnight Garden" by Jennifer Angus, I overhear a woman say, "My brother lived in New Guinea and he always said I should come see the bugs and I never did."

Her loss, but now she and I both were experiencing them in patterns of flowers, skulls and arranged flitting around the room.

New Guinea, Malaysia and Thailand bugs. Bugs the size of mice. BIG bugs.

Leaving to go to the American Art Museum, I catch the strains of the only Bad Company song I truly enjoy and stop to take it in under the silvery sky I had already commented on during the drive up.

Give me silver, blue and gold
The color of the sky I'm told
My rainbow is overdue

Nothing could have pleased me more than seeing a dazzling photograph of Spike Lee as part of "Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze" exhibit. Why? Because while buying tickets for Lee's "Chi-Raq" recently with a friend, a discussion ensued with strangers about the notoriously topical director.

To my astonishment, the young black woman behind the counter was clueless. "So who is this Spike Lee? All y'all seem to talk like I should know him." When I insisted that she should indeed know about Spike Lee, a guy tried to make her feel better, saying the director hadn't done anything in a while. Does. Not. Matter.

I'm sorry, young lady, but you should know who Spike Lee is. Period.

Most obscure fact gleaned from "Eye Pop"? Kobe Bryant was named after the Japanese beef. Seriously.

My estrogen got a boost from "Elaine de Kooning: Portraits," from the many images of JFK for his official portrait to her artsy crowd (the Allen Ginsberg portrait was positively poetic) to the 1957 photograph at the Cedar Bar of her, Franz Kline and poet Frank O'Hara, all three of them looking so smart and sophisticated, as only denizens of NYC in the '50s could.

"Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection" delivered Hopper, O'Keefe, Thiebaud and Picasso, among many others, while the engrossing "Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs 1859-1872" brought home familiar imagery, like the ruins of the Richmond/Petersburg bridge, the pilings of which I see regularly on my river walks.

Plus, of course, lots of photos of dead bodies.

But the war seemed far away in "Walt Whitman and His Party," a sepia-toned photograph showing Walt and his guy friends on the banks of a river during that time he came to Washington to see his brother and stayed to have an affair with a handsome young man. You know the one.

Curious about what Richmond might be offering in a few years come holiday time? A variation on Miracle on Seventh Avenue, most likely.

When last I visited, it had been a sherry and ham bar, but until Christmas Eve, it's a Christmas extravaganza, lorded over by a door guy in leopard leggings with a bowl of mint Hershey's kisses between his spotted thighs.

Inside, holiday decor and punk rock Christmas music reward patrons who wait in a line that stretches down the block (unless you're as sage as we are and arrive at just the right time) for a shot at drinks like "I Don't Mind You Shooting Me, Frank, But Take It Easy on the Rum" or "Can I Interest You in Hanukkah?"

Thanks, no.

After toasting each other with nog shots of Baltimore egg nog laced with - what else?- sherry (and rum), we took sustenance next door at Eat the Rich, where we each downed a dozen oysters with some perfectly lovely Le Charmel Muscadet and far too many hushpuppies smeared with Old Bay mayo.

My rainbow may be overdue and I still regret missing Vermeer, but not another thing about this perfect silvery day. Also, nog shots are here to stay.

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