Thursday, January 22, 2009

Seeing and Being Seen in DC

Yes, this was my first visit to DC. Because of the occasion, there was no sure way to accurately plan my two days there. While there, I decided with a friend to visit one museum and let the events and the crowd determine the rest of the sights I would see.

As expected the National Gallery of Art opened shows particularly fitting for this inauguration. Robert Frank’s “The Americans” is always a great catch no matter the museum. I never tire of seeing this photo portrait of America so appreciated the NGA’s effort to make this show available during this weekend. Pompeii and the Roman Villa was also especially timely. After all, the discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the 1700s not only sparked the Enlightenment, but also influenced Thomas Jefferson in establishing the Federalist architectural style that helped determine the design of many of the buildings and monuments in DC.

No doubt, walking through the Capitol last weekend was nothing Jefferson or perhaps even Frank could have ever imagined. The number of barricades, port-a-potties, and vendors selling Obama gear, and the millions of people visiting DC easily upstaged the architecture. Like many I was awestruck and consumed (many times literally!) by the masses. But most surprising was running into people I knew were there, but never believed I would see them. A good friend of mine and her family also visited from Cincinnati and were walking the mall at the precise time I was out there. Only a few moments later, the friend with whom I visited the museum also spotted someone she knew. I didn’t know which was more exciting, to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama or these chance meetings of friends. Was it the grandness of this historical event that captures the strength and pride of our country like the columns supporting the structures on The Mall, or these chance encounters with those we know as well as strangers like us that provide a more intimate profile of America? Idealism and Realism is a continuing dichotomy in the portrait of America. The NGA presents this well through the eyes of Jefferson and Frank