Sunday, December 30, 2012

Augsburg Renaissance art exits Dec. 31

Hieronymus Hopfer, active c. 1520-1550 or after, Personification of Rome, National Gallery of Art, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 2000

It's an enlightening show at the National Gallery of Art, certainly required viewing by every area Renaissance and German student of language and/or German history, with 103 prints, drawings and illustrated books spanning 65 years and providing rich background and renderings about the nation and the widening influence of the Renaissance.

Around 85 percent of the pieces come from the National Gallery's collection in this first exhibition of its kind in the U.S. about Augsburg.

The city, named for Roman Emperor Augustus, is one of Germany's oldest, and the range of the show (1475-1540) captures the beginning of its golden age.  Augsburg was a military fortress before it became a Roman capital province, and its location at the confluence of two rivers in Bavaria was critical to its trade and cultural success, stimulating its vast commercial partnership with Italy and other important areas.

Among its citizenry and leaders, the arts commanded enthusiastic audiences, including that of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) who spent so much time in Augsburg he was called honorary mayor.  The exhibition exemplifies his dominance in the city which housed seven convents.

Facing visitors entering the last gallery of the show is a detailed drawing of a magnificent Maximilian long carriage drawn by horses heavily decked in royal dress, almost lifelike with the prancing and pawing of each little (big) hoof, if you hear what I hear.

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), detail from The Triumphal Chariot of Maximilian I, 1522, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, 1943

Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), The Triumphal Chariot of Maximilian I, 1522, woodcut on eight joined sheets, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, 1943

A "must see" in the show, especially for tempted lovers, is Death interrupting a couple and seizing the man’s entrails from his throat and hanging on to the woman’s skirt with his teeth as she tries to flee.  For new material, movie producers of horror should have a look.  Gruesome

In an earlier gallery women are shown as the beguiler of the beguiled, and things have not changed.  Let's strike them all down dead before any more harm can come.  (See India, December 29, 2012.) 

Christoph Bockstorfer (1490-1553), The Death of Virginia, c. 1525, National Gallery of Art.  Here a father stabs his daughter to death because death is preferable to disgrace, as in Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Turkey, Pakistan, Morocco, Syria, and other nations, according to a 2002 UN report

Where is a rendering of a man admiring his own person in the looking glass while Death lurks in the background?  Perhaps a female artist of the period would have reversed the gender of the subject, had she been allowed. 

Daniel Hopfer (c. 1470-1536), Woman and Attendant Surprised by Death, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elisha Whittelsey Collection

Is there a Woman's Bible as in Adam was the one who communicated with the snake and ate the apple, and Jesus and other leading figures were women?  In 1895 and 1896 a Woman's Bible was published by crusaders Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony challenging the traditional orthodoxy that women should be subservient to men.  Not exactly what I am thinking about, but it's time for a new edition where men are subservient to women.  Let the Renaissance of Women flourish!  (You see what art can do.)

Hans Burgkmair I (1473-1531), Samson and Delilah, 1519, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection, 1943

In the first-of-its-kind catalogue available in the shops, Augsburg and Renaissance history is detailed, along with essays by the show's curators, Gregory Jecmen of the National Gallery of Art, and Freyda Spira of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and many illustrations.

From Washington the exhibition travels next fall to the University of Texas at Austin and then to Vassar College.  A grant from the Thaw Charitable Trust and contributions from Gene and Clare Thaw have made the presentation possible.

What:  Imperial Augsburg:  Renaissance Prints and Drawings, 1475-1540

When:  This exhibition closes on New Year's Eve.  The Gallery is open every day from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and on Sunday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.  The Gallery is closed on New Year's Day

Where:  Ground floor galleries in the West Building, National Gallery of Art, between 4th and 7th and Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.

How much:  No charge

For more information:  202-737-4215

Metro stations:  Judiciary Square, Navy Memorial-Archives, or the Smithsonian


Saturday, December 29, 2012

All I got for Christmas was a 2013 Camaro

A yellow 2013 Camaro like mine. (Please see photo below.) Does it not remind you of an angry, smiling (?) tiger ready to gobble you up?/General Motors
At the car rental desk Christmas Eve, the agent took quite a long time doing my paperwork.  Hmmmmm, I wondered, what's up?

He said something about gas mileage, and I said “Oh, it’s no never mind. I’m not going far. I can handle it.”
I always rent the smallest, cheapest car I can get, and Christmas was no different.

Down the counter was another customer talking with an agent who told him the only vehicle left was a pick-up truck.

 “A pick-up truck?” asked the customer incredulously. “What’s it look like?”

 “It’s a pick-up truck.” said the agent. “It looks like a pick-up truck. It acts like a pick-up truck.  It drives like a pick-up truck. What do you think it looks like?" At that time of day and without cars to rent, the hired help could be surly.

 "It seats four.”

The guy took it.

This was the Orlando International Airport, after all, where car rentals are at a premium at Christmastime, what with all the tourists from the brrrrr north coming down to partake of Disney World and all the other area worlds.

I had not even plucked down any money on my credit card to make my reservation ahead of time, but I was a past customer which might have helped. This was E-Z Car Rental, far cheaper than the big name rental companies. I go for the cut-rate deals.

And I got one!

For the cut-rate “economy” price, how would you like a brand new with temporary tag, bright yellow 2013 Camaro? I ain’t talkin’ no wispy Williamsburg dainty yellow. I am talking SCREAMING bright yellow. As in Sun Yellow, the kind that blinds you when you look at it.  (GM calls it "Rally Yellow," and it costs more to get it!)

Would you go for that, sister? Would you? Could you?  Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! I was supposed to drive it?

The car had more many lights, push buttons, and turning knobs than a 747, and I would know since I’ve driven neither.
It had a camera which showed you what was behind you when you backed-up and it beeped at you if you got too close to anything, and sent messages if the area was unsafe. “Be mindful of your surroundings” or something like that. Whew!
The windows in the back seat (a two-door) were smaller than Little Caesar’s pizza slices, in other words, non-functional for a driver like me who uses them constantly to change lanes and who can't see to drive at night. 
Yes, it was night, but fortunately, in Orlando, Florida, the lights never go out since it’s always party-time, and I was hoping no dragster would challenge me to a race on Interstate 4 like what happened to me in Colorado when I was driving my son’s Z a few years back.
In the Camaro I was unable to find the button or clip or anything on the rearview mirror to dim the cars’ lights behind me since I can't see to drive at night, but I did spot three little buttons on the bottom of the mirror (!) and pressed the red one.
The radio was blaring, and the name of the artist and the song showed on the television screen (!) below the radio, and you could select the type of music you wanted to scan (jazz, blues, classics, HEAT (?)).  Cool. I could get used to this, but this noise conflicted with the man’s voice which immediately spoke to me from somewhere….the ceiling? A phone? The cloud. It must have been the cloud.
“Hello,” he said. “This is OnStar. How may I help you?”
I had not mastered the art of turning down the radio volume being that it was night and I can't see to drive at night, and the dash was a blur while I cruised the highway, trying to figure out where the lanes were. 
Uuuhhhhhh, uhhhhhhh, I stammered. I was just trying to figure out how to drive the car since it’s a rental and that’s okay, I can figure it out, I told him, fearing E-Z Car Rental would charge me $50 for the call.
The Camaro had stereo sound and a phone logo on the rear-view mirror, too, which I am certain made telephone calls upon command. I was afraid to press and find out ($50?). The car probably had a coffee maker which dispensed Starbux, but again, I was afraid to push any more buttons since talking heads were coming out of the upholstery and floorboards. There was likely a microwave, but I never found it. I know there was Internet somewhere.
Besides, it was time to check in to my cut-rate motel where I was immediately shocked throughout my body once I got to my room and reached up under the lamp shade to turn on the light and stuck my fingers in a broken socket.  Pop!  Crack!  Bang!  Sizzle, sizzle was the music my body made all right night (it rhymes).  The motel was rather unusual since "guests" roamed around the halls and lobby in bare feet and at breakfast, came down in their pajamas.  Actually, I think Kayak got the place mixed up with a mental ward and somehow I got in.

With rental cars, it always takes me the longest time to figure out how to open the gas gauge to insert fuel. So when I slid in the car the next morning (only too glad to find it in one piece without damage by the patients in the scary parking lot which the Camaro did not like one bit, beeping about the lack of a secure neighborhood), I remembered to look for that blooming button to pop open the gas gauge, but it was nowhere, and I was too afraid to push buttons. The roof might fly off and then where would I be?
The manual?  The manual?  Who takes time to read a manual? Well, duh!
I called E-Z which did not return my call.
One of the other buttons on the rearview mirror was blue so I pressed it, and immediately another male answered: “This is car service” or something like that. “How may I help you?” (Do you have escort service? Just kidding! Hahahahaha.)
Uhhhh, uhhhhh, I stammered. I am trying to find the button to open the gas gauge. Do you know where it is? “No," he said, "but I can connect you with GM.” Oh, that’s okay, I said, fearing a $50 charge to talk with GM. Maybe the fee would be doubled since it was Christmas.
I drove to my sister’s who called her neighbors to announce a space ship had landed in her yard.
The neighbors came right over, being males and all excited about cars (who cares?), but they couldn’t find the gas gauge pop button either.
We all circled the car and went round and round, and my sister says “Here it is!” pointing to the gas gauge. I know where the gas gauge is, I said, but where’s the button to open it? She pressed on the bright yellow circle. Voila! Open, sesame. Big deal!

It is scary to drive a new car and worry about hitting something or something hitting you. I never exceeded the speed limit although the engine wanted to run.
Later, my son said: “I don’t suppose it had manual shift, did it?” 
“How much horsepower?”
This car runs on an engine, I told him. Horses had nothing to do with it. 

There was nobody happier to turn a car loose than I was at the rental return. The gas mileage was really not bad, and thank goodness, E-Z did not charge me for all those phone calls. Give me an economical, dented old car any day, but at E-Z, they treat you right. Highly recommended!
My 2013 Camaro/patricia leslie
All I want for Christmas is a yellow spaceship
A yellow space ship
A yellow spaceship
All I want for Christmas is a yellow spaceship

So I can race….down the interstate!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Michelangelo's 'David-Apollo' arrives for President Obama's inauguration

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564), David-Apollo, c. 1530, marble, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence
Not only to celebrate President Obama's second inauguration but to herald a year of Italian splendor and culture in the U.S. to the tune of more than 180 events in 40+ U.S. cities, a statue with its very own mystery has come to Washington, again.
At the National Gallery of Art, His Excellency Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, Italian minister of foreign affairs, and Ann Stock from the U.S. State Department, shared the platform with David-Apollo/patricia leslie
To begin:
Like many of us, Michelangelo (1475-1564) was not totally pleased with some of his work.  He abandoned many pieces he started and never finished (non-finito).
Sometimes he accepted more work than he was able to complete. He was an Italian Renaissance man.
Fortunately, Michelangelo didn’t pitch his incomplete pieces in the fire, but many were spared, like his David-Apollo, now on view at the National Gallery of Art through the graces of the Italian government and the lending institution, Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence.
But the marble statue has two names split by a hyphen. What is the meaning of this? Is it David or Apollo or both? Only the creator knew for sure.
Michelangelo’s biographer, Giorgio Vasari, called the statue “an Apollo who draws an arrow from his quiver,” however, a 1553 inventory labeled the work, "an incomplete David" with his sling over his back.
The figure's pose is serpentinata which invites viewers to circle David-Apollo and observe different components where surprises may be found on each sequence which makes the ambiguity more alluring.
Take David-Apollo's legs, for example.
Wikipedia mixes them up saying the right leg is extended when it’s the left, and the left leg (actually, the right) is bent over what may be a pile of dirt, or Goliath’s head, which, once the idea is mentally carved, is hard to escape, and adds support to the David argument. (The National Gallery of Art has its own marble David, (c.1461/1479), this one by Bernardo (1409-1464) or Antonio Rossellino (1427-1478-1481; they were brothers) with David’s foot resting on Goliath's head. Maybe Michelangelo copied this statue?)  (Some of these facts and more are found in the handsome four-page color brochure available at the David-Apollo statue.)
Stand at David-Apollo's left side and look under his right foot for the semblance of a male head's silhouette with nose and facial features facing up, and, honestly, yes, due to the power of suggestion, sometimes it's there; sometimes, it's not.  (Honestly, this happens.) However, make your spiral galaxy over to the other side where you'll find no hint of a person's face or head in the mound found under his foot, but what is this new form?  A circular mound of something. A pound of Earth?
The same year Michelangelo brought David-Apollo to life was the same year (1530) that Copernicus (1473-1543), another Renaissance man (and artist who studied in Italy), unveiled his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium which claimed that Earth was not the center of the universe, but it rotated on its axis and traveled around the sun once a year.
With his foot resting (maybe) on the Earth, is David-Apollo squashing flat the 1,400 year-old Ptolemaic theory which claimed that Earth was the center of the universe? Just a few astronomers at the time were aware of Copernicus’s theory and information exchange over long distances was quite limited (I dare say: rare) for the Renaissance preceded Social Media Daze. (Does this not make for the plot of a great mystery novel? You write it.)
Another angle: One glimpse of his leg muscles and the possibility that David-Apollo, in his spare time, may have been a danseur, swells. (That female hearts will not be captured by the looks of David-Apollo when gazing upon his person is almost an impossibility, and the figure may mesmerize a few men, too.)
You are invited to make your own comparisons and determine who is there: David or Apollo? Both? Be prepared to go round and round. (A ballot box for votes is not available, however, the guards are there to prohibit picture taking.)
To inaugurate 2013 as The Year of Italian Culture in the U.S. (but I thought every year was a year of Italian culture in the U.S.), David-Apollo will reside at the National Gallery of Art just off the West Building Courtyard (where the Sunday evening concerts are played) until March 3, 2013, marking the first time the statue has come to town since another inauguration, Harry S Truman’s in 1949 when almost 800,000 came calling.
Whoever, whatever is there, the people of the United States are grateful to the president of Italy, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Italy in Washington, the Minister per I Beni e le Attivita Culturali and the National Gallery of Art for the grand opportunity to observe the masterpiece at no cost to the people, a loan which memorializes the long-lasting friendship between the two nations.
Viva l'amicizia!
January 3, 5, 7, and 9, 2013 at 12 p.m., West Building, talks by Eric Denker, a Gallery senior lecturer
January 27, 2 p.m. "Michelangelo's David-Apollo:  An Offer He Couldn't Refuse," East Building Auditorium by Alison Luchs, the Gallery's curator of early European sculpture, who wrote the brochure
February 11 at 3 p.m., an overview at the Embassy of Italy of the collection of Michelangelo's works at the Casa Buonarroti by its director, Pina Ragionieri
Who: David-Apollo by Michelangelo
What: To celebrate 2013 - The Year of Italian Culture in the U.S.
When: Now through March 3, 2013 every day from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Sundays: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.) excepting New Year's Day when the Gallery is closed
Where: West Building, National Gallery of Art, between 4th and 7th and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
How much: No charge
For more information: (202) 737-4215
Metro stations: Judiciary Square, Navy Memorial-Archives, or the Smithsonian
The Cherubs Playing With a Swan by Jean-Baptiste Tuby I (French, 1635-1700) on the left, were silent for the press opening of David-Apollo, and they remain silent today/patricia leslie

Monday, December 17, 2012

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, Washington, D.C.

The Capitol Christmas Tree from the White River National Forest in Colorado. The "People's Tree," an Engelmann spruce, was 74 years old and 73 feet high. If you look closely, you may be able to see what I think is Jupiter, about equidistant between the Capitol and the tree/patricia leslie
Colorado school children made more than 5,000 ornaments for the Capitol Christmas Tree and other Washington, D.C. sites. The tree's lights come on every day at dusk and are turned off at 11 p.m./patricia leslie
With backs to the Capitol and looking down the National Mall towards the Washington Monument or what looks like an upside down golf tee/patricia leslie
Hanging on the Capitol Christmas Tree is one of the ornaments made by Colorado school children/patricia leslie
The Washington Monument framed by the Capitol Christmas Tree.  The tree stands on the Capitol's West Lawn, below construction of the 2013 inaugural viewing stands at the Capitol. The U.S. Forest Service chooses a tree every year from one of our 155 national forests.
This year's tree traveled 5,000 miles from Colorado to Washington, stopping in 30 cities and towns for more people to enjoy. A song by Lindsay Lawler of Nashville, Standing Tall, was chosen from 300 entries as the Capitol Christmas Tree song, and the first Capitol tree art competition was won by Cheryl St. John of Colorado, for Awaiting Spring, which will be used on the cover of the CD featuring music for the trees. If no one is there, will they hear what we hear?/patricia leslie


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Torpedo Factory artists have lots for the hard-to-please

On a bumpy sidewalk along Alexandria's King Street on the way to the Torpedo Factory Art Center/patricia leslie

For samples of local original art, jewelry, vases, mugs, glass bears, cashmere and hand-painted silk scarves, books, paintings (all sizes), cards, sculpture, calendars, tapestries, or pottery about cats (really, it's there), what better place than the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria where reasonable prices abound, and artists are ready to talk, Merry Christmas! 

It's a winter wonderland of art. So much to see! So much to choose! And so much fun.

At the Torpedo Factory Art Center's open house in Alexandria/patricia leslie

What a totally delightful experience to visit galleries and discuss the creations while strolling from piece to piece and sipping champagne. What? You missed this year's open house? There is next year, dearie, and besides, the art remains. 

(Breaking news from a Torpedo Factory tweet: Decadent December Art Night 12/13 6-9pm w/ chocolate, shopping, exhibit receptions + !  Let's go!)

Some of the treats at the Torpedo Factory Art Center's open house/patricia leslie

Have you ever been? It's the home of 160 artists, 82 studios, 2,000 students, six galleries, Bread and Chocolate (!), and a museum, all which occupy three floors in a facility built after the end of World War I for torpedo construction. (Only in D.C.) 

Snowflakes dance in the windows of this Torpedo Factory gallery where Gloria Barbre, Candace Edgerley, AnneMarie Feld, Virginia Irby-Maxwell, Tamara Embrey, Kathy Udell, and Saaraliisa Ylitalo have art they want to show you/patricia leslie

Still on display in the main hall is a (dormant) green torpedo constructed on-site in 1945. Yes, the building definitively suggests the military, if you've ever been inside a submarine or on an aircraft carrier: The environment is similar which is part of the charm.

Music by Wytold, stationed on a second floor walk-through, added merriment to the Torpedo Factory Art Center's open house/patricia leslie
After World War II, everybody used the building for storage: the military, the Smithsonian (dinosaur bones), Congress, the federal government, until Alexandria bought it, and its development as an arts center began in earnest in 1974.

The Torpedo Factory's third floor is also the home of the Alexandria Archaeology Museum where the main exhibit, the Lee Street Site, features one city block and what's been found there. The museum is an excellent introduction to archaeology for children of all ages.  Hands-on demonstrations are part of the learning experience at the museum.

Tory Cowles, Sheep Jones, and Jeanne Garant are the artists at this studio at the Torpedo Factory Art Center/patricia leslie
Alison Sigethy makes and sells environmental art at the Torpedo Factory Art Center/patricia leslie
Is that sculptor Carol G. Levin on the left?  In her studio at the Torpedo Factory Art Center/patricia leslie
A view from above at the Torpedo Factory Art Center/patricia leslie
This handsome fellow greeted guests at the gallery of Lisa Schumaier at the Torpedo Factory Art Center/patricia leslie

What: Torpedo Factory Art Center

When: Open daily 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. (until 9 p.m. on Thursdays)

Where: On the waterfront at 105 N. Union Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

For more information: 703-838-4565

Metro station: King Street. From the Metro you have two choices (excluding a taxi):  Walk a pleasant (flat) 30 minutes down King Street, past beautifully decorated shops on your way, or hop on the free trolley, coming and going, which also takes you past beautifully decorated shops.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Filmmaker James Benning at the National Gallery of Art this weekend

                                                James Benning/jb

The celebrated experimental filmmaker, James Benning, will be on hand Saturday and Sunday for screenings at the National Gallery of Art of three of his most recent, notable films: Twenty Cigarettes, small roads, and Two Cabins.

Twenty Cigarettes is based on 20 of Benning's friends he filmed while they each smoked a cigarette. Small roads is 47 shots of roads crisscrossing the U.S. from the Pacific coast to the Midwest which the movie maker says is "a list of the roads in question and the cars that drive on them."

Film still from small roads (James Benning, 2011, HDCAM, 103 minutes) to be shown at the National Gallery of Art on Saturday, December 8, 4:30 p.m. as part of the film series, American Originals Now: James Benning. Image courtesy of James Benning

Two Cabins concerns "utopian and dystopian versions of social isolation” and shows Benning's construction of Henry David Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond and the cabin built by Ted Kaczynski (AKA the Unabomber) outside Lincoln, Montana.

Benning’s presentation is part of the exhibit now on display in the National Gallery's West Building, "The Serial Portrait:  Photography and identity in the Last One Hundred Years."

Benning has been making films for more than 40 years and says they are not aimed at commercial audiences but are made for an audience of one, himself. They “help me understand the world better.” (IMDB says he's directed 47.)

One of his recent films is about Pussy Riot which organizers have asked him to withhold from public screenings until management details can be worked out.

In a telephone interview, he said he doesn’t work against convention but tries to present an “elegant solution” by “using materials to solve problems” which he observes in everyday life.

Twenty Cigarettes is not actually about smoking but “looking at people, their faces as landscapes.” Benning was “much more interested in their gestures and how they reveal themselves.” Initially, some of his friends appear self-conscious which “disappears over time.”

Film still from Twenty Cigarettes (James Benning, 2011, HD, 99 minutes) to be shown at the National Gallery of Art on Saturday, December 8, 2:30 p.m. as part of the film series American Originals Now: James Benning. Image courtesy of James Benning

Backgrounds are “somewhat minimal” but they provide a clue about the person’s environment. Is she rich? Poor? An animal lover? Does he have children? After consulting with the subjects, Benning chose backdrops.

He edited some of the sounds, removing distractions and sometimes making additions, which provide more clues about the subject’s identity. When it comes to sound, Benning said, “I am not a purist."

He is “very proud” of the film and the “diverse friendships” he has. It’s a “complex reading.”

Two Cabins didn’t start as it became. The film is more about obsession, Benning said, and an outsider's perspective. “I am too old [70] to build a real house” so he built one with the same dimensions as Thoreau’s, but it's not an “exact replica.” Half the books in Benning’s Kaczynski cabin are Benning’s and half, Kaczynski’s. Benning has not see Kaczynski's actual cabin (still on display at the Newseum, across the street from the National Gallery). Kaczynski’s desk has “exactly the same dimensions" as Thoreau’s, Benning said.

He used actual sounds from Walden Pond and Lincoln, Montana for Two Cabins which has no narration. Benning said Kaczynski’s writings mention the sounds of annoying planes overhead.

A book about Two Cabins was published last year which Amazon describes this way: “Benning's engagement makes discernable a multitude of contacts between their motivations, beliefs, and experiences of seclusion. Benning's armature artfully unfolds a complex articulation of practices of dissent, nonprescriptive ways of living, and the politics of solitude.”

Benning is a mathematician whose conversation is sprinkled with references to math.

In an interview with Mark Peranson for Cinema Scope Online, Benning supplied two mathematical equations for Twenty Cigarettes, one made by him, the other, by the cast. The film premiered last year in Berlin at the International Forum of New Cinema.

He came to filmmaking "quite late” after he thought about it off and on for almost a decade, stimulated by Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren (1917-1961), "one of the most important American experimental filmmakers" of the 1940s and 1950s (Wikipedia).

Benning was born in Milwaukee and spent part of his teens, twenties and thirties protesting the Vietnam War, earning a math degree, a master of fine arts, and teaching at Paul Smith’s Junior College in New York. The Paul Smith administrator was also the head of the local John Birch Society who didn’t take too well to those whose politics didn’t match his, and he kicked out Benning and several other faculty members because of their anti-Vietnam postures.

The ouster opened up a door for Benning, much like what happened to Milton Rogovin, a photographer in the serials show, whose optometry business disappeared after he refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1957, paving the way for Rogovin to pursue his passion, photography.

Benning’s path took him to the University of Wisconsin and a course in filmmaking. He bought a camera but sat on the career possibility for three years before taking the plunge and making his first film, Did You Ever Hear That Cricket Sound, in 1971.

Financing for movie making comes from teaching, his reputation, and from German television which encourages "uncommon cinema.” The Web indicates, and he confirmed, that his following outside the U.S. is bigger than here. Venues for his films are art houses, museums, and festivals. He’s had screens at the Sundance Film Festival, in Vienna, London, Kenya, Asia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Austria, to name a few sites. Two Cabins was re-constructed and installed in Berlin as part of 2012 International Forum of New Cinema.

Sometimes a friend helps him, but Benning's work is his own. He’s the editor, cinematographer, sound man, producer, and director. Technology permits him to be totally independent and "has freed me," but “I am in a turmoil" because with the freedom comes loss of time, and he asks himself: “Did I gain or did I lose?”

Benning teaches at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.  Ask him about prime numbers. Visualizing that film is an easy thing.

Who: James Benning

What: Three films

When: Twenty Cigarettes (2011, 99 minutes), 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012

  small roads (2011, 103 minutes), 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012

 Two Cabins (2011, 60 minutes),  4:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012

Where: East Building Concourse Auditorium, The National Gallery of Art and Sculpture Garden is located at the National Mall along Constitution Avenue and between Third and Ninth Streets. The East Building is at the corner of Constitution and 4th Street NW.

How much: No charge. “Admission to the National Gallery of Art is always free.”

For more information: (202) 737-4215
Metro stations: Judiciary Square, Navy Memorial-Archives, or the Smithsonian

Monday, December 3, 2012

Inside the Christmas White House 2012

The hallway on the ground floor of the White House looking towards the East Garden Room, home of faux Bo/Patricia Leslie
The East Wing Visitor Entrance/Patricia Leslie
At the Visitor Entrance (outdoors)/Patricia Leslie
In the lobby upon entering. About 100 volunteers from 50 states spent a week decorating the White House which exudes an immediate and magnificent Fraser Fir fragrance to greet visitors and infuse magic, like when you get off the plane in Hawai'i/Patricia Leslie
The Armed Forces Tree where visitors are invited to sign postcards to troops and indicate the number of hours the signer is willing to commit to community service in honor of the servicemen's and women's commitment to the U.S. The White House holiday theme this year is Joy to All/Patricia Leslie
Looking out the large hallway windows on the ground floor towards "backyard decorations" and the Washington Monument in the distance, with a reflection of greenery lining above framed Christmas photos of the first families/Patricia Leslie
A life-size faux "Bo" with hanging lights and Santa hat guards the portraits of President Calvin Coolidge on the left, and President Grover Cleveland, in the East Garden Room/Patricia Leslie
After the East Garden Room, one comes to a hall on the ground floor with the Vermeil and China rooms on the left, the library on the right, and a cabinet with .../Patricia Leslie
"Part of a State Service first ordered by President John F. Kennedy" and made by Morgantown Glassware Guild, Morgantown, West Virginia in 1961/Patricia Leslie
 And another part of a State Service first ordered by President Andrew Jackson and made by Bakewell, Page & Bakewell, Pittsburgh in 1829/Patricia Leslie
First ladies Patricia Nixon, on the left, and Jacqueline Kennedy preside over the Vermeil Room  Are the gifts under the trees real?/Patricia Leslie
 The book collection in the library across the hall numbers about 2,700 volumes.  Until 1935 when it was renovated, the library was a laundry room and a gentlemen's waiting room, according to a booklet given to Christmas White House visitors/Patricia Leslie
The White House Library/Patricia Leslie
The China Room.  The White House has 54 Christmas trees. President Theodore Roosevelt, an "ardent conservationist," prohibited the cutting of trees for White House Christmases, but his cunning children sneaked one in past their papa, and decorated it with twinkling white lights (and an electrician's help), according to the booklet.  Students from Washington's Duke Ellington School for the Arts created the art for the booklet/Patricia Leslie
After leaving the ground floor and ascending the stairs, a visitor finds herself in the East Room peeking out windows onto Pennsylvania Avenue/Patricia Leslie
The East Room is the location of after-dinner entertainment, and was the scene of the soiree for guests and honorees attending Sunday night's Kennedy Center Honors/Patricia Leslie
From the East Room one glances down the hallway to Cross Hall and the North Entrance (Pennsylvania Avenue) on the right.  The entrance on the left is to the Blue Room and at the end of the hallway is the State Dining Room. More than 90,000 are expected to tour the White House during the holiday season/Patricia Leslie
But back to the East Room.  Whose portrait is behind the tree?/Patricia Leslie
A lighting fixture in the East Room/Patricia Leslie
Part of a tree in the Green Room, the next room on the tour/Patricia Leslie
The Green Room and above the mantle, the oldest publicly displayed portrait in the White House, according to a friendly, erudite White House veteran. ("We don't know what's upstairs, so it may not be the oldest one here.")  David Martin painted Benjamin Franklin in 1767, and 200 years later, Walter Annenberg gave it to the White House in memory of President Kennedy. The silhouette of a man barely visible on the left in the painting is Sir Isaac Newton/Patricia Leslie
"Bed head," a Christmas bird cage, or ? in the Green Room/Patricia Leslie
In the Blue Room, the next one on the tour, is found THE official White House Christmas tree filled with ornaments made by military children stationed with their parents around the world. The Fraser Fir is 18.5 feet tall and came from Jefferson, N.C./Patricia Leslie
 The Red Room (photos below) follows the Blue Room on the tour and next is the State Dining Room, above, anchored by George F. P. Healy's portrait of President Abraham Lincoln.  About 120 persons can be seated here comfortably for dinner, a guide said, and the president and first lady do not sit together/Patricia Leslie
The 300-pound gingerbread house at the north end of the State Dining Room.  Note the table legs.  Behind these doors is the Family Dining Room, closed to visitors/Patricia Leslie
From the State Dining Room is the Red Room with the Blue Room on the other side/Patricia Leslie
In Cross Hall at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance /Patricia Leslie
The Red Room from the Entrance Hall.  Normally, Dolley Madison reigns over the Red Room, however, her portrait is on loan to the National Portrait Gallery until late winter, a guide said/Patricia Leslie
One of many first lady ornaments which decorate the four first ladies trees at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance. More than 60 percent of the White House ornaments have been "re-purposed" or recycled/Patricia Leslie
One of the state ornaments hanging at the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance/Patricia Leslie
In the Entrance Hall with a tree reflected in the mirror/Patricia Leslie
The reflected tree and out the window is Pennsylvania Avenue/Patricia Leslie
It was World AIDS Day (and Night)/Patricia Leslie
Not to be overlooked next door is the gracious and imposing David Eisenhower Executive Office Building/Patricia Leslie

For a look at last year's White House decorations, click here.

Feliz Navidad!