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Press Room


Renwick Gallery Features Portraits by Contemporary Artist Liza Lou

Contact: Smithsonian American Art Museum's Public Affairs Office AmericanArtinfo[at]
American Art's Web site:
Recorded information: (202) 633-8998

"Star-Spangled Presidents: Portraits by Liza Lou" opens Nov. 18, 2000 at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and remains on view through President's Day, Feb. 19, 2001. The museum presents this installation to complement the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History's new permanent exhibition "The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden."

"The upcoming presidential election and inaugural festivities provide us with a perfect opportunity to feature these unusual beaded portraits at our Renwick Gallery, just steps from the White House," said Elizabeth Broun, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the museum.

Using beads, Liza Lou creates a likeness of each of the 42 American presidents that resembles historic black and white photographs. Each portrait is bordered with a wide band of gold beads, creating the illusion of a gilded frame. To complete the installation, finished in 1996, Lou includes ceremonial objects that suggest the trappings of the office, including a draped American flag, a chandelier, a fancy table and a cigar.

"The zillions of beads I used to create American Presidents symbolize grand campaign promises of a sparkling future for America and the fulfillment of the American Dream," said Lou.

Lou is best known for her monumental beaded environments, including "Kitchen" (1995) and "Back Yard" (1997). Her installations combine the shimmering beauty and glamour of beads with insightful and subtle comments on suburban American culture and a woman's role in this society.

The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. Web site:

Note to Editors: To schedule an interview or to receive slides, call (202) 357-2247.