Saying Goodbye to Artworks by David Best, Ginny Ruffner, and Michael Sherrill

Last chance to see three exhibitions at SAAM's Renwick Gallery is January 5, 2020

A photograph of a male holding an ipad in front of Ginny Ruffner's artwork.

Installation view of Ginny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2019. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by Libby Weiler.

As 2019 draws to a close, so do three powerful, magical, and cathartic exhibitions at SAAM's Renwick Gallery. David Best’s TempleGinny Ruffner: Reforestation of the Imagination and Michael Sherrill Retrospective are on view through Sunday, January 5, 2020. Here are some of the reasons why you should visit all three while you can.

A digital reproduction of a flower.

Ginny Ruffner with Grant Kirkpatrick, Lacertus vespertilio (Flapping lizard bat flower), 2017, holographic image. Courtesy Ruffner Studio.

Since it opened in June, Ginny Ruffner’s interactive augmented reality installation has surprised and delighted visitors of all ages. It is not common for an object in a museum to completely transform when you look at it in a new way, but this is exactly what happens when you view Ruffner’s glass tree stump sculptures through a phone or iPad. Using the artist’s free downloadable app called ‘Reforestation,’ the seemingly barren stumps (which secretly contain QR codes) suddenly sprout mythical flowers and other colorful appendages, which are often both beautiful and playful. Take for example the Flapping Lizard Bat Flower, which is exactly what it sounds like. You can enjoy the magical experience at home by purchasing the exhibition ‘field guide.’ Embedded in the images of the stumps is a QR code that activates the artist's creations springing to life.

Michael Sherrill’s gorgeous botanical-inspired works are a perfect complement to Ruffner’s fanciful flora. Although the sculptures reference plants found in Sherrill’s native North Carolina, a closer look reveals that they are just as much about humans as they are about nature. For example, the broken branch in Remnant represents a friend of the artist’s who suffers from PTSD, and how “when you break off a branch, something always grows back.” Sherrill’s interest in life/death, relationships, the human body, and the brain—the artist himself has dyslexia—are also apparent in his highly imaginative body of work.

A photograph of Micheal Sherrill's artwork inside the Renwick Gallery.

Installation view of Michael Sherrill Retrospective at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2019.  Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by Libby Weiler.

The last remaining work from the blockbuster exhibition No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man is David Best's Temple, a monumental installation that fills the Rubenstein Grand Salon. It has provided a beautiful, contemplative space for visitors to reflect and pay tribute to lost loved ones as do the temples that are erected annually at the desert gathering. Join the thousands of visitors who have left personal messages and offerings on wooden tablets within the Temple’s walls. If you can't visit the temple in person, join us on December 27 @americanart and share your stories of loved ones or hopes for the future using the hashtag #BestRemembrance.

Although staff at the Renwick are sorry to see these great exhibitions go, 2020 brings new amazing installations for the public to enjoy. The landmark exhibition Hearts of Our People: Native Women Artists opens February 21. It is the first major thematic show to explore the artistic achievements of Native women. In April, Janet Echelman’s colorful fiber and lighting installation 1.8 Renwick returns to the Rubenstein Grand Salon.

An image of David Best's Temple inside the Grand Salon at the Renwick Gallery.

David Best, Temple, 2018. Photo by Ron Blunt.