What We Do In the Art Museum Shadows

We've been streaming so many episodes of this hilarious vampire mockumentary series that the characters now appear to be haunting the museum halls.

Media - 1969.177.15 - SAAM-1969.177.15_1 - 47502
Aubrey Schwartz, (A Bestiary, portfolio) Bat, 1962, lithograph, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Stone Circle Foundation, 1969.177.15

It is our favorite time of year, when the air turns cool and pleasant, the leaves gain a reddish hue, the pumpkin spice industrial complex flexes its dominance over the consumer marketplace, and the museum team gets a hankering to stream spooky stories of supernatural beings. One staff favorite series, What We Do in the Shadows, beautifully marries horror with comedy as it follows the lives of four vampire roommates, Nandor, Laszlo, Nadja, and Colin Robinson, plus Nandor’s human familiar, Guillermo, as they face the perplexing modern world from their home base of Staten Island. After binge-watching all four seasons, is it any surprise that the characters now appear to us to be haunting the museum halls?

Bat!

Media - 2016.52.1.25 - SAAM-2016.52.1.25_1 - 128694
Mark Leithauser, Vampire Bats, from Lettered Creatures, 2002-2003, pencil on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Hakuta Family in honor of Elizabeth Broun, 2016.52.1.25

Laszlo Cravensworth is a licentious 310-year-old British nobleman vampire with a memorably theatrical vocal delivery, even when intoning the very shortest of words, such as the one he shouts every time he transforms into a “BAT!”

The StairMaster

Media - 1978.20.6 - SAAM-1978.20.6_1 - 79963
Armin Landeck, Stairhall, 1950, drypoint and engraving, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 1978.20.6

“No, Nandor. That’s the StairMaster. The Master of the stairs.” ― Laszlo

Laszlo overconfidently imagines himself as a vampire who has evolved with the times. He is known to speak with unearned confidence on numerous topics unfamiliar to him, including, in this case, aerobic exercise equipment.

He Would Just Never Relent

Media - 2009.44.43 - SAAM-2009.44.43_1 - 83786
Unidentified, Man, ca. 1865-1885, tintype with applied color, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mitchell and Nancy Steir, 2009.44.43

“I was relentless. They would call me Nandor the Relentless. Because I would just never relent.” ― Nandor

The oldest vampire among the roommates, at the age of 760, Nandor is the self-appointed leader of the group. Once a bloodthirsty warrior and Supreme Viceroy of the fictional nation of Al Qolnidar, he struggles mightily with the ways of modern American society, much to the exasperation of his loyal familiar, Guillermo.

Creepy Paper

Media - 1983.63.365 - SAAM-1983.63.365_1 - 56132
Joseph Dankowski, Untitled (water, paper, curb), gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, 1983.63.365, © Joseph Dankowski

“Creepy paper. Creepy paper Creepy OH! Multipack!” ― Nandor the Relentless seeking out crepe party streamers at a dollar store

While crepe paper is quite mild and innocent, this photo actually IS of some creepy paper.

Fancy Room

Media - 1992.11.1 - SAAM-1992.11.1_2 - 134711
Unidentified, Untitled (Victorian Collage), 1880-1890, collage on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Hemphill Event Fund and the Director's Discretionary Fund, 1992.11.1

“All secret meetings take place in the fancy room.” ― Nandor

Whether a house meeting among roommates or a ceremonial meeting of the Vampire Council, what is a fully decked out interior (a.k.a. Fancy Room) for, if not lending a sense of ceremony to a secret meeting? These Victorian collage interiors are giving vampire house vibes.

Media - 1992.11.8 - SAAM-1992.11.8_2 - 134712
Unidentified, Untitled (Victorian Collage), 1880-1890, collage on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Hemphill Event Fund and the Director's Discretionary Fund, 1992.11.8

Energy Vampire

Media - 1972.34 - SAAM-1972.34_1 - 81776

Rockwell Kent, Self-Portrait (It's Me O Lord), 1934, lithograph on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase 1972.34

“This is my office, also known as the hunting ground.” ― Colin Robinson “Energy Vampire”

Colin Robinson spends his time amongst human beings, but rather than drinking their blood for sustenance like the others do, he siphons off humanity's energy forces by being as tedious as possible. Beware knowledge worker bees, he is headed for your cubicle next!

Media - 2017.32.27 - SAAM-2017.32.27_1 - 133818
David Levinthal, Untitled from the series Barbie, 1998, Polaroid Polacolor ER Land Film, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of an anonymous donor, 2017.32.27, © 1998, David Levinthal

Don’t Feed the Trolls

Media - 1967.72.3 - SAAM-1967.72.3_1 - 61146
Ida Abelman, Under the Bridge, n.d., etching, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from D.C. Public Library, 1967.72.3

“One of the best ways to drain people’s energy is via the internet.” ― Colin Robinson

Beware of engaging an internet troll in the comments section, you are likely to be battling a masterful energy vampire, unawares!

Greeking Out

Media - 1966.111.24 - SAAM-1966.111.24_1 - 125530
Alice Pike Barney, Spanish Comb, n.d., pastel on paper mounted on fiberboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Laura Dreyfus Barney and Natalie Clifford Barney in memory of their mother, Alice Pike Barney, 1966.111.24

“Recently I have been seeing another man. He doesn't see me though, because I sneak behind him.” ― Nadja

Nadja of Antipaxos is the sole female vampire living in the house, but she has no trouble holding her own amongst the other roommates, including her husband Laszlo, thanks to her strong personality and quick, saucy wit.

Vampire Weekends

Media - 1968.52.11 - SAAM-1968.52.11_1 - 3153
Bernard Perlin, The Bar, 1957, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1968.52.11

Never short on bold new ideas, Nadja opens her own nightclub in Staten Island, and it quickly becomes the hottest (and bloodiest) destination around for vampire nightlife—plus the occasional, doomed human celebrity.

But Not You, Guillermo

Media - 2016.11 - SAAM-2016.11_6 - 124929

Debra Baxter, Devil Horns Crystal Brass Knuckles (Lefty), 2015, quartz crystal and sterling silver, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist in honor of Joanna and David Baxter, 2016.11, © 2015, Debra Baxter; Photo by Kim Richardson.

Iconic for his pained expressions, round glasses, sweater vests—and, occasionally, crucifix knuckle dusters—Guillermo de la Cruz works as Nandor’s long-suffering human familiar. Attracted to the idea of becoming a vampire ever since he saw Antonia Banderas in Interview with the Vampire as a child, Guillermo’s most fervent wish is that Nandor will someday make him a vampire too. Ironically, it eventually becomes clear that Guillermo is descended from legendary vampire hunter Van Helsing and possesses a true talent for vampire killing. This makes him useful as a bodyguard, but also as something of a danger to his employers and their ilk.

Media - 2009.44.33 - SAAM-2009.44.33_1 - 72203
Unidentified, Three Men and a Woman, ca. 1865-1885, tintype with applied color, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mitchell and Nancy Steir, 2009.44.33

Wishing you a very spooky season from the staff of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Stay dead and out of this world!

Categories