Eye Level

Eye Level is the blog of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery. Publishing behind-the-scenes museum stories since 2005.

Movies at SAAM: Winter Edition

Please join us for "Movies at SAAM's" winter season of films about American art and artists. If you enjoy learning about the creative process, history of African American photography, and contemplating the nature of great art, then you're sure to enjoy what we have in store for you.
Ryan on December 7, 2016

Photography Encouraged: Noguchi Edition

Today, we begin a periodic series of photos visitors take in our galleries where, with many exhibitions, photography is encouraged. In my daily dive into our social media interactions, I take note of the unique ways you, our visitors, capture your experience in SAAM and the Renwick Gallery.
Amy on December 1, 2016

An Appreciation for Artist William Christenberry

SAAM mourns the loss of artist and friend, William Christenberry, who died this past Monday at 80. As a young man, Christenberry often traveled the back roads of the South with his father. He studied painting as a graduate student at the University of Alabama until he discovered James Agee‘s book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
Jeff on November 30, 2016

Director's Choice: Who Made the Cut?

In honor of Elizabeth "Betsy" Broun's thirty years at the helm of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and her imminent retirement, Broun spoke to a full house last month at the McEvoy Auditorium, revealing insights and personal observations about her favorite works of art in SAAM's collection.

Stepping Up to Gene Davis

To celebrate his philosophy and boldly declare that our new exhibition of his signature stripe paintings is now open, we have striped the museum's entrances.
Jeff on November 18, 2016

Conversation Piece: Mark Bradford's Amendment #8

Each month, visitors to SAAM are invited to participate in a discussion-based program called Conversation Pieces. Spending an hour with a single work of contemporary art, participants engage in an open-ended experience of guided looking and discussion facilitated by Joanna Marsh, Senior Curator of Contemporary Interpretation.

Best of Both Worlds: Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern opens today, a celebration of the renowned sculptor who often found inspiration in ancient art and architecture, including Egyptian pyramids and Buddhist temples, Zen gardens and American Indian burial mounds.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Self-Taught Art

In honor of the renovation and reinstallation of SAAM’s galleries for folk and self-taught art on the first floor, four specialists in the field came together to address the perceptions and practice of folk and self-taught artists, each from a unique vantage point. The speakers joined Leslie Umberger, SAAM's curator of folk and self-taught art and emcee for the evening, in a discussion on the unique position of these out-of-the-ordinary makers of art.

November's Handi-Hour at the Renwick

Loving this crisp fall weather or wishing for the warmth of summer? Either way, this Handi-hour has you covered. Using dried autumn leaves or pressed wild flowers, come and make your own decorative candle or a bookmark. Come to the Renwick Gallery for Novermber's Handi-Hour.

Docents Look Back on 40+ Years at SAAM

Every day, SAAM's nearly 130 volunteer docents share their knowledge and love of American art with the public through highlights tours, school field trips, outreach, videoconferencing, and more. Eye Level sat down with two of our longest-serving docents, Phoebe Kline and Susanne Joyner, to hear their reflections on the ways the Museum has changed, highlights of its history, and what keeps them engaged.

Deborah Butterfield: Horsepower

Deborah Butterfield was speaking to a full house at SAAM's McEvoy Auditorium as the second speaker in this year's Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture Series. During the course of the evening, she led us through four decades of her work.

Luce Unplugged: Five Questions + Two with Hand Grenade Job

On November 4, Hand Grenade Job (HGJ) performs at our Fall Luce Unplugged Community Showcase in the Luce Foundation Center. We teamed up with Washington City Paper to present this experimental post-Americana duo from the D.C. DIY punk scene. With Beck Levy playing guitar and Erin McCarley on percussion, both women are vocalists and multi-instrumentalists.

Reenvisioned Galleries of Folk and Self-Taught Art

The Smithsonian American Art Museum's ground floor galleries of Folk and Self-Taught Art reopen today with a compelling, new installation that features more than 120 objects, including 59 new acquisitions. These include works by artists such as Emery Blagdon, Ralph Fasanella, Clementine Hunter, Eddy Mumma, and Achilles Rizzoli. These join visitor favorites by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Martín Ramírez and Jon Serl.

Knock Wood: The Future of Furniture is in their Hands

Furniture "affects every single aspect of who we are and what we do though we don't always acknowledge that," said Nora Atkinson, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at the Renwick Gallery, in her introductory remarks at the recent Maloof Symposium, Furniture and the Future. A stellar group of experts, designers, artists, and makers looked closely at the changing role of studio furniture, in light of the brave new world of digital technologies and marketplaces.