Eye Level

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

Art Museum Tours For Visitors Who Are Blind

The best in-person encounters with artwork can engage us with compelling stories, challenge us with thought-provoking ideas, and inspire creativity. By looking deeply, visitors connect with art through what they see. But how does someone who is blind experience art in a museum? At SAAM, a team of volunteer docents have been specially trained to bring artwork to life for visitors who are blind.

Luce Center: Harold Weston's Building the United Nations Series

Harold Weston once told Magazine of Art, "theories and explanations about paintings are... usually unsatisfactory." However, as an artist, I find artists' experiences inform and enrich the artworks they create. The time and place in which a work of art comes to be influences what it is and what it means. An explanation of why Weston decided to paint his Building the United Nations series—two paintings of which are on display in the Luce Foundation Center—is an important part of experiencing the work. The paintings' meticulous realism only tells half the story.
Anne on August 5, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Wendell Castle's Ghost Clock

It's Throwback Thursday! And we at Eye Level have decided it's a great opportunity to bring back some of our interesting posts from the past. After the incredibly successful run of the Renwick Gallery's WONDER exhibition, we wanted to highlight some of our works from SAAM's permanent collection.
Jeff on August 4, 2016

Q and Art: Viola Frey

This post is part of an ongoing series on Eye Level: Q and Art, where American Art's Research department brings you interesting questions and answers about art and artists from our archive. This week: sculptor Viola Frey.

Some Strings Attached: the willful marionette at SAAM

SAAM's annual birthday celebration honoring the legacy of media pioneer Nam June Paik—an artist known for his interest in robotics and humanizing technology—featured artists Lilla LoCurto and Bill Outcault. Their work, the three-foot tall the willful marionette was built from 3-D scanned images of a human figure. It addresses what the artists refer to as "the frailty of the human body."

America Now at SAAM

On Saturday, July 9, SAAM presented America Now: America Particpates, an opportunity to incorporate creativity with citizen democracy through art, music, storytelling, and service.
Jeff on July 14, 2016

Pokémon Go: Games, Art, and Open Spaces at the Museum

Shortly after its release, colleagues began playing Pokémon Go —an augmented reality game that has captured the imagination of the entire internet. Museum visitors were doing the same. At the Smithsonian American Art Museum, new games are often received with more enthusiasm than might be expected of an art museum. Perhaps you've heard, SAAM has a long history with games. Creating, collecting, exhibiting, and, of course, playing them. They're fun, they're often beautiful, and best of all, they connect people.
Amy on July 13, 2016

Luce Artist Talk: Five Questions with Kathryn Thibault

Each month, we partner with our neighbors up the street at Flashpoint Gallery to present our local artist talk series. This month, Kathryn Lynch Thibault joins us to talk about her most recent exhibition and works that inspire her in our Luce Foundation Center. Thibault works across media forms, creating pieces that are not only personal to her, but also challenge how the viewer thinks about common, everyday objects and gestures. Luce Artist Talks are presented in collaboration with CulturalDC.

Light Fantastic: Gabriel Dawe in Conversation

The final program in the WONDER series of artist talks featured Gabriel Dawe in conversation with Nora Atkinson, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at the Renwick Gallery. Dawe's Plexus A1, one of the nine room-filling installations commissioned for the exhibition, spins a new riff on the theme of alchemy: it turns thread into light.

Making Connections at the Renwick: Everything Clicks

The Renwick's reinstallation of more than eighty objects from its permanent collection—Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery—brings together artists working in media as diverse as vinyl, denim, quartz, and glass.

Romaine Brooks: Body of Work

In honor of the current exhibition "The Art of Romaine Brooks," eminent scholars Cassandra Langer, Sylvia Kahan, and Helen Langa, joined SAAM's chief curator Virginia Mecklenburg, for a discussion that shed new light onto the artist's life and times.

Conserving Duane Hanson's Woman Eating

For a decade, Duane Hanson's life-like sculpture Woman Eating has fascinated SAAM visitors. With funding provided by the Smithsonian's Women's Committee, conservators were able to research, examine, document, and treat this work for future generations to continue to enjoy.

Luce Artist Talk: Five Questions with Anne Bouie

Join us this Saturday, June 25 at 1:30 p.m. for the latest installment of our Luce Artist Talks series. This month's talk features mixed-media artist Anne Bouie, who strives to "express the universal themes of order, harmony, growth, beauty, and transcendence" in her work.

Romaine Brooks: Gray Matters

The paintings of Romaine Brooks have always made me want to learn more about the artist. The exhibition, "The Art of Romaine Brooks" has some answers.

Throwback Thursday: Seats of Power (and an Occasional Settee)

It's Throwback Thursday! And we at Eye Level have decided it's a great opportunity to bring back some of our interesting posts from the past. With the presidential election in full swing, we thought you might be interested in seeing some of the decorative arts our next President might encounter in the White House.

Curator's Travel Journal: In Rufino Tamayo's Footsteps (6)

E. Carmen Ramos, curator of Latino Art at SAAM, was recently in Mexico to research her upcoming exhibition on the acclaimed 20th-century Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo’s lengthy residence and production in New York City. This is the sixth and final post Carmen scribed from the road. The exhibition Tamayo: The New York Years will open at SAAM November 3, 2017. Read all of Carmen's notes from her research trip.