Explore the mind and new art this fall with DC’s exhibits


Photo courtesy of Jessica Todd Harper

Titled “Marshall with Family and the World”, this is one of the pieces by the eight contemporary artists showcased at the Kinship exhibit, newly opened on Oct. 28, at the National Portrait Gallery.

By Ha-Yeon Jeon, Features Editor

If someone were to draw a Venn diagram of “fall” and “art”, most people would likely put Jack-o’-lanterns in the middle and then be stumped; what else could there be in the overlap between fall and the arts? If one were to look in any of the Washington D.C. museums, however, they would find a cornucopia of cultural art exhibits that should be at the top of anyone’s autumn to-do list.

Kinship – National Portrait Gallery

The list of words on Thanksgiving decorations never fails to include gratefulness, family, and friends. In the Kinship exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, more than 40 artworks by eight contemporary artists explore the definition of “kinship” and how relationships bond loved ones together. Through mediums such as painting, photography, sculpture and performance, these artists boldly reflect on the never-ending complexities of intrapersonal intimacy. 

The art pushes viewers to reflect on their own families, especially across generations, and the role storytelling and memories play in those dynamics. With the fall holidays that highlight the importance of family fast approaching, this exhibit is well worth visiting. 

Purple – Hirshhorn Museum

Although there are many pieces of art that explore the nuances of climate change, the Purple exhibit is unique in its particularly engaging medium. It is a completely immersive, six-screen video installation that beautifully links the artist’s original film and archival footage to present a contemplation of climate change. His juxtaposition of disappearing natural landscapes with how mankind has affected the natural world, including recordings of coal mines, polluted lakes, and factory labor, presents a striking mediation on what climate change morally is.

There are many who say that the fall spirit of giving should extend beyond the family sphere to the world; feeling connected to climate change and learning how individuals can do their part to fight against it is arguably the epitome of this.

Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces – National Museum of the American Indian

Around this time every year, debates about the role of Native Americans in American history are thrust into the spotlight again; these discuss the wrongs dating from pre-colonial days all the way to present-day, from slavery to stolen land. However, there is so much about Native American culture and history that should be celebrated and appreciated; learning about these aspects is just as important as learning about the injustices. 

One example is the Native Americans who have served in the U.S. armed forces, often in extraordinary numbers. Indigenous commitment to the U.S. military is often overlooked, and the National Museum of the American Indian seeks to bridge this gap. With the subtopics of ‘Cultures of War’, ‘The Code Talkers’ and ‘War of Peace’, and discussing the nuances of tribal traditions, it is an interactive way to explore the nuances of Native American contributions to protecting this country.

A Frida and Diego Immersive Experience – Mexican Geniuses

Featuring one of the most extensive displays of the work of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, two extremely famous Mexican painters, this 360-degree digital art experience is the culmination of years of work by curators to create an out-of-this-world immersive art experience. The more than 300 projections of light and sound show the walls being painted in real-time with the brushstrokes of Kahlo and Rivera, bringing their art to life in an unimaginable way.

Filling the season for gratefulness with opportunities to appreciate how the art of a neighboring culture shaped the world is an incredibly meaningful experience, and visiting this modern medium could be one intriguing way of doing so.

Teen Portrait Competition – National Portrait Gallery 

The works of the eight finalists of the Teen Portrait Competition are currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery, exploring the themes of American society through the eyes of teens. Tackling timely issues from self-identity to body image, each piece presents a different slice of life that forces viewers to look inside themselves as well. 

In the spirit of autumn, where people from all different walks of life can come together and celebrate each other, this is the perfect opportunity to see how eight talented teenagers view themselves and the world. 

Looking beyond the traditional fall activities of pumpkin carving, hayrides and apple picking, visiting these fall-themed art exhibitions at the famous DC museums is a valuable way of getting into the autumn values of gratefulness and giving, and feeling connected to the wider community. In the words of Yaacov Agam, a famous Israeli sculptor, “There are two distinct languages. There is the verbal, which separates people… and there is the visual that is understood by everybody.”