Spotlight on Intersections@5: Alyson Shotz

Shotz_Allusion of Gravity

Installation shot of Alyson Shotz’s Allusion of GravityPhoto: Lee Stalsworth

The Phillips celebrates the fifth anniversary of its Intersections contemporary art series with Intersections@5, an exhibition comprising work by 20 of the participating artists. In this blog series, each artist writes about his or her work on view.

The structure of this sculpture is inspired by looking at diagrams of space, mass, and how they interact to create the gravity we experience. I hope to allow the viewer to think about space in a different way: what is empty space, what does it look like, what shapes can it take?

Allusion of Gravity is made with clear, round glass beads which reflect the light and let the sculpture transform with the changing natural light during the day. Each bead also acts as a magnifying glass for all the other beads, creating many mini-sculptures within the larger sculpture.

Allusion of Gravity is one version of what I imagine empty space to be like. It was my first sculpture exploring the structure of space itself, and began a series I am still working on today.

Alyson Shotz

From Collage to Performance Art

In preparation for his upcoming performance in Dupont Circle, The Phillips Collection asks performance artist Jefferson Pinder questions about the event and his work at large.

Dark Matter 1_Matthew Clay-Robison

Still from Jefferson Pinder’s Dark Matter. Photo: Matthew Clay-Robison

What is your creative process like?
JP: My creative process is like a whirlwind. I’m gradually accumulating materials and ideas based on what I see and hear. I begin to make abstract and bizarre connections related to the world around me. I’m a passionate person and I have an urge to interact with things that inspire me. Images, music, people…I started my career working on collage and to this day I still consider that to be a part of my creative practice. I’m constantly attempting to put things together that might not completely match-up. That’s the challenge and inspiration for a lot of the work that I do.

What themes do you most often pursue?
JP: Most often I’m pursuing themes that deal with the black body. I come from a theatre background and I’ve learned over time how political the “black body” is in our society, so most of my work deals with conversations associated with this.

You’re also performing Dark Matter(s) at the Driskell Center the evening before your Dupont Circle performance. How do you feel the space will (or will not) change the experience?
JP: Since the Dupont Circle environment is open, I hope that we will attract a crowd of people that are not expecting to see performance art in that location. The piece was designed to be performed outdoors, so I think onlookers will be surprised to see stylized, socially-conscious breakdancing in Dupont Circle. This brings the performance to the people. I don’t know how often The Phillips Collection has the opportunity to communicate with the public this way.

What is most challenging about being a performance artist?
JP: With a project like this there are logistical challenges. Directing seven professional dancers to speak as one is a challenge as well. The B-boy spirit is a strong and independent force. Working together politically is a new paradigm. Most people believe that an artistic practice involves solitude, paint brushes, a moody spirit…for a performance artist who works collaboratively the challenge is to work successfully with other talent. To be able to step aside and understand that my selected performers are the best people to execute my vision is tough. Sometimes you want to believe that your practice is all your own, but for me, I am the director in this piece. I am the impresario of sorts—making sure everything happens the way I want it to, the way it needs to happen. I think a lot of folks don’t understand the complexity of an endeavor such as this; we will walk a tightrope between being didactic and entertaining. Hopefully we will find the poetry that lies in between.

How do you think your performance speaks to the DC community?
JP: I don’t know exactly how my work will speak specifically to the DC community, but for as long as I can remember, I don’t think anything quite like this has been done in Dupont Circle. Obviously there are political undertones that DC is constantly dealing with regarding race and class, but my focus is making a work that speaks to the physicality of uprisings. In general, I think artists can only be responsible for making good work. How it resonates will depend on who shows up and how the performance plays out. This is my focus. I want to be sure that all of the performers are giving their all and that the environment is right for an amazing piece.

Phillips-at-Home Summer Series #4: Summertime

This installment of the Phillips-at-Home Summer Series features the artist Marjorie Phillips and her work Night Baseball. For this art activity, you are going to create a watercolor painting of your favorite summertime scene.

Marjorie Phillips, Night Baseball, 1951, Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 36 in., Gift of the artist, 1951 or 1952, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Marjorie Phillips, Night Baseball, 1951, Oil on canvas, 24 1/4 x 36 in., Gift of the artist, 1951 or 1952, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Look closely: What is happening in this painting? Duncan Phillips introduced his wife, Marjorie, to the world of baseball after they got married. What do you like to do during the summer? What kind of summer activity would you turn into a painting?

About the artist: Marjorie Acker Phillips was  founder Duncan Phillips’s wife and his partner in developing The Phillips Collection. She was born on October 25, 1894 and began drawing at the age of five. By 1918, she was commuting from her family home in upstate New York to New York City to take classes at the Art Students League. She met Duncan Phillips in 1920 during the Century Club exhibition of his collection. Marjorie felt that she and Duncan were kindred spirits and they were married in 1921. She became associate director of the new Phillips Memorial Art Gallery in 1925, and stayed in that position for the next 41 years. During this time she was an active painter while being Duncan’s partner in selecting works of art for the museum. When Duncan passed away in 1966, Marjorie became the director of the Phillips. She passed away in Washington, D.C. in 1985. The Phillips Collection has 60 oil paintings and 2 watercolors by her.

 WHAT YOU NEED:Materials needed

  •    8.5″ x 11″ Cardstock
  •    4 1/4″ x 5 1/2″ Picture of your favorite summertime scene
  •    Ruler
  •    Pencil
  •    Watercolor set
  •    Watercolor brushes
  •    Cup of water
  •    Paper towels




  • Ages 8 and up


  • 4 hours


1. Print out a picture of a scene from your favorite summertime activity.

2. Cut out the picture and fold in half one way, then the other way to create a 4-square grid on your cardstock paper. Make a dash at 4 1/4″ on the 8″ sides. Make a dash at 5 1/2″ on the 11″ sides. Connect the lines to make a grid. These will be your reference lines.

Step 2

Step 2 – I chose going to the beach

Step 2

Step 2 – Setting up the grid

Step 2

Step 2








3. Place the picture in the corner of your paper and place your ruler from corner to corner on your picture. Draw a diagonal line through the center of your grid. Continue the diagonal line where the picture was placed.

Step 2 - Making the diagonal

Step 3 – Making the diagonal


4. Now, you have a better idea of where things are placed in your picture. Begin to lightly draw what is in your picture by using your laid-out grid as reference.

Step 4

Step 4 – Draw out scene


5. Once you have drawn your picture, erase your reference lines and set out your watercolor set, brushes, cup of water, and paper towels. Begin to paint your picture; the amount of water you use relates to how bright your colors will be. More water = lighter colors, less water = brighter colors.

Step 5

Step 5 – begin to use watercolors

Step 6

Step 5














6. Feel free to keep adding to your watercolor as it dries. You can even add detailed lines with a pen. Once you are happy with your painting, give yourself a pat on the back because you just created a beautiful piece of artwork.


Final Painting

Tune in regularly for more art activities inspired by artwork in The Phillips Collection.

Julia Kron, K12 Education Intern