Staff Show 2016: Travis Ferguson

In this series, Education Specialist for Public Programs Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 19, 2016.

Travis Ferguson, "We were suppose to meet..."

Travis Ferguson, “We were suppose to meet…”


Travis Ferguson

Travis Ferguson, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Travis Ferguson, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Tell us about your work.

I like to experiment with material and media, ideas and experiences. But most of all making art, learning and having fun is what I do.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I am a Museum Assistant and ambassador for the museum. The most interesting aspect of working at the Phillips is interacting with museum visitors; everybody brings their life experiences to museum. Listening to and seeing the reactions of people to the artwork is always fun.

Who are your favorite artists in the collection?

That’s like asking to compare “good” and “bad” art. To me there is no such thing. Art is subjective; sure, technically an artist can master a subject, but to me each piece of art uniquely invokes an emotional response. All of the art at the Phillips are my favorites!

What is your favorite gallery or space within The Phillips Collection?

The Music Room.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2016 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

I’m just happy to share my passion for art with others. If you want to know more about me or my art, buy me a drink and we’ll contemplate the intricacies of life together.


The 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view August 14 through September 19, 2016.

Lighting the Way


Jacob Lawrence inspired lanterns created by Step Afrika! summer camp students

In August, Phillips School Programs Educators worked with Step Afrika! summer camp students to create lanterns inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series. The workshop was one of many throughout the city to create lanterns for the first-ever Lantern Walk. Presented by our partners the 11th Street Bridge Park and Washington Performing Arts, the Lantern Walk is inspired by the story of African American families who built their homes in the historic Barry Farm / Hillsdale neighborhoods by candlelight after returning home from a long day’s work.


The scene is set! Supplies for making lanterns


The scene is set! Supplies for making lanterns


Step Afrika! summer camp students learn about Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series


Step Afrika! summer camp students and Phillips School Program Educators hard at work


Making lanterns


Jacob Lawrence inspired lanterns


Join us for the Lantern Walk on September 17!


New Terrain: Chase as Plein-Air Painter

Chase_Washing Day

William Merritt Chase, Washing Day—A Backyard Reminiscence of Brooklyn, c. 1887. Oil on wood panel, 15 1/4 x 18 5/8 in. Collection of Lilly Endowment, Inc.

During the 1880s, William Merritt Chase became active in New York’s artistic avant-garde through his affiliation with two progressive arts organizations: Society of American Artists (president 1880–81; 1885–1895) and the Society of American Painters in Pastel (co-founder, 1883). A natural-born orator and marketer, Chase led the charge of a younger generation of American artists determined to transform their country’s provincial cultural landscape by introducing a new modern spirit in American art. While continuing to work from his Tenth Street studio, the artist increasingly turned his eye and brush to capturing nature’s passing beauties. Regular visits to Europe between 1881 and 1885 inspired him to investigate the varying effects of natural light and atmosphere in plein-air paintings in oil and pastel.

In the Netherlands during the summers of 1883 and 1884, Chase produced several works that capture the region’s cool, moist light cast upon its coastline or grassy terrain. To translate the brilliant effects he observed, the artist lightened his palette and loosened his brushwork, turning away from the loaded brush and dark colors of the Munich style. A devoted pastel painter, Chase began to exploit the possibilities of the pastel medium to further expand his technical and expressive range.

Chase_A City Park

William Merritt Chase, A City Park, c. 1887. Oil on canvas, 13 5/8 x 19 5/8 in. Art Institute of Chicago. Bequest of Dr. John J. Ireland

By 1887, after several summers abroad, Chase settled in Brooklyn with his new wife, Alice Gerson, where he discovered new aesthetic possibilities in the urban parks and coastline in and around Brooklyn and Manhattan. Carrying small panels and a portable easel, Chase worked with ease to capture the immediacy of his surroundings in dazzling strokes of color. These small jewel-like pictures of Tompkins, Prospect, and Central Parks marked a dramatic turn in Chase’s development of his own distinctly American Impressionist style. Boldly executed, the compositions prefigured the light-filled Shinnecock landscapes that defined his work in the following decade.

Elsa Smithgall, William Merritt Chase: A Modern Master exhibition curator