(Left) Walt Kuhn, Plumes, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. Acquired 1932. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC. (Right) Marion “Duke” Green, Untitled, 2014. Watercolor and colored pencil on paper.
The Phillips is currently hosting the exhibition Art and Wellness: Creative Aging. The display features work from an ongoing collaboration between The Phillips Collection and Iona Senior Services. The program encourages older adults (many of whom suffer from chronic illness, including Alzheimer’s or related dementia), along with their families and caregivers, to make connections and access personal experiences and long-term memories through gallery conversations and hands-on art therapy.
Participants in the program looked at Walt Kuhn’s Plumes together. The painting prompted a group dialogue about how portraits convey mood and composition, and how they can evoke personal memories. Individuals described the figure as “pensive,” “isolated,” “aloof,” and “not happy.” On participant, Duke, said, “She seems rather stiff and cold.” Another group member spoke of a “dichotomy” in the composition. She stated, “The feathers she wears on her head…there’s such an opposite appearance between what she’s wearing and how she presents herself.”
In the art therapy studio, Duke was drawn to Kuhn’s use of portraiture. He reminisced about his time drawing on the Atlantic City boardwalk with charcoal, and how he would identify women that inspired his work. He was eager to replicate the image: “It’s hard to go back to drawing after so many years. You see, I used to draw people’s portraits. But over time I’ve grown comfortable with it again.” Duke’s experience replicating Plumes gave him the confidence to continue to immerse himself in the artistic process, and reinvigorated his love for portraiture.
With our Art and Wellness: Creative Aging exhibition the Phillips celebrates our ongoing collaboration with Iona Senior Services. The program encourages older adults (many of whom suffer from chronic illness, including Alzheimer’s or related dementia), along with their families and caregivers, to make connections and access personal experiences and long-term memories through gallery conversations and hands-on art therapy. In October, the Phillips opened Art and Wellness featuring over 60 artworks created as a part of the program.
Our colleagues at Iona created this video to celebrate the opening reception for the exhibition, which brought over 150 participants to the museum, including many artists and their families. One visitor shared, “Everyone has a gift and a story to tell. What an inspiring exhibit with so much more to come.” A family member stated, “In a society that often sets seniors aside, you tell them they make a contribution to us all. Through art, seniors can be seen anew and valued.” An artist featured in the exhibition said, “It is always a thrill to visit the Phillips and to have my work on display is an inordinate pleasure!”
National Poetry Month and the multitude of pithy one-liners we’ve received from our “What is Amelia Thinking” talkback station in the galleries have inspired me to create some free verse poetry. Using submissions from a recent weekend, I have cobbled together 8 entrants for this poetic homage to Amelia van Buren.
Thank you to two anonymous visitors, Steve from DC, Jake from DC, Vera from MD, Jim from MD, Lucy from NJ, Sue from PA, and Zobo from VA for the creativity!
Thomas Eakins, Miss Amelia Van Buren, c. 1891. Oil on canvas, 45 x 32 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1927
What is Amelia Thinking?
…Did I leave the stove on?
Why are you staring at me, I can own u!
How much longer is this painting going to take?
I really, really! would like to scratch my nose
God, I have to tinkle.
Why am I stuck in this portrait? When will I get OUT!