Capturing an American Moment Today: Photo Contest Kick-off

Yesterday, we launched a photo contest in conjunction with this summer’s American Moments photography exhibition. Through July 21, show us your interpretation of an American Moment today for a chance to win a Leica D-Lux (Type 109) camera, your image on a postcard, Phillips membership, and more. Looking for some inspiration? We let staff loose in the city to get the wheels turning with some examples:

Beauty in the Breakdown_contest example_Emily Conforto

Photo: Emily Conforto

Beauty in the Breakdown
This image was inspired by various photographs depicting city development featured in the “Labor” section of the American Moments exhibition. Much like the works of Bruce Davidson and Lewis Hine in the 20th century, this picture seeks to capture the beauty that still exists in American urban development today.

Fuel of America_contest sample_Allyson Hitte

Photo: Allyson Hitte

The Fuel of America
While famous monuments and memorials may epitomize America herself, in the 21st century, nothing can compete with Starbucks. The act of picking up your standard drink in the morning before work or at lunch and enjoying that feeling of having that special cup and boost of energy defines a true American Moment.

Through the lens of the iphone_contest example_Emily Conforto

Photo: Emily Conforto

Through the lens of the iPhone
This photograph captures the iconic American view of the Washington Monument from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. A man holding a “selfie stick” on the right exemplifies the way new technologies have revolutionized the idea of photography in the 21st century.

Deconstructing Lawrence’s Struggle Series: Panel 8

This spring, former Phillips curator Beth Turner taught an undergraduate practicum at the University of Virginia focusing on Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle series. In this multi-part blog series, responses from Turner’s students in reference to individual works from the series will be posted each week.

Struggle_Panel 8

Struggle_Panel 8 Jacob Lawrence, Struggle … From the History of the American People, no. 8: …again the rebels rushed furiously on our men.—a Hessian Soldier (Battle of Bennington, August 16, 1777), 1954. Egg tempera on hardboard, 16 x 12 in. Private Collection of Harvey and Harvey-Ann Ross. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

…again the rebels rushed furiously on our men. –a Hessian soldier

This image depicts a violent and chaotic moment during the Battle of Bennington, a Revolutionary War battle that occurred in August 1777.

Jacob Lawrence’s depiction of the battle takes place in a moment of collision between Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum’s troop and American soldiers at Bennington. The composition’s chaotic vision is realized through the sharp angular lines and a dark palette with bursts of red, white, and blue. Powerful lines created by the crossing bayonets create a sense of movement, yet the panel is also divided by the “rebels,” or American troops, on the left and British on the right, as indicated by their red coats. Despite Lawrence’s visual divisions, it is unclear from this panel who is winning at this particular moment; instead, all we see is the violence and blood that accompany war. The frenzied movement at the center of the panel is juxtaposed by the limp hand and bloody bayonet that extend from the bottom right corner. The hand thus provides a haunting stillness to an otherwise visually captivating panel.

The titular quote for this panel is extrapolated from an unidentified Hessian contracted soldier, one of the mercenaries who often felt no national loyalty to the cause they were fighting for. Although they certainly do not share the same long and brutal history, Lawrence might have seen a parallel between Hessian soldiers and African slaves: both were physically uprooted from their homes and found themselves participating and subsequently living (often involuntarily) in America. By giving a voice to a nameless Hessian solider, Lawrence is giving exposure to a voice that took part in creating the nation, but whose history is often ignored. The depiction of the Battle of Bennington, then, is not simply a war scene between the Americans and British, but a powerful reminder of the diverse groups of people who participated in the American Revolution.

Maureen O’Connor

Activating One Billion Breaths in a Lifetime

Today’s guest blog is from artist Jill O’Bryan, who shot this video shortly after installing her work one billion breaths in a lifetime outside of the Phillips.

The sculpture is of polished chrome, at eye level, and close to the sidewalk so that as you walk by your reflection moves and so does that of the environment with relation to you. The light there is really active because it’s filtered through the foliage, so sometimes parts of the text disappear and then reappear. Your movements animate this text about corporeal motion, embodiment, and time.


Jill O’Bryan, artist