Portraits and Walt Kuhn’s Plumes

(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.

(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.

Art and Wellness: Creative Aging Exhibition 2014

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!”

Reflection and George Luks’s Telling Fortunes

George Luks, Telling Fortunes, 1914. Oil on canvas 20 x 16 in., Acquired 1922. The Phillips Collection, Washington DC.

The Phillips is currently hosting the exhibition Art and Wellness: Creative Aging. The display features work from our program which encourages older adults (many of whom suffer from 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. It is part of an ongoing collaboration between The Phillips Collection and Iona Senior Services.

Through the program, we looked at George Luks’s Telling Fortunes. Members of the group made observations about the artist’s use of color and the emotional impact of the figure. Individuals were also curious about the woman in the painting. They considered what she may be holding, suggesting a crystal ball, cup, or candle giving off light. They described the figure as looking “amazed,” “curious,” and “intense.”

The exploration continued in the art therapy studio at Iona. Individuals were invited to reflect further by making silk mandalas. Using ink, they were encouraged to let the colors spread on the silk. This freeing and meditative process brought forth feelings of “amazement” and “curiosity” within the group. One group member related her experience to Luks’s painting, stating “This kind of thing has elements of unknown, just like the painting…”

IonaWellness_LuksSilkpainting

Top: (left to right) Larry, Untitled, Ink on silk; Oscar, Untitled, Ink on silk; Patricia, Untitled, Ink on silk. Bottom: (left to right) Suzanne, Untitled, Ink on silk; Theresa, In the Flow, Ink on silk; Anita, Untitled, In on silk.