Staff Show 2013: Natalie O’Dell

Natalie O'Dell, Le Jardin des Tags, 2013, Acrylic paint and Phillips Collection tags

Natalie O’Dell, Le Jardin des Tags, 2013, Acrylic paint and Phillips Collection tags

In this series, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator Emily Bray profiles participants in the 2013 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show.

Natalie O’Dell holds an MA in Art History from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts and previously worked as a freelance research consultant for Hollis Taggart Galleries in New York. Born in Chicago, she applied herself to dance and the visual arts from an early age. While studying for her BA in Art History and Romance Languages at Washington & Lee University, she worked in art conservation, collection management, and exhibition coordination in the United States and abroad. Since moving to the Washington area, Natalie has enjoyed focusing her efforts on creative pursuits.

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’m a Museum Assistant, a position that features duties ranging from the mundane to the exciting. Mostly, I help visitors navigate the collection – find the nearest bathroom, locate their favorite artwork, etc. But sometimes people ask me about the history of the collection or pose insightful questions about the art on display. I think my favorite part of the job is observing and interacting with people as they encounter art, especially those who aren’t afraid to challenge the Modernist canon we hold so dear.

Who are your favorite artist/artists in the collection?
Cézanne. Well, for right now at least … My artwork for this year’s staff show, Le Jardin des Tags, is based on Cézanne’s The Garden at Les Lauves (Le Jardin des Lauves). During my time working as a Museum Assistant I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with this painting. The debate over whether or not it’s finished is largely irrelevant to me. What I find most compelling is the dynamic sense of process – and even struggle – this work embodies.

In Le Jardin des Lauves we see the visible traces of Cézanne’s hand as he searches out the familiar forms of a landscape he returned to again and again. Painted near the end of his life, Le Jardin gives us a rare opportunity to witness the mature Cézanne as he strives to give nature its truest expression in oil on canvas. For me, there is tremendous dignity in this struggle, no matter how tortured it may appear, no matter its level of completion.

(detail) Natalie O'Dell, Le Jardin des Tags, 2013, Acrylic paint and Phillips Collection tags

(detail) Natalie O’Dell, Le Jardin des Tags, 2013, Acrylic paint and Phillips Collection tags

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2013 Staff Show (ie: subject matter, materials, process, etc.)?
For my copy of Cézanne’s Le Jardin des Lauves, I decided to incorporate the colored tags we give to museum visitors to indicate whether they have paid the admission fee, hence its name, Le Jardin des Tags (The Garden of Tags). With the help of my fellow Museum Assistants, I collected discarded tags worn by patrons as they visited the collection. I then embedded the tags into the layers of paint, making them a vital part of the work itself and the experience of viewing it.

The tags serve two purposes. First, they highlight the geometric grid structure that underlies Cézanne’s work and laid the foundation for so many formal developments by later artists. The tags also draw attention to the inescapable institutional context of Le Jardin des Lauves. The artwork’s position in The Phillips Collection both directly determines and indirectly affects the viewer’s perception of it, making the relationship between art and institution mutually constitutive. Even when admission is free, it is always regulated; thus access to the work is controlled. Once inside the Phillips the viewer’s estimation of the painting is inevitably influenced by its inclusion (and prominence) in such a world-class collection. Rather than passing a value judgment, I hope to provoke thought about this special artwork and how its institutional setting might affect our perception of it.

The 2013 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show will be on view September 23, 2013 through October 20, 2013. The show features artwork from Phillips Collection staff.

Emily Bray, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator

Staff Show 2013: Lydia O’Connor

In this series, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator Emily Bray profiles participants in the 2013 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show. Join us tonight for a reception, 5 to 8 pm!

Lydia O’Connor holds a Master of Philosophy in Film Theory from Trinity College Dublin.  While she considers herself a great appreciator of art and the artistic process, this is her first foray into the creative side of the art world.

Lydia O'Connor Image

Lydia O’Connor, Transitory, 2013, Photograph

What do you do at The Phillips Collection?  Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?
Finance Assistant.   I get to enjoy a birds-eye view of the entire museum’s operations from conservation to curatorial to education to facilities and maintenance through the daily financial aspects that cross my desk.

Who is/are your favorite artist/artists in the collection?
The Phillips Collection enjoys a star-studded list of artists including Van Gogh, Degas, RenoirPicassoCezanneKlee, Rothko and so many more… . It’s quite difficult to choose a favorite when you’re in the presence of such awe-inspiring masterworks.  I absolutely adore Wassily Kandinsky.  The Phillips Collection has several Kandinsky paintings and I am always excited when these are on display.

What is your favorite gallery/space within The Phillips Collection?
The Music Room for me is a very special place.  While much of our gallery space is typical white walls, the original home carries a spirit I think is thrilling to the museum experience.  The Music Room has a drama and a life that’s unique.  I really feel like I am in the home of Duncan and Marjorie Phillips and the many beautiful concerts and events we hold here at the Phillips seem to reverberate from floor to ceiling.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2013 Staff Show (and/or your work in general)?
I took this photo one morning in early April.  I noticed as I walked up Q street from the Dupont Circle metro that the wonderful lavender petals from our tulip magnolia tree were shedding creating a blanket of color beneath the red brick of the original house; the play of the light sprinkling shadows across the building in the morning sunshine.  It was a moment of Phillips magic. A few hours later when I left the office for lunch, the tree was bare and many of the petals that had carpeted the ground had blown away.  I knew then I had been witness to a special and fleeting moment in the life of this tree.

The 2013 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show will be on view September 23, 2013 through October 20, 2013. The show features artwork from Phillips Collection staff.

 Emily Bray, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator

Staff Show 2013: Michelle Lisa Herman

In this series, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator Emily Bray profiles participants in the 2013 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show. Join us for the Staff Show reception on October 10, from 5:30 to 8 pm.

michelle lisa herman_carnivale

Michelle Lisa Herman, Carnivale, 2013, Sumi ink and acrylic on mylar with a paper

Michelle Lisa Herman is an interdisciplinary artist who lives and works in Washington, DC. She graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2008 with a BFA in general fine art and art history. Her work spans a variety of media, from abstract painting to interactive installation, often exploring ideas of communication and a desire for connection in the digital age. She has exhibited her work nationally in a variety of spaces including the Smithsonian Institution International Gallery, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, DC Arts Center, Artisphere, and the Washington Project for the Arts. Michelle Lisa Herman is a member of the Sparkplug artist collective sponsored by the DC Arts Center.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique or interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?
I am the Digital Media Manager. One of the most interesting parts of my job is how it ends up overlapping with my art—sometimes I’ll be researching something for a piece and think of how it could be used at the Phillips or vice versa. I think being an artist has helped with a lot of larger projects as I have grown pretty skilled at seeing how individual, disparate elements will all come together.

Who are your favorite artists in the collection?
Two of my favorite artists in our collection are Odilon Redon and Francis Bacon.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2013 Staff Show?
In my paintings I explore the essence of chance using a technique of painting called ‘decalcomania.’ By pressing ink or paint between two surfaces and then pulling them apart, I am able to create complex fractal patterns that upon deeper observation can take on a variety of interpretations—from mountainous landscapes to mythical creatures. I am fascinated with this method of painting as it allows me to remove the artist’s hand from a material that compels it.

The 2013 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show will be on view September 23, 2013 through October 20, 2013. The show features artwork from Phillips Collection staff.

Emily Bray, Young Artists Exhibitions Program Coordinator