Volunteer Spotlight: Carlye Christianson

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray profiles volunteers within the museum. Phillips volunteers are an integral part of the museum and help in many ways: greeting and guiding guests through the museum, helping with Sunday Concerts, assisting patrons in the library, helping out with Phillips after 5 and special events, and so much more. Our volunteers offer a wealth of expertise and experience to the museum, and we are delighted to highlight several of them.

 Carlye Christianson, Art Information Volunteer

Caryle Christianson

What year did you start volunteering at The Phillips Collection?

CC: 2011.

 What do you see as the most valuable aspect of your volunteering?

CC:I started volunteering at the Phillips because I wanted to learn more about the museum and just learn something about art. I savor my education at the Phillips in both areas. As a lawyer and American history major, I spent little time over the years taking in this part of culture that expands our humanness. I am always grateful for what the Phillips has given me.

But I’m also grateful for my interaction with visitors to the museum. From comments I hear, it seems clear the assistance of the art information volunteers expands the enjoyment and knowledge visitors receive during their outing to the Phillips. I love conveying information and I have loved hearing stories of our visitors’ experience with the art, traveling collections, and stories of those who have prints of The Luncheon of the Boating Party or any of our collection on the walls of their homes.

I especially have taken great comfort in our younger visitors, many of whom at some tender age know more about art and its appreciation than I could probably ever learn. These children are so well spoken and thoughtful that I take great comfort in knowing that perhaps the future of our country may indeed be secure.

What do you do when you are not volunteering at The Phillips Collection?

CC: I am a lawyer, licensed in California and in the District. My first career was as a civil trial lawyer practicing in California. After moving to the National Capital Area, I focused on issues of management, operations and strategic development, principally for nonprofits. Recently, I have been working with SAE International, a standards development organization that focuses on aerospace and automotive standards development. My charge has been to develop two committees, one looking to develop mission-based standards UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) pilot and operator certification, and the other focusing on aerospace cybersecurity.

My other work is teaching at the University of Baltimore. Some of this work has been teaching leadership, management, operations and presentation skills for students in the Certified Public Manager Program. Another part of the work has been in teaching data-based decision making to managers and analysts at  the Social Security Administration.

What is your favorite room or painting here?

CC: This question is near impossible to answer. As to paintings, today, I would say either William Merritt Chase’s Hide and Seek or Helen Frankenthaler’s Runningscape.

If you had one word to describe the Phillips, what would it be?

CC: Based on the above, it is clear I never have just one word!

Share a fun fact about you!

CC: I am very fortunate to be able to do quite a bit of traveling. A year or so ago, we were in France and visited Chantilly, a quintessential French town which is next to a castle, huge and dare I say luxurious horse stables and a racecourse. After some touring and watching a horse race, we needed to rush on. I wanted to visit the Maison Fournaise in Chatou, the area celebrated by Renoir in The Luncheon of Boating Party, but we were late and we had some trouble figuring out where Chatou was. Then, just as we were giving up, on the freeway on the way back into Paris, there was a sign on the road directing us to the Maison Fournaise. Of course, we stopped. The restaurant was not serving at that particular time of day, but we were able to go inside anyway, sit on the deck and envision Renoir’s celebration. I always recall that day of our visit to Chatou whenever I stop and visit the Renoir here at the Phillips.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

CC: I think I have said too much already.

Burchfield’s Close Encounters Painting

burchfied_manet

(Left) Charles Burchfield, December Moonrise, 1959. Watercolor on paper, 30 x 36 in. Gift of B. J. and Carol Cutler, 2009. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC (Right) Edouard Manet, Spanish Ballet, 1862. Oil on canvas, 24 x 35 5/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1928

One of the hazards pleasures of being a gallery educator at the Phillips is that so many of our visitors are distinguished by their sophistication and knowledge of modern art. I can’t count the number of people who are familiar with the nuances of the relationships between Renoir’s friends in Luncheon of the Boating Party.  On one tour of the permanent collection, a gentleman from Argentina told me the precise name of the dance being performed in Manet’s Spanish Ballet. And during Angels, Demons, and Savages, it seemed everyone had either seen the Jackson Pollock biopic with Ed Harris or knew the footage of Jackson himself working in his studio on a canvas on the floor.

Made in the USA is particularly interesting for me because my academic work has been on modernism—European and American. The era between the turn of the 20th century up to World War II is rich in history, experimentation, rule-breaking, and epic attempts to change the world, and all those qualities show in the willful energy of so many of the works in the exhibition.

A standout for me is Charles Burchfield—I have long loved his quivering, ecstatic (and sometimes playful) depictions of nature’s immanence. December Moonrise is an almost over-the-top example of his passionate exaltation of nature as a place of spiritual transcendence. I always stop there on my tours of the exhibition to talk about it. Sometimes I call it the “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” painting. People seem to like it. Thinking about the painting as a place—or a moment—existing in Burchfield’s imagination, I was taken aback when I was told by a tall young man from Canada that far from being an imaginary land/skyscape, the constellations in the sky (which are casting shadows from the moonlight) are true to nature. He pointed out Orion, on the right side, and Corona Borealis, on the left. Apparently these two constellations, visible in northern skies, are only seen together in the month of December. So in fact the painting is a very specific description of nature at a specific time of year.

I can safely say that facts about astronomy are not in my area of expertise, but learning about Burchfield’s respect for the actual sky and stars shining on that December night makes me love his painting even more.

Dena Crosson, Gallery Educator

Rhythm and Rhyme: A Poetry Tour, Part 1

As part of last week’s Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days festivities, I led a tour of the permanent collection using poetry as a theme. Our first stop: Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. After looking and discussing the work for a few minutes, I shared the following Shel Silverstein poem with the group, asking them to repeat each line out loud as I read. This ‘call and response’ method allowed everyone to feel the rhythm and rhyme of the poem:

August Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1880-1881.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party, between 1880 and 1881. Oil on canvas, 51 1/4 x 69 1/8 in. Acquired 1923. The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

We’re Out of Paint, So . . .

Let’s paint a picture with our food.
For red we’ll squeeze these cherries.
For purple let’s splash grape juice on.
For blue we’ll use blueberries.
For black just use some licorice.
For brown pour on some gravy.
For yellow you can dip your brush
In the egg yolk you just gave me.
We’ll sign our names in applesauce
And title it “Our Luncheon,”
And hang it up for everyone
To stop . . . and see . . . and munch on.

How do you think this poem relates to Luncheon of the Boating Party? Choose a color that strikes you in the painting. Imagine you are out of paint. What food would you use to paint your chosen color and why? Share your choice in the comments!

Margaret Collerd, Public Programs and In-gallery Interpretation Coordinator